This sounds strange, surely it is why swimmers train? In the same way that schools run tests and exams throughout the year, coaches need to measure swimmer’s progress in the techniques they are learning, and develop their experience of swimming events for when they matter. It is also a good way for swimmer’s bodies to get used to swimming fast.How do I enter competitions? And what are they?
This will vary depending on the competition and the swimmer. If we count time trials as competitions then there are four ways:
- Time trial (no entry time – squad/swimmer invited – no entry fee)
These are run internally. They can have various names like “lollypop gala”, “summer sprints” or “county trials”. They all have one thing in common, swimmers usually tick a sheet on the notice board to say they will attend and turn up on the day, these are usually fairly informally organised, but still strictly judged.Swimmers swim for times only, and where a swimmer swims more than one event then they may swim in a different lane each time. They will be directed as to where and when to swim. Swimmers need to do these to get times to enter other events!
- Team gala (no entry time –list of selected swimmers- no entry fee [spectators pay])
These are competitions where the club swims against other clubs. They can be one off galas or part of a league competition. In either case they are similarly organised. Coaches select and advertise the group of swimmers who will represent the club (please note that not all swimmers are selected for these as there are limited places). This notice will be posted on the notice board/website several weeks before the date of the gala. Swimmers need to tick the notice to show they have seen that they have been selected and are available to swim. League competition relies on the selected swimmers attending, if you are picked for the first round check dates of other rounds and put them in your diary. There is an expectation that swimmers will attend, but in exceptional circumstances where they can’t mark the list and let the coach know why ASAP! Swimmers swim in the same lane in events selected by the team coach. The galas are usually a mixture of individual swims and relays. Times recorded in team galas do not count as PB’s/QT’s (see below) for the purpose of entering other swimming competitions.
- Club championships (no entry time – there is an entry form – there is a fee)
These are an opportunity to record times across a large number of events. There are very few times this can be achieved throughout a year so it is important for swimmers to compete in all the events available for their squad/age (unless coaches advise otherwise). There are medals and trophies for this competition. It is swum over several different days, usually at weekends (please try to keep the dates free in your diary as the times from this are needed to compete during the rest of the season). You need to hand your entry form and fee into the club desk. There is a deadline for entries to enable the club to organize the programme of events, but you do not need to have previously recorded a time for any of the events.
- Open meets (entry time needed – entry form needed – the club enters all swimmers – there is a fee)
These are graded from Level 4 up to Level 1. The competition calendar (released each summer to cover the next season) will indicate the choice of meet for various squads. As swimmers progress, so they will move up the level of meets. Level 1 and 2 meets are the highest levels, with the only difference being that level 1 meets take place in 50m pools, and level 2 meets in 25m pools. Swimmers are not allowed to enter meets that have not been selected by the club. Entries are handed in with entry forms by a deadline selected by the club, this will always be earlier than the entry time advertised for the meet – so make sure you look at the club website and notice boards for information on entry dates and nowhere else. You now need to become aware of your swimming times. There is a link to these under the swimmer’s corner/Swimming Rankings tab on the club website. This directs you to a PB database (PB = personal best time) where you need to select your name and then look up both short course (SC) and long course (LC) times for the events based on what you have agreed with your coach you are going to enter [SC and LC are discussed in more detail later]. The club does have a guide to using Hytek. Please contact the head coach for more info. For some meets the club can produce an eligibility report, for others you have to do the hard work.Open meets have a sheet of entry times – you need to look down the column with your child’s age on (their age on the date of the last day of the competition or the “age at date” – printed at the bottom of the sheet). Then there is an array of times which will vary from meet to meet. QT means qualifying time so the swimmer has to have swum this time or faster (I.e. their time is a smaller number than this). CT = consideration time – swimmers can enter if they are faster than this time but swimmers with QT’s will get priority. UQT – upper qualifying time – a time swimmers must be slower than/ LQT – lower qualifying time – a time swimmers must be faster than (i.e. their times must fall between the two). Some competitions just have an upper qualifying time and swimmers have to be slower than this. It can be quite complicated, so if in doubt speak to a coach. It is important to get your entry in on time, most entries are electronic and there is no way to add swimmers on to an entry after the club closing date. Just entering an open meet does not guarantee a swimmer a place even if they meet the qualifying times. Sometimes meets are oversubscribed and some of the swimmer’s swims may be rejected (this is called being “scratched”). You need to be aware of this because for some meets you may need to book accommodation nearer the pool.
- Championships (entry time needed – entry form needed – the club enters all swimmers – there is a fee) These all have qualifying times and entries are dealt with by the club in the same way that open meet entries are dealt with. They differ from other meets in that there are specific requirements about when and where the qualifying times are obtained. There are currently three levels of championship that the club enters: County – Regional – National. Usually a swimmer needs to have obtained the QT within the year leading up to the competition – so it is important to keep attending competitions so that your PB’s are current.
What is long course and short course and how do I work out times for each?
Swimmers usually train in a short course pool with the club – that is a pool that measures 25m in length. Many lower level competitions take place in pools of that length. However, most major and international events are run in long course pools, 50m long. It is important for swimmers to gain experience of both so the club selects meets that take place in both long course and short course pools throughout the year and across the range of abilities within competing squads. The club arranges occasional long course training at Cardiff International Pool so selected swimmers can be trained to compete in this swimming environment.
You may need to convert times from one pool length to another. This is because there are more turns in short course pools so as a rule swim times are faster. Here is a link to an online tool in the swimmers section of the web site that enables you to convert times, called pullbuoy. The club also has a conversion spreadsheet which you will be able to download from the website. For many meets you won’t need to do this because Hytek (the PB database) will do it for you. But it is worth being aware of for other meets. Also although times can be converted they shouldn’t be compared, between short and long course, as one length of pool may suit a swimmer’s style better than another.
What time do I need to arrive at a competition or gala?
For team galas when there is no coach transport swimmers are expected to be present at the swimming pool where the competition is being held half an hour before warm up. For all other meets and competitions swimmers must be changed and on poolside 15 minutes before the first advertised warm up for that session (there are usually different warm ups for boys/girls/different age groups). This is very important because swimmers need to do a dry warm up, and coaches have to register swimmers at many meets SO IF YOU ARE NOT THERE ON TIME THEN YOU WON’T GET REGISTERED AND YOU WON’T SWIM.
I’m concerned my child isn’t swimming PB’s
Where times are needed for a competition if a swimmer doesn’t achieve them then they are not ready for that competition or event yet. There are many more important things than swimmer’s times – and at some meets coaches may be working on other aspects of a swimmer’s technique than simply their speed. Also there are stages of a young person’s natural development which may cause them to “plateau” (i.e. not swim regular PB’s). Coaches are trained to deal with this. As parents and swimmers it is important to focus on becoming more skilled in the water and not swim times or how quick your friends are (there lies madness!).
What should my child eat at competition?
It is a good idea to have food at competitions – food is fuel and swimmers get hungry quickly. However, before food it is very important for swimmers to hydrate so make sure they have plenty of water with them (open meets and championships 2 x one litre bottles, in training swimmers should drink 1 litre per hour so please invest in water bottles of 1 litre capacity). Swimmers could have a couple of bottles of “isotonic” (e.g. lucozade sport, powerade…) and take a few swigs of this AFTER a race to replenish sugar supplies. Definite no-nos are: fizzy drinks – coffee – tea. Foods at galas need to be easily digestible. Swimmers should eat foods that they usually eat – so in some respects their daily diet needs to accommodate the types of foods that are good to eat at competition. Types of food swimmers eat are cold pasta and rice mixed with small amounts of tuna/beans/salad/chicken etc.., breadsticks, fruit (grapes are good), flapjacks, dry cereal, mini bread and honey sandwiches, cereal bars, popcorn (not toffee), dried fruit and nuts; sandwiches (with healthy fillings) and rice or pasta dishes are good for lunch along with fruit juices, fruit and milkshakes. It is important that the swimmer has their food for each session as at many meets they cannot come back to the parents during a session (so please give your swimmer the bag with the food in – it is not much good to them in the spectators area!). Definite no-nos anything fried or deep fried e.g. crisps, burgers, fried breakfast; high fat pastries; chocolate; doughnuts. What about sweets – these are more likely to impair performance than improve it so steer clear – go for fruit or dried fruit instead.
Never take food supplements without discussing it with a coach first!
Please tell a coach before attending any competition if a swimmer is likely to be taking any medication throughout the gala.
What should swimmers bring to a gala/meet/competition?
There are two items of club kit that all swimmers should have. A club hat (White with CNYM or IOASC on it), and a red top. Both these items are available from the club shop. Club branded Hoodies are also available using this downloadable form. Print it off, fill it in and return it with payment to Liz Williams or Richard Gregson. Poolside shorts are also a good idea. Swimmers must wear tops poolside when not racing. Please write the swimmer’s name in any item of club clothing. Additional external labels and transfers are not allowed on competition club kit.
They should also have a pair of goggles and a spare pair of goggles. And naturally a swimming costume or trunks. Please note it is against the rules for a swimmer to wear more than one swimming costume.
What swimming costume should swimmers wear?
It is a good idea for swimmers to have a “racing costume”. This doesn’t mean a set of expensive “ racing skins”. A costume that is slightly tighter than the one they train in and kept in better condition by only being used for racing will be fine! The club would like to encourage parents to buy black swimsuits with red trim e.g. Maras to present a more “professional” team image.
Regarding skins, the club has generally left these up to parents and swimmers to decide to buy. They are very expensive, are only good for a few races and the younger they wear them then the less psychological advantage they get from them when they actually need them. It is recommended that you discuss racing costumes with your coach before you take out the bank loan to buy one!
How many competitions should swimmers enter a year?
This depends to a degree on the level the swimmer is at in their training development. The club selects events for squads and generally swimmers should attend all events that they or their squads are selected to swim in. All competitions are listed on the club calendar. Swimmers must agree events they are entering with their coach.
Should a swimmer miss training if they are competing that day or weekend?
In “swimming speak” there are two types of event. “Target” meets and ones you “swim through”. Swimmers always “swim through” team galas – i.e. never miss training for these. Otherwise coaches will advise on training and meets and cancel sessions, or advise swimmers not to train accordingly.
Who is my child competing against?
It might seem a silly question – but – it depends on the rules of each competition. In galas they are racing the swimmers in the lanes next to them. In other competitions they are competing against swimmers in their age group or age band, and these may not be the swimmers in the heat (i.e. lanes next to them) that they are in. If they qualify for a final, then they are swimming against the swimmers next to them in the final.
What do I do with all my child’s medals?
Now you’re being pushy!