While both a relatively small and friendly club, Chirk Dragons Swimming Club is also a competitive club and as such it encourages all swimmers to enter selected competitions each season. The competitive aspect of swimming, the meet, can seem like a daunting and confusing prospect for those swimmers and parents new to the sport and to Chirk Dragons. However, once you’ve experienced a couple you will quickly get into the swing of things, and there is always help at hand. Your Head Coach or Gala Secretary are the definitive points of reference for matters relating to meets, and, as with every other aspect of the club’s activities, there are plenty of people who have been around for years (in some instances decades!) who will be happy to advise you.
The Meet Calendar
The meet calendar for the season is published on the club website, and is posted on the notice boards at the club. It may be subject to change throughout the course of the season but members will be kept informed. Not all meets are relevant for all squads or all swimmers and it is the coach’s decision as to who is entered for a particular meet.
The Gala Secretary
The Meet Secretary plays a vital role within the club and is responsible for distributing meet entry forms, collecting them in, and for co-ordinating the club’s entry into meets.
Competitions are classified as “open” or “closed”. An open competition, as the name implies, is open to all, whilst closed competitions are for selected groups e.g. Welsh Age Groups.
Swimmers compete individually and as a team where usually awards are given for those finishing in the top 3.
Sometimes there are overall competition awards for the top male and female swimmers, BAGCAT awards (which will be explained later) and an award for the top club.
There are also team competitions which consist of a set programme of events, normally including relays, and the coaches will select the fastest team to win. Each swim will earn points depending upon finish position, and the team with the most points at the end wins. The club may travel as a team by coach to such an event whereas for other competitions families travel independently.
Competitions are targeted at different standards of swimmer and are designated a level. Level 1 is for national standard competitors, and Level 3 for the slower or younger swimmer.
Entry forms for competitions will be given to swimmers for completion as directed by the coaches and should returned as soon as possible and certainly before the deadline on the form. If you need help, the coach will advise on what events he or she feels the swimmer should enter. Collating all the club entries is a mammoth task and the timescales are tight. If the overall club entry is delayed there is a significant risk that we will be rejected from a meet, which would have a major impact on the coaching plan because the competition calendar is designed to complement the training season.
Please provide all the relevant information – name, squad, DOB, age, ASA membership number (searchable on the British Swimming website if you mislay your card), event numbers and PBs (see below), and don’t forget to include a cheque to cover the required entry fee, made payable to Stockport Metro Swimming Club.
Personal Best Times
Swimmers are responsible for keeping a record of times they achieve for the events they swim in competitions. These are referred to as Personal Bests or PBs. Coaches have records of these but given the numbers involved they cannot spend valuable time advising swimmers of their PBs for every meet. Sheets for recording PBs are available to download from the website and these should be kept scrupulously up to date.
Times used on entry forms must have been achieved at a Licensed Meet (an official, ASA accredited meet), not in training or at club time trials. When a swimmer has not done an event for more than five months, you should insert the time but mark with an asterisk stating the date of the swim. Likewise, mark with an asterisk if the swimmer has not done the event before. On reviewing the entries prior to submission via the competition secretary, the coach will then make an informed decision about what time to submit. Only coaches have the authority to change times, based on what they believe is achievable by an individual swimmer.
Some meets require times achieved in a 25m (short course) pool and others in a 50m (long course) pool. There are tools available to convert between the two, in the event that the swimmer has only the “wrong” type of time. Traditional comparative performance tables are accessible on the British Swimming website. There are also online conversion tools on pullbuoy.co.uk and swimmingworldmagazine.com, although their results do vary and should be taken as a guide only. Always check with your coach.
Competitions are limited to certain durations so this means that organisers have to limit the entries. This is done through qualifying times. Meet requirements usually include qualifying times and sometimes a separate list of slower consideration times. If qualifying times are stipulated, only swimmers who have achieved those times or faster are able to enter that event. Even then they are not guaranteed entry. If the meet is oversubscribed, swimmers with the slower entry times may be rejected or “scratched” from that event. Those entering with consideration times have to wait and see whether their entries are accepted or rejected. Lists of scratched entries are usually available on the relevant organisation’s website, and the swimmer’s coach will be informed in advance of the meet. The fee for a scratched entry is refunded via the Competition Secretary. Sometimes there is an upper time limit as well as a lower limit to prevent higher standard swimmers from entering lower level competitions.
Most competitions will organise swimmers into age groups for awards. Sometimes these are single year age groups, sometimes double, with awards presented for the top swimmers in each event in each age group. Heats are spearheaded according to entry time, irrespective of age.
UK competitions run on a system called “Age on Day”, which means that the age group a swimmer enters is their age on the final day of competition. If a competition runs over several weekends, like the Cheshire County Championships, swimmers enter all events as age on the last day of the whole competition.
In addition to individual age groups, competitions may also be split into Age, Youth and Senior groups. Age is up to 13 for girls and 14 for boys. Youth is from these ages to 17 for females and 18 for males, and Senior is all ages above these.
Meet programmes are available for sale at the venue, listing all swimmers in each event in order of seed time, and providing general information about the event. They are very useful if only to work out when your child is likely to be swimming and schedule comfort breaks and trips to the café accordingly!
There is usually some form of electronic timing in use at meets. Timekeepers provide backup in the event that the system is not operating. The results of each race will be shown on the display board, but they have to be ratified by the referee and declared so by the announcer before they are deemed “official”. There may be disqualifications for the infringement of technical or stroke rules, or the electronic timing may not have been operating correctly (e.g. a swimmer may not have touched the pad hard enough to trigger it). Official results are usually posted on the walls after the events, and are often available on the host club or organisation’s website within a couple of days. Stockport Metro also posts the results on its own website.
The ASA advocates that during their development each swimmer should train and compete in a number of events, and not specialise in a particular event or stroke. In the UK, events are divided into categories, the British Age Group categories or BAGCATs.
The five categories are: 50m events, 100m, FORM, Distance and IM (100IM for 9-11 year olds and 200 or 400IM for older swimmers). FORM is one of the three strokes which have specific technical requirements, i.e. 200m breaststroke, butterfly or backstroke). Freestyle is not a FORM stroke but is used for distance events (200, 400, 800 or 1500).
When a swimmer competes in a BAGCAT event, their time is converted into points that take into account their age and sex. The BAGCAT conversion factors give swimmers a more balanced view of their stroke improvements and ensure that all of their strokes progress. They enable swimmers in any particular age group to compare their times and improvement against the best in the world on a fair basis, irrespective of the stroke.
The world’s best times are used to give a benchmark of 1000 points per stroke so swimmers can see how they compare with the world’s best. The nearer to the magic 1000 mark, the closer to being on top of the world!
A swimmer may take part in as many events in a season as they choose to, but only their highest points score in each category will count towards their final BAGCAT total. The overall position for a swimmer is the sum of the best point score in each of the 5 categories.
It is advisable therefore to enter every BAGCAT category in the Age Groups if you have the qualifying times. Some competitions make awards to swimmers based on their BAGCAT totals at the end of the meet.
All the results from licensed meets are forwarded to British Swimming which maintains the ASA National Rankings Database. This can be accessed on the British Swimming website, and ranks each swimmer in all of the age groups, for each stroke and distance, for long course and short course.
Club Records & Rankings
Club competition records and swimmer rankings for each event are maintained by either the Head Coach or Gala Secretary. They are updated periodically from the meet results, and are available to view on the website.