SwimMark Club
It isn’t compulsory to take part in competitions (generally referred to as “galas” or “meets”), but most club members do.  There are competitions at all levels, from local friendly galas to national events.  It can all feel a bit confusing to start with, so there’s a quick guide below.

I don’t need to read that: where can I find what competitions are coming up?  Look at the Calendar on the website, or go to "Events" in OnDeck.  The calendar for the whole year is here.

My child wants to take part in a gala; what events should I enter?  Talk to one of the coaches to find out what would be suitable - and ask your child what they enjoy.  Then look at the timetable.  Most galas are separated into separate sessions and many are spread over several days.  You'll be at the pool for the whole of every session in which your child is competing, so watch out that you don't land yourself with spending the whole of the weekend at Plymouth Life Centre if you could have been there for only one session.  But it generally isn't a good idea to do more than two events in any one session unless the coach advises it: your child will get tired and won't perform at their best.  If you want advice, don't hesitate to ask someone: remember, all of the parents of the more experienced swimmers were new to this once too!

My child has entered a gala; what can I expect?  Click here for a comprehensive guide, check-list and advice.

Who can I ask for more information?  Speak to one of the coaches or contact Hazel Walker, the Competitions Secretary.

I need help with entering via TeamUnify.  Ask Hazel Walker or Caroline Furze.

How do I pay for gala entries?  Payment is by bank card, which you'll need to set up before entering your first gala.  Log-in on the website (which is where you are reading this), then go to My Account -> Account Info -> choose the Payment Setup tab -> click the "Add New Card" button.  When you've added the card, don't forget to click Save.  This is all more straightforward than it sounds; if you get stuck, watch the video at https://youtu.be/FiXgg-XMj74 which will walk you through it.
Neither TSC nor TeamUnify will be able to see either your full card number or the security code on the back.  Except in cases of persistent non-payment, it is only gala entry fees which will be taken from your card NOT your normal monthly fees so you should not alter your standing order.  On the Payment Setup page, your card should be set as "Use for On Demand Payments" (eg. gala entry fees) and Manual Pay should be "Use for Fees Associated With Your Account" (eg. your monthly training fees)

Where can I find the qualifying times for the 2022 Devon championships?  Here. 

Quick Guide

Types of event

The Club Championships are held at Meadowlands in the spring and autumn.  They are an essential part of training but they are also supposed to be fun!  They may well be your child’s first competition, but please don’t worry (or let them worry): coaches and parent helpers are poolside to guide any child who is apprehensive; and only members of the club take part.  There are medals up for grabs and times achieved can be used as Qualifying Times for other competitions.  There's a guide to the Club Championships here.

We also sometimes run unlicensed galas, either alone or together with one or two other clubs.  These are informal events, designed to give the youngest swimmers a taste of competition.  “Unlicensed” means they are not run under strict Swim England rules, so the times achieved don’t go on the Swim England database. 

County/ Regional/ National Championships allow swimmers to test themselves against the best in the area and beyond.  They have Qualifying Times.

Galas run by other clubs will be described as Level 1, 2, 3 or 4, according to the license given by Swim England.  They are sometimes called Licensed Meets or Open Meets.
Level 4 is for swimmers beginning to enter individual competitions.  Our club championships are level 4.
Level 3 is also for entry level swimmers.
Level 2 and Level 1 galas cover National, Regional and County Championships. Their purpose is to enable swimmers to achieve qualifying times for entry into those events.  The only difference between them is that Level 2 events are always short-course (25m) and Level 1 events are always long-course (50m).  

Each level usually has different entry criteria including Qualifying Times and Cut-off times.  If you are interested in the technicalities of licensing or just want further information, have a look on the Swim England website, under Licensed Meets (opens in a new window).

Team galas are different from Open Meets in that we compete as a team with swimmers participating in the events for which the coach has selected.  If your child is selected for a team gala, the head coach or the competition will either speak to you or ask you by email.  A prompt reply would be appreciated!  Team galas are free for the competing swimmers: the club pays the entrance fees.


County Times:  these are the qualifying times needed to swim in the County Championships in January/ February each year.  County Times generally have to have been achieved since 1st March in the preceding year (ie. for the 2019 Devon Championships, the entry times had to have been swum since 1st March 2018).

Cut-off times:  also known as Upper Time Limit (UTL).  Swimmers must be slower than this to be eligible to enter the event.  Level 3 galas often have Cut-off times.

Personal Best:  a “PB” is a Personal Best time and is a better measure of achievement than where a swimmer finishes in a race.  Log-in to TeamUnify to see all your swimmer’s PBs.

Qualifying Times:  a Qualifying Time is the time that a swimmer must have already achieved in the event in order to enter the competition – ie. the swimmer must be faster than this to be eligible to enter.  In general, the time must have been achieved in another Licensed Meet, but in some Level 3 galas the organisers will accept a time achieved in an unlicensed gala.

Regional Times:  one step up from County Times, these enable the swimmer to swim in the South West Regional Championships in May/June and November.

Other terminology and abbreviations

ASA ranking:  see under "Ranking" below.

DNF:  Did Not Finish.

DQ: DisQualified.  Swimmers may be disqualified for several reasons e.g. false start, incorrect stroke, incorrect turn.  This is always disappointing for a swimmer, but it happens to everyone from time to time and is all part of the learning process.  So please don’t berate your child, or let them be too despondent, if it happens to them.  Instead, make sure they understand why they were disqualified – speak to the coach if they aren’t sure – and encourage them to see it as something to work on before the next event. 

HDW: this stands for Heat Declared Winner.  Only heats are swum, not heats and finals. The swimmer with the fastest heat time in the relevant age group wins the event regardless of which swimmer wins the heat.

IM (Individual Medley):  all four strokes – butterfly, back, breast and free – are swum in the same race, either over 100m, 200m or 400m.  In a medley relay the order of the strokes is slightly different – back, butterfly, breast and free – to avoid a takeover on backstroke.

Long-course: 50m pool.

Ranking:  When you compete at Licensed meets your ranked personal best times are placed on the swimmingresults.org ranking database.  A quick way to find your [Swim England] membership number is from the OnDeck app: it is the number described as "Swimmer ID".

Short-course: 25m pool (such as Meadowlands).  Short-course times are generally faster than long-course times for the same event, because of the advantage given by pushing off the wall at the turn.  To convert a Short-course time to a Long-course time, go to OnDeck (the TeamUnify app) and look for Time Converter under “Cool Tools”.  (There are several different conversion methods, so if you are doing this to see whether you are eligible to enter an event, you will need to check the result with the Competitions Secretary.)

Splits:  the time achieved in a race broken down into 25m or 50m chunks, letting a swimmer see how well they paced the race.  If you see an active (not greyed-out) stopwatch icon next to a result in TeamUnify or OnDeck, you can tap on it to see the splits for that result.