Guide to Competitive Swimming

A Quick Guide to Competitive Swimming – (download PDF for print button at end)

Chard and District Swimming Club is a competitive swimming club – but what does that mean?

Children under 9 years are taught to improve their technique in the 4 swimming strokes and learn correct starts, turns and finishes ready for competing. They also learn how to swim faster, and increase their strength and stamina.
They can compete in the Club Galas which are held 4 x a year and over the 4 Galas they have the chance to swim 25m (one length) in each of the 4 strokes against the other swimmers their age. The top 3 in each race get medals which are presented at the Club Awards Ceremony usually held in November.

After their 9th birthday children are able to compete in Open Meets and team competitions such as Junior League and Arena League.

Open Meets
These are competitions open to swimmers from various clubs who compete as individuals against other swimmers of the same age – these are usually referred to as “age on day” so that in any meet you will swim against those children who are the same age as you on that day, and medals are awarded in each age group accordingly. Heats however are arranged according to times so that you swim against other swimmers (of all ages) with similar times to you.

Swimmers can swim races in each of the 4 strokes at 50m and 200m, and usually over 11yrs for girls and 12 years for boys at 100m. (This is because 100m events are classed as ‘sprints’ and so you need to be a bit older to swim this distance at speed). Also Individual Medley races (all 4 strokes in one race) at 100m and 200m.
For the more stout hearted there are also 400m, 800m and 1,500m races in freestyle at some Meets.

In order to qualify to swim at an Open Meet you need to have a “QUALIFYING TIME” for that event for your age – these vary from meet to meet and can be found in the Yellow Book which is taken to each training session (if you’re not sure ask the parent helper). If your times are slower than the Qualifying Time then you cannot enter that event, and likewise if your time is faster than the ‘Cut-off’ time if shown, you may not enter. Some Meets give ‘speeding tickets’ to swimmers who enter and swim faster than the ‘Cut-off’ time to discourage those who are too fast from entering, although their time is still recorded, they do not get a medal.
If they did not have ‘Cut-off’ times there would be a lot of fast swimmers who would always win and others would not get a chance. The idea is as you get relatively faster for your age, you do better and when too fast for races at a Level 3 (the easiest level) you enter Level 2 Competitions.

Keep a record of your childs PBs (personal best swim times) in each event so you can see if they qualify; you can get these from other Open Meets you have done, Club Gala results or from time- trials which the Coach/teachers sometimes hold – if you’re not sure please ask.

Level 4 Meets
Aimed at slower/younger less experienced swimmers hoping to get experience in competing and qualifying times for other Competitions including County Championships (Somerset Age Groups).
There are relatively few of these around, and our own Club Galas generally serve this purpose.

Level 3 Meets
Aimed at swimmers of around County standard and aiming for SW Regional times.
These are relatively easy Meets to get qualifying times for and are held regularly throughout the year. You will be given an entry form when these are due – if you are not sure what races to enter your child in ask June, John, Heather or Kate and they will talk you through it.

Level 2 Meets
Aimed at swimmers of Regional level (have SWC times) or above.
These are harder to qualify for and tend to be held less frequently.

Level 1 Meets
Aimed at swimmers of Regional and National level and above.
These are the highest level Open Meets and have quite demanding qualifying times; these are the meets that our regional and national swimmers will compete at and where you are likely to see swimmers who compete internationally in action.

County Championships
Also known as The Somerset Age Groups, the ‘Somersets’ or the ‘Age Groups’. These are held once a year over 3 weekends in February/March and are open to all the clubs in Somerset. To be able to swim at these you must have “County Qualifying Times” in the events you enter (again you can find these in the Yellow Book or on the Club and Somerset ASA websites.) Swimmers who have qualifying times for several events can get BAGCAT points (which are points according to age and time swam in a certain combination of events) and are added together and at the end of the championships with a presentation to the top 8 swimmers in each age group.

Regional Championships
Also known as the Western Counties or the Southwest Counties.
‘Age Groups Championships’ for under 14yr olds boys and under 13 year girls these are held once a year in June, and for older swimmers the ‘Youth Championships’ are held in May (long course (50m pool) and November (short course (25m pool) Both are usually at Millfield, and are open to the whole of the South West.

The qualifying times for these are very difficult to achieve and you may hear swimmers discussing getting a ‘Western Counties’ time. The qualifying time you need to get relates to your age in mid- June (Age-Group) or mid-May (Youth) and are reviewed/changed each year by the ASA. They have to be achieved at a Licenced Meet (ie licenced by the ASA at Level 1,2 or 3) usually between 1st October and the cut-off date for either the Age Groups or Youth Championships.
For the older ‘Youth’ swimmers the qualifying times are the same irrespective of age, but there are also ‘Consideration Times’ which are slightly easier; for swimmers achieving these times they will normally be able to swim the event at the Regional Championships unless there were an unusually high number of swimmers who had achieved the actual qualifying time during that year.
Some ‘Age Group’ swimmers can also swim at the Youth Championships on time-trials if they achieve the necessary times.

Swimmers who achieve “Western Counties times/Consideration times” (SWCQT/SWCCT) are given a special Chard Jacket and receive a special award at the Club Awards evening. They may also be eligible to join our elite regional squad which is combined with Street and is known as the Performance CHEETAS.

National Championships
Held once a year in July, usually at Sheffield. Qualifying times for these are extremely difficult to get (approx the top 10 swimmers in the Country in each age band and each event) at the moment only one Chard swimmer has a National qualifying time. Qualifying times have to be achieved at a Level 1 or 2 Licenced Meet only

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