Introduction to Competitive Swimming

As a swimmer progresses through the club structure, then more of the following information is relevant. The most important thing for newcomers to grasp is that it is vital to compete and get times in a variety of events.

There are many different levels of competition, which when you are new to the club or first reach competing age can all seem quite confusing. This guide is designed to provide an introduction to galas you may come across.

Most swimming galas require competitors to be 9 years of age by the last day of the gala. There are exceptions to this; internal galas such as time trials and club championships are open to all swimmers who are able to complete the events. There are also sometimes galas specifically open to 8 year-olds.

Why compete?

Tynemouth ASC is a competitive swimming club and we encourage children to compete as we believe it is one of the key ways to help swimmers to become faster and better. It’s essential that swimmers make every effort to compete for several reasons:

  • It gives swimmers experience of competition and putting their skills into practice.
  • It provides swimmers with their times which are a clear marker of how they are progressing.
  • It provides coaches with vital information to enable them to assist the swimmers to set goals and targets to work towards.
  • It gives swimmers a sense of achievement and ability to test themselves.
  • It shows the coaches how swimmers cope with a competitive environment.
  • It assists with promotion through the club’s group structure.
  • To achieve qualifying times for other galas.
  • A chance to learn from watching other swimmers.
  • A chance to meet new people and have FUN!

Competition programme

The competition programme is developed by the coaching/teaching team with the support of the Competition Secretary.  We always try to publish this as early as possible to allow parents to plan in advance for the competitions their swimmer is involved in.

The programme is reviewed regularly throughout the season to ensure we are meeting the needs of all of our swimmers regardless of age or ability. It is not good practice for swimmers to compete every weekend and we will always try to ensure the competition programme supports this principle.

Our philosophy and policy for competing:
  • Winning medals and trophies is not always the main goal. Even if a swimmer finishes first, but has swum poorly in comparison to past performances, they will be encouraged to do better. A swimmer’s improvement is the primary objective.
  • All the coaches teach the swimmers to behave appropriately whether the swimmer has a good or bad swim. Respect for officials, congratulations to other competitors, encouragement to team-mates, determined effort and mature attitudes are examples of behaviours praised by the coaches.
  • Coaches will offer positive feedback of a swimmer’s performance. They will offer coaching tips to further improve a swimmer’s performance.
  • Warm up’s and swim downs are an essential part of gala attendance, swimmers must always follow the coach’s direction with regards to these.
  • Swimmers must always attend galas prepared and with the correct clothing and equipment.
  • Swimmers must always comply with the Club’s Code of Conduct.

Entering Competitions and Events

The Competition Programme indicates which squads should be entering which galas. If you think that your swimmer should be entered for a gala then please speak to the squad coach/teacher.

When a competition becomes available the information is entered into the club’s computerised system. From here the Competition Secretary produces a report for each squad which shows what swims each swimmer is eligible to enter. 

Masters swimmers have their own events which they are free to enter as and when they choose to do so - you can view the Masters Events calendar on the Masters Page.

To ensure the highest possible performance of our swimmers we limit the number the swims they can compete to two per gala session. There will of course be exceptions to this – for example Northumberland & Durham County Championships, North East Regional Championships etc.

The squad reps will only take entries for the swims highlighted by the coaches.

All swims must be paid for at the time of entering the competition via the squad reps. Cheques should be made payable to TASC. The reverse of any cheque should detail the name of the swimmer and the gala.

Swimmers must not enter galas that the club are not attending and must not enter any events which have not been authorised by the coach/teacher. This includes poolside or late entries.

Entries will only be accepted from swimmers who are registered as category 2 with the ASA, and have passed their competitive start award.

If parents or swimmers have any queries these must be directed to the coach/teacher.

Levels of competitions

Time trials - The first event that most of our swimmers will enter will be a time trial held only for TASC swimmers. Time trials are scheduled into the competition programme as and when they are needed. We encourage swimmers in groups 3 and above to enter time trials.

Swimmers are grouped by ability, not age, so your child may be swimming against someone much taller. Don’t worry about this as it’s intentional.

Time trials are a great opportunity for swimmers to compete in events they haven’t done before so they get a time which can then be used for future gala entries.

Club Championships – these are held in December each year. All swimmers are allowed to enter but only those who have been club members for at least 90 days prior to the event are allowed to win a club trophy. 

Some swimmers may not want to enter Club Championships as they don’t think they will get a medal or a trophy. It is really important to remind the swimmer that they are competing against their self. The important thing is to get a time. Club Championships is always followed by the Club Presentation evening where the age group winners are presented with their trophies. 

Northumberland and Durham Junior League (Diddys) – This is a very prestigious league for swimmers aged between 9 and 12. Clubs in the region compete against each other in 3 divisions. There are three galas in the heats which then determine which clubs go on to compete in the final. The three rounds usually take place between February and April with the final taking place in June.

Team places have to go to the fastest swimmers. It’s a great goal for the swimmers to work towards and there are usually 4 -5 boys and girls in each age group on the team. The format is a mix of 25m and 50m individual races and relay events for each age group. In recent years TASC has enjoyed great success in the Junior League, qualifying for the National final in both 2017 (finish 7th) and 2018 (finishing a best ever 4th).

National Arena League – this is another team competition but for older swimmers. There are three galas which take place between October and December. Team places have to go to the fastest swimmers

Graded Galas – these are designed for swimmers new to competition. The criteria usually is that there is a time restriction. These galas provide swimmers with an opportunity to gain times for each swim which can then be used to enter them in future galas.

Open Galas – any swimmer can swim in an open gala with the majority of swimmers entering these galas looking to achieve a county, regional or national qualifying time. There are various levels of open galas:

  • Level 1 – aimed at swimmers looking to achieve National Qualifying Times. These require a qualifying time before entering and are Long Course galas (take place in a 50m pool)
  • Level 2 – aimed at swimmers looking to achieve National Qualifying Times. These galas require a qualifying time before entering and are Short Course galas (take place in a 25m pool)
  • Level 3 – aimed at swimmers looking to achieve Regional Qualifying Times. Requires a qualifying time to be achieved before entering.
  • Level 4 – A gala where a swimmer can achieve a County Qualifying time or times for level 3 galas

Related Pages:


swimming galas, galas, competition