Swimming Competition Guide

This information has been created with the intended purpose of educating parents and swimmers who are just starting or have recently started the journey into competitive swimming. This guide highlights some of the key aspects of entering competitions (also called meets/galas), what information need to be considered and will hopefully clarify any uncertainties you may have.


We would suggest the following as a guide for Junior Development Squads:

JD1-JD3: swimmers to compete in one or more competitions per year. We highly recommend the Club Championships usually held in May.

JD4-JD6: swimmers to compete in two or more competitions per year. We highly recommend the Club Championships held in May and the COCA meet held in December.


Where are competitions posted?

The competition fixtures list is uploaded to TeamUnify. This can be accessed via the OnDeck app under the ‘Events’ tab, where you will find a calendar list of upcoming competitions. 


What will TeamUnify show you for each competition?

Each competition will have information such as:

  • Date(s)

Some competitions are over the course of one evening, one full day or two full days (usually weekends)

  • Location

Not all galas are held at our home pools. They may require travelling to other venues. The address will be on Team Unify so you can plan your journey in advance

  • Sessions

The meet will be split into sessions. For example, there will be a morning session and an afternoon session. If the gala runs over the course of a weekend, there may be 4 sessions i.e. session 1 on Saturday morning, session 2 on Saturday afternoon, session 3 on Sunday morning and session 4 on Sunday afternoon. You can choose to do the whole weekend or just one session.

  • Events

Usually, the shortest distance available to enter at any meet is 50 metres. Each stroke (Front crawl (also called Freestyle), Backstroke, Breaststroke and Butterfly) will be available in 50m, 100m and 200m races. There may be Individual Medley events (one race including all four strokes in order: Butterfly, Backstroke, Breaststroke and Frontcrawl) in 100m or 200m distances available. Some meets will offer 400m+ races. Please be mindful of the number of events you enter your swimmer in for each session as it can be exhausting.

  • Age Groups

Some galas will have a minimum age for entry. Usually, this is 9 years old. Please refer to meet specific information. There are two things that are important for parents to know/understand:

Age as at day of competition = on the day of competition, your child will compete against other children of the same age.

Age as at end of year = your child will compete in the age group of those who are born in the same year as them. For example, if the gala is on 20/07/2019 but they will turn 11 on 20/10/2019, they will still compete against 11 year olds

Some competitions will merge age groups – for example they may do a 9-11 years old category

  • Cut-off date for entries

As with most things, we need time to sort out the admin. Therefore, there is a cut off date for entries. Please try to enter as soon as possible if your swimmer wants to compete. Again, there are a couple of terms you need to be aware of:

First Come, First Served: Entries are accepted/rejected based on who gets in first. This is how some competitions work 

Lower qualifying time: Some competitions require the swimmer to be a certain speed to enter. This will be described below

Rejections: Not all swimmers will be accepted for events they enter. The fixtures organiser will let you know of this in advance. This may be due to a number of reasons, including entry time or oversubscription.


What Competition Should You Enter?

Firstly, what type of swimmer are you?

First Time Competitor: have never competed in a competition

New Competitor: have entered one or two competitions before

Regular Competitor: have entered three or more competitions


First Time Competitor

For those swimmers who have never competed, we would advise to enter the Club Championships first. Most competitions require entry times – which are achieved at licensed meets (this will be explained later). If they have never competed before they will not have an official entry time. The requirement for an entry time will be clearly displayed in the information for each competition. 


New Competitor

For those swimmers who have done a couple of competitions, we would suggest the club championships and COCA as a starting point. These competitions are familiar as they are organised and run by the club, a more familiar environment. Some of these galas are ‘licensed’, therefore the times achieved will be officially recorded. 


Regular Competitor

For those swimmers who have done three or more competitions, we would suggest entering the club championships, COCA and some externally hosted meets (other swimming clubs have organised). These galas will be targeted at mainly swimmers who have already registered official times.


What is a Licensed Meet?

There are four levels of licensed meet. At these meets, times will be recorded as ‘official’ and can be used to enter future competitions:

L1: National

L2: Regional

L3: County

L4: Club/Development

Non-licensed: Anyone can enter without official times but they will not give the swimmer an official time by competing.


If you are unsure, or want to see a list of the official times of your swimmer you can visit the Swim England Website at https://www.swimmingresults.org/individualbest/

You will need to use the swimmers surname, or ASA membership number which can be obtained by the club secretary.


What Events Should You Enter?

We recommend that ALL swimmers enter at least a 50 metre front crawl (freestyle) as most swimmers are capable of this.

Entering a 50 metres backstroke depends on whether the swimmer is comfortable performing stroke counts into the wall and backstroke tumble turns. If you are unsure, please contact their coach for advice.

Entering a 50 metres breaststroke depends on whether the swimmer is comfortable performing a legal breaststroke leg kick and turn at the wall. If you are unsure, please contact their coach for advice.

Entering a 50 metres butterfly (fly) depends on whether the swimmer is comfortable performing double arm recovery and two handed touch into the wall. If you are unsure, please contact their coach for advice.

JD5/JD6 swimmers are capable of swimming 100m-200m races in specific strokes. Please contact their coach for advice.


Overview of the Swimming Year

Although local open meets (Level 3 & 4) happen all year round, there is a flow to the competition calendar which culminates in the English Nationals and British Nationals each summer. So for the fastest swimmers in each age group, the aim is to gain qualifying times for Counties in January, Regionals in April and Nationals in June/July. As you go up an age group each year, there are faster times to aim for.

Firstly, open to all, is our Club Championships, usually held over several sessions in May and June.

In addition to this, the Club takes part in two local Leagues - the Thames Valley Junior League (TVJL) and Milton Keynes Junior League (MKJL) plus the National Arena Swimming League (Arena League for short).

TVJL - runs January - April in three rounds. For swimmers aged 9-12 years. More information on their website.

MKJL - runs June - September in three rounds. For swimmers aged 9-12 years. More information on their website.

The Arena League is divided into Regions and divisions, swum in three rounds: October, November, December - formidable competition and great fun!

For all of the league meets, the coaches select the teams based on performance, attitude and experience.

Chalfont Otters are joined by Chesham and Amersham Swimming Clubs each December for COCA - great for novices but also a last chance for the year to get those precious county qualifying times.