Parents A-Z guide to Swimming Competitions

As a parent of a swimmer, your dedication plays a major role in their success. They simply can't train or compete without your support. Here is a A-Z of almost everything a parent needs to know about swim meets.



Age groups can be confusing as your swimmers calculated age on the day of a meet can be either:
Age on day – this the age your swimmer will be on the last day of the meet itself.
Age at 31st December – this is the age your swimmer will be by the last day of the year, so they could be shown on the programme as the year older than they actually are (eg it shows they are age 1 when they are still 10)


Be on time

As swimming pools are expensive to hire swimming meets need to run with precision timing. Our club will be allocated a time and lanes to warm up. If you are late, we can’t wait.


Code of Conduct 

We expect no less than your child to be on their best behaviour and follow our code of conduct. Leisure centres and pools can be dangerous places, we have rules in place to keep everyone safe. If a swimmer does not follow the code of conduct at a meet they may be returned to their parents. Ultimately a swimmer may not be invited to further swimming meets or even be asked to leave the club. 

Club Championships

Club champs are the highlight of the club calendar which generally take place in September/October. The club has a history dating back to 1883, with the club championships taking place each year.

Everyone in the club who can swim 50 metres is included and expected to swim. We have events for everyone including beginners (everyone who learnt to swim with the club that year) our SEND group and masters. As well as all the events you expect at a meet we have the plunge (as featured in the 1904 Olympic games) and you can have a chance to swim in the family race!

Trophies are awarded to the top swimmers in each event, each trophy is a gem of swimming history, some are over 100yrs old with the past winners name engraved on the trophy. Winning one of these trophies is a special achievement and they must be cared for, and returned back to the club for the next year.

Each year we hold a presentation evening to celebrate everyone’s successes at the club championships. Presentations are made to everyone who competed with certificates, medals and trophies galore!


DQ or Disqualification

Inevitably, sooner or later, swimmers will be introduced to the concept of disqualification (DQ). Like all sports, competitive swimming is governed by strict technical rules which are there to make sure that races are run completely fairly.
 In fact, our Club Championships are governed by the same set of rules used in the Olympic Games!
We do understand it is very upsetting to new swimmers when DQs happen, but the club has to get the swimmers used to these rules from the start. When a disqualification occurs, this will be printed on the results displayed on the wall.

The main reasons for disqualifications are:

  • A false start – there are no 2nd chances on the start. Please note a false start can consist of no more than the swimmer moving on the starting blocks once the starter has called “Take your marks”!
  • Incorrect stroke technique, particularly for breaststroke and butterfly
  • Incorrect touch at the turn or finish, again particularly breaststroke and butterfly when you have to touch with both hands simultaneously.
  • Turning off your back to touch on your front when at the finish in backstroke

Being disqualified should be looked on as a learning experience; it is not the end of the world. It happens to everyone and even experienced swimmers are disqualified occasionally. It is much better to be disqualified early at a club event and learn from that disqualification, than to be disqualified at a County Championship later in a swimmer’s career when it really matters


All invitations to meets, league event and reminders about deadlines are sent by email. Save our email to your favourite or add us to your VIP’s. About 48hrs before the event you will receive an email with the finalised session times and details of where and when you need to arrive for warm up.


Save Sylvias mobile number on your phone in case of any last minute emergencies.

Food and Drink

Swimmers sweat….a lot…but you don’t see it!  It’s said that 5% dehydration can impact your swimmer’s performance by up to 30%.   Please ensure your swimmer has lots of drinks available. Water and Squash are best. No fizzy drinks.
Each session can last 3hrs (4hrs+ including the warm up) If your swimmer in entered into a 2 session meet then a packed lunch is a must as well. Popular food with our swimmers are pasta salads, cereal bars and bananas. There is lots of information about nutrition on the Swim England website.


Swim shops appear at many meets and are the best place to buy your Goggles, Fins, kickboards, paddles and pull buoys and more. Goggles always snap at the most inconvenient time, having a spare pair is a good idea.


HDW – Heat Declared Winners

Most of the meets we attend will be Heat Declared winners. This term is used for events where there is no final. It means that awards will be decided after all the heats for an event have been swum. At most open meets (and indeed in our Club Champs) age groups are mixed together in speed order in each event so results will be split into age groupings before any winners are decided. Confusion sometimes arises with heat declared winner events: it is NOT the winner of each HEAT who wins but rather the fastest of each AGE GROUP of each EVENT after all the heats have been swum.


IM  - Individual medley

A race where swimmers swim equal distances of all four strokes in the following order: butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke, and freestyle.

Just Keep Swimming

A motivational phrase often used in swimming, encouraging swimmers to persevere and continue swimming, regardless of challenges or fatigue.




As a minimum your swimmer needs a club hat and club top. Swimming hats can be purchased from the club desk on a Friday night. Club tops are only for sale in 2-3 windows throughout the year, from the website. A navy t-shirt can be worn whilst you wait.


Stowmarket Swimming Club competes against other Swimming Clubs in Suffolk, In 3 rounds, with a final at Crown Pools Spring/summer time. The Head coach selects a team of the top swimmers in each age group to compete. Extremely fun for both the swimmers and spectators alike. If you are fortunate enough to be selected, please make sure you reply to confirm your swimmer’s space or if you are unable to attend, please advise the coach ASAP so that a replacement can be found.

Long Course

Long course means the meet is swum in a 50m pool; short course is a 25m pool. Swimming a race in a 25m pool is quite different to a 50m pool!  As there are more turns in a 25m pool – so more pushing off - typically swimmers swim faster in a short course event (if they are good at turns!).  
Our closest long course pool being Norwich UEA then Luton!! Please consider the club when you win the lottery, and add a 50m pool to your shopping list!



Our 18yrs + swimmers, all have swam with Stowmarket or other clubs as children.  Many also are qualified coaches, swim teachers, officials and parents of younger swimmers. They compete in club champs as well as masters competitions.

Meet Mobile

A app for your phone which brings you live/ almost live results for most meets.

NT – No Time

If your swimmer if swimming in an event they have not competed in before and have never recorded a time you’ll find NT written on the programme next to your swimmers name instead of a time. Some meets won’t allow you to enter an event if you have NT for that event.



The people around the pool wearing white t-shirts are the officials. They ensure the rules are being upheld.  All meet officials such as referees and judges go through a training process with Swim England. Most officials are parents of swimmers and without officials we wouldn’t be able to hold meets. Training to be an official starts as an online course with practical training at meets. If you are interested in joining the Officials please contact a member of the commitee.

PB - Personal Best

Personal best = the best time your swimmer has ever recorded. When entering a meet, your swimmers PB in that event will be used to place your swimmer in a suitable heat.

Your swimmers best times can be found on our website and by looking on the swim England website



Occasionally a printed booklet you can purchase at the meet but more commonly now a document you can print out at home.

Qualifying time

Many swim meets will have a qualifying Time for entry. This means hosts can use qualifying time as a standard for either faster or slower entry times. For example, some meets require event entry times to be faster than the stated qualifying time.  Others will only accept entry times that are slower.
When entering an event through our website, it will only allow you to enter the event if you reach the qualifying time, otherwise that event will be greyed out, and you won’t be able to enter.


Recording videos and photos

Most venues allow you to take photos and film from the spectator area, as long as your images focus on your swimmer.


Raffle tickets

Every meet sells raffle tickets to raise funds to contribute towards the pool hire. Don’t forget to donate prizes to the club for the raffles at our meets


Be prepared to pay a small fee to sit in the spectator area. It can be hot, and seating can be basic. Bring something to drink and maybe a book whilst you are waiting. If you sit near other Stowmarket parents they will be happy to answer any questions you have.


Although swimming is an individual sport. We work best as a team.

Unofficial time

The time you see displayed on the timing board is the unofficial time, its straight from the touchpad in the pool. Official times can be found displayed on the wall once the referee have approved the time.


Without the volunteers there would be no meets and no clubs. Meets go far more quickly when you have a job to do.


If your swimmer is no longer able to swim, please let the meet secretary know and/or the Headcoach. This will help the day run smoother for all the volunteers if they know your swimmer isn’t there. Minimises empty lanes so the swimmers get more competition and everyone gets home earlier.



Leaving with your swimmer? even just for lunch, let the coach or team manager know.

Leaving without your swimmer? Let the coach/team manager know who is taking parental responsibility of your swimmer in your absence.


Yellow and Blue hats

We colour code our swimming hats:
Yellow hat means this swimmer is learning to swim
Blue this swimmer competes at away meets
Blue or Gold hat with a name printed on means that they have previously qualified for Suffolk county championships.

Hats are for sale at the club desk every Friday evening, if you are not sure what hat you need, then please ask.



At the end of the day you and your swimmer will need to Zzzz!

Last reviewed 10/07/23