Starting out in competitive swimming sounds straightforward – grab your swimmers and a towel? – but it can soon evolve into a confusing jumble of ages, sessions and qualifying times. Here we hope to answer some of those questions.
If you have any questions that we haven’t addressed, please let us know.
When can I compete?
Swimmers compete in our Club Galas from the age of four years, but Swim England only permits competition outside the club for swimmers who will be at least nine years old by 31st December in that year. Our nine year olds compete in the Diddy League, and good ten year olds have been known to find a place in the North Lancs League team.
For open meets, the starting age may be 9, 10 or 11 years, depending on the competition.
If you are 9yrs+ and want to have a go, speak to your coach. There WILL be a competition that it appropriate for you!
Which competitions should I enter?
You won’t know how fast you are compared with swimmers from other clubs until you compete against them. If you will be at least 9yrs old on the last day of a level 3 or 4 event, then you will generally be eligible to enter. Whilst submitted entry times are required, these do not have to be ones recorded at another competition, and can simply be your PB from a club gala or even a time trial. It is important that submitted times are as accurate or, if they have to be estimated, as realistic as possible. If you don’t know a time ask the your coach. In most cases your time will have been recorded. If you haven’t made the Diddy League team, you may well still be good enough to enter open galas, especially in your best events. Again, ask the coach.
Which races should I enter?
Usually, swimmers start with 50m races in each stroke. This tends to be followed by 100m IM, then 200m races. Check with your coach!
How many races should I enter?
All swimmers are different and react differently to competition. Some want a gentle ease in to competition and might only enter a couple of races. Others are better suited to getting on with it and prefer to keep up the momentum by swimming 2-3 races per session. There is generally a lot of waiting between races.
Do I have to be there for the whole day / weekend?
No. You’d be wise to look at the programme for the event at the same time as choosing the races you’d like to enter. You might find that your favourite events are not only in different sessions but on different days! Many of the swimmers who compete regularly will be at most if not all of the sessions in an event but this might be a bit overwhelming for the uninitiated.
Why is it important to get official ASA swim times?
A non-official time will have been recorded by a coach or parent using a stop watch who may or may not have been trained in timekeeping. An official time will have been taken by at least two trained officials or using an electronic system, and will be logged on the ASA database. Also, many competitions (Levels 1 and 2) require official times for entry.
I need my ASA registration number, where do I find it?
If you weren’t given this when you joined the club, you will find it on the Swim England database (search by surname). This is also where you will find all your official times from licensed meets.
I don’t have official swim times. What do I put on my entry?
If a competition will accept non-official times (most level 3 and 4 meets will), use times achieved at club gala’s or league competitions and if these aren’t available, ask your coach for a time trial or estimated time. Results from Club Galas and other meets can be found on the Results page.
Why do I sometimes compete as a 9yr old and others a 10yr old?
Well, it depends on the date at which an event organiser calculates age. For Diddy League, it is age at the date of the first event of the year, often in March. For other ‘Open’ competitions, it is 31st December or age on the last day of the event.
My time is too fast for an event!
In that case you can’t compete in that event. This is to ensure that swimmers who are not at the top of their peer group get a chance to win medals against peers of similar ability. If you are too fast you will need to talk to your coaches to identify higher level competitions to enter.
What do ‘Short course’ and ‘Long course’ refer to?
Short course events are in a 25m pool. Long course, a 50m pool. You will start out at short course events. There are online converters for short to long course times but by the time you need those you’ll know everything on this page inside-out!
What do all the acronyms mean on the results sheets?
DNS: Did Not Start; DNE: Did Not Enter: DQ or DSQ: Disqualified, ST: Speeding Ticket. These are the common ones.
Aargh… I was disqualified. Why?
Being disqualified is upsetting but is best seen as a learning opportunity. DQs usually come with a code which is specific to the rule broken. A list of DQ codes can be found on the Results page.
What are Speeding Tickets?
If you enter a competition perfectly legally with an official or non-official time, then swim and do really well and end up with a time that is faster than the fastest allowed entry, you are issued with a Speeding Ticket. Your time is still recorded as official but you are not allowed to win medals or trophies. This is to give other swimmers a chance at the medals. These are most swimmers targets as they are better than winning a Gold medal!
I can no longer go to an event, what do I do?
If you’ve entered an open meet and can no longer attend, you need to contact the event organisers directly. Withdrawal details are always in the event’s conditions which are on each event’s page on our events calendar. It’s usually as simple as sending a text message. Not withdrawing through the official channels results in empty lanes and reflects badly on the club. You can also be fined! Please also inform one of the Otters coaches supporting the event so that nobody is looking for you.
If you’re expected at a team event and can no longer make it due to illness or unforeseen circumstances, let the team manager know ASAP. If you can’t get hold of the team manager, contact the club secretary or even send a message on our Facebook page. The important thing is to tell somebody so that the team can be reorganised and other swimmers contacted if necessary.
In league events, do I try to get my best time or to win the race?
League times are not official times. All that matters in league events is the position. 6 points for first place, 1 point for 6th place etc. However, you should always go for your best time as if you slow down because you are in the lead, competitors can sneak up on you and take the win.
How do I get selected for leagues?
We consider official and non-official times achieved for selection and normally prioritise these. In some cases, however, a swimmer may improve over 1 or 2 months and have a non-official time that is faster than an older official time. Coaches also consider situations where a swimmer is ill or very tired and their resulting time is not an accurate measure of their ability. Please remember that it’s a team event and decisions also have to be made in order to have the strongest TEAM across ALL events.
HELP… my goggles won’t stay on!
Top tip… try securing proper racing goggles under your swim hat!