Parent Guide to Competing


Are you confused about the difference between a licensed open meet, a league gala or the county championships?  There are several different types of swimming meets and they all have different entry requirements.  Hopefully the following notes will explain the differences.

It is important to be aware that ALL licensed meets, from Club Champs through to the Nationals, are swum under the ASA laws and regulations and the ASA Technical Rules of Racing.  This means that if a swimmer makes an error i.e. performs a false start, performs incorrect stroke technique, performs an incorrect turn or finish etc, they will be disqualified from the event.

Club Time Trials

As a competitive swimming club, we hold time trials several times per year.  All swimmers in Academy and Development are expected to take part.  They are not usually licensed but are an additional means for our Coaches to monitor each swimmer’s progress in all four strokes.

Club Championships

Perhaps the first type of “meet” a young swimmer will encounter is Club Championships.  Our annual Club Champs are open to all members of Bexley Swimming Club from Academy through to Performance and Club Masters.  The Club Champs are run according to ASA Laws and Technical Rules which means swimmers will be disqualified for technical faults, false starts etc.

Club Champs are run along the same lines as an Open with an entry form to be completed and a small entry fee.  Swimmers are split into boys and girls in various age groups, for example:  9 years and under; 10 years; 11/12 years; 13/14 years; 15/16 years; Open.  Each event is seeded and split into heats – slowest to fastest.  Swimmers will not necessarily race against their squad members but will placed in heats with swimmers of a similar speed.  The results are then listed in the relevant age groups (i.e. 9/u, 10/11, 12/13 etc.).  To include a good range of events in the programme, the Champs are usually split into several sessions held during September and October.  Medals are awarded to the top three swimmers in each age grouping for each event.

Licensed Open Meets

British Swimming and the Amateur Swimming Association operate a licensing system for open meets as follows:

  • Level 1 Meet – a meet licensed at this level will be aimed at very competent, fast swimmers who regularly compete at County level and above.  The meet will, quite often, be swum long course (i.e. in a 50m pool) and the required entry times will be challenging.  Times from these meets can be used for entry into Regional and National competitions, if achieved in the relevant window.
  • Level 2 Meet – the entry times for these meets can still be quite challenging.  They will always have a lower (slowest) limit for event entry times which means swimmers must be faster than the lower limit to enter the event.  Some have an upper (fastest) and lower (slowest) limit for each event.  This means that swimmers must be faster than the lower limit but not faster than the upper limit.  They are usually swum short course (i.e. 25m pool).  Times from these meets can also be used for entry into Regional and County competitions.
  • Level 3 Meet – these meets are of a slightly lower level and, as such, the entry times are easier.  They usually have upper and lower limits for entry times but the range between the times will be broader.  They are always swum short course.  Times from these meets can be used for entry into County competitions and Regional competitions, but not National competitions.
  • Level 4 Meet – these meets are suitable for swimmers wishing to enter their first Open meet.  Level 4 meets will either be Club Champs or Invitational meets of up to 8 clubs.  Entry times to Invitational Meets may have upper and lower limits and the range between the times will be quite broad.  Licensed Level 4 Open Meets are aimed at swimmers who have not yet achieved County times and are a very good way to experience a busy open meet.

Open Meets – General Information

Open Meets are known as “Opens” due to the fact that entry is open to any swimmer, from any club, who meets the qualifying times and age requirements.  They are busy meets with anywhere between 200 and 300 (sometimes more!) swimmers in attendance.  To enable as many events and swimmers as possible, Opens are held over one whole day of the weekend, usually Sunday.  However, larger meets can be held over a whole weekend with the long distance events (800m and 1500m freestyle) being held on the Friday evening.

All Open meets have an entry form which needs to be completed by each swimmer and all host clubs charge a fee per event entered (for example £6.00 per event).  Hiring a pool for a whole weekend, and hosting an open meet, is extremely costly which is why host clubs charge entry fees.  Swimmers’ entry times are required for each event and these must be shown on the entry form.  The host club always provides a schedule of qualifying times and swimmers must ensure they meet these times before entering the meet.

Swimmers are seeded into heats for each event from the slowest to the fastest using their entry times.  Usually, the ages are mixed but events will always be separated into male and female.  Awards are made to the fastest swimmers in each event and age group – sometimes it’s the first three, sometimes the first six.  Open Meets may choose ‘ages as at 31st December’ in year of competition or ‘age on the last day of competition’. Swimmers may be asked to sign-in for all their chosen events at the start of each session or a withdrawal system may be used instead, whereby swimmers are expected to sign-out of events they no longer wish to compete in.

Taking part in an open meet can bring a swimmer a great sense of achievement, especially if he or she achieves a PB in one or more events.  There is usually a team entered from the Club which makes for a social occasion and swimmers start to recognise and get to know swimmers from other clubs.  Parents can also get to know one another by sitting together to cheer for their children.  They can also support the Club by training to become an official or team manager.


As well as obvious items like hats, goggles, towels and race suits/shorts, swimmers will need their Bexley club shirt, a warm top such as a Bexley hoodie and a pair of poolside shoes. Whipping areas (where swimmers are gathered to be put into race order) can often be away from poolside, so sliders or flip flops are a must. Some swimmers also choose to take a picnic chair to sit on. But probably the most important thing to remember is enough food and drink to last for the whole event! Nobody likes a hungry swimmer!

League Galas

At present the Club participates in two Leagues:

  • Tudor League – This league is for swimmers of all ages and consists of 6 galas held during the first 6 months of the year at Eltham Leisure Centre. The league is made up of 8 teams from the local area and is a great introduction to galas.  Selection is made by the club coaches.  Upper time limits are present for each event and those swimmers who exceed the upper time limits are disqualified.
  • Kent Junior League (KJL) – this is a league for Kent-based clubs and has five divisions.  It is swum over three rounds (on Saturday evenings) each year – June, September and November – at various locations in Kent.  All divisions swim their galas on the same date at their allocated pool and clubs take turns to host a round.  This league is for junior swimmers aged 9 years to 13 years and the team is chosen by the coaches.  The club who wins their division is promoted to the division above and the club who is last in their division is demoted.

National Arena League – this is an important league gala which the Club is hoping to re-enter.  There are various regions and divisions all around the country which means many clubs take part in the NASL.  This league is swum over three rounds – always the 2nd Saturday evening in October, November and December each year.  The team is chosen by the coaches and will comprise swimmers from 9 years through to Open age.

Kent County Championships

Each year in January and February, the Kent County Championships are held between Crystal Palace and the London Aquatic Centre.  The championships are spread over four weekends and are licensed at Level 1.  They are swum long course (50m) and the events are open to swimmers aged 10 years (+) as at 31st December from any club in Kent and the London Boroughs of Lewisham, Bromley, Greenwich and Bexley.  However, swimmers aged 10/11 years may not enter the 400m Individual Medley, the 800m Freestyle or the 1500m Freestyle.

There are Automatic (auto) and Consideration (cons) qualifying times for each event and age group, which are notoriously tough, and swimmers should ensure they have achieved the qualifying time before entering.  If a swimmer has achieved an ‘auto’ time their entry will ‘automatically’ be accepted into the relevant event(s).  If a swimmer has not achieved an auto time but has a consideration time, their entry will be considered for entry depending on how many auto entries there are.  The Club likes to encourage as many eligible swimmers as possible to enter these Championships, even if it is with a Consideration Time for only one event, as valuable experience is gained by competing against the best swimmers in Kent.  Entry forms are sent out to eligible swimmers in November/December and coaches will be happy to discuss entry times if needed.  There is an entry fee per event.  The championships include relay teams which will be chosen by the coaches (the Club pays the entry fee for relay teams).

Information about the Championships can be found on:

London Region Championships

The next level of competition after the county championships is the regional championships which are also licensed at Level 1.  These are split into two age ranges:

  • Youth championships are usually held on the first weekend in May for males and females aged 15 years and over.  (subject to change)
  • Age Group championships are usually held on the second and third weekends in May for ages 11-14 years.  (subject to change)

The regional championships are always swum long course (50m pool) at the London Aquatic Centre and Crystal Palace and the qualifying times are harder than the county times.  The rules for entry are quite strict and state that “Competitors must have equalled or bettered the published entry qualifying time at an event licensed at Levels 1, 2 or 3 by Swim England.  In all circumstances, the entry time must be registered on the Swim England rankings database”.

Entry times must have been achieved in the 12 months immediately preceding the closing date for the Championships.  There is an entry fee per event.  Swimmers’ entry times are checked against the British Swimming database and the Club will not process entries from swimmers who have not achieved the required times.  All the information regarding the regional championships can be found on London Region’s website

National Championships

The highest level of competition (apart from swimming for your country of course!) is the British Swimming Summer Championships which takes place across six days at Tollcross International Swimming Centre, Glasgow in July.

Swimmers are invited based on national rankings.  The top 24 in each age group and event are invited to compete at the Summer Championships in July; with the exception of the 800m and 1500m events where the top 18 will be invited.

The next ranked swimmers at English affiliated clubs are invited to compete at the English Nationals held at Ponds Forge, Sheffield in August.

The rankings are on swimmers’ performances at level 1 meets between the qualification window, typically between March and May.  Age Groups are as follows:  

Males:  13/14 years, 15 years, 16 years, 17 years & 18+

Females:  12/13 years, 14 years, 15 years, 16 years & 17+

A swimmer who achieves even one National time should feel extremely proud of themselves.

British Swimming Rankings Database

British Swimming and the ASA operate a database which shows, among other things, a swimmer’s personal best times for the current 12-month period.  Every time a swimmer competes in a licensed open meet their time in each event will be entered on the database along with the date, name of the meet and the venue.  Swimmers can then use this database to double check their eligibility for entering open meets and county, regional and national championships.  Also, swimmers can see where they are placed in their age group for each stroke within the county, region and nationally and can monitor their own progress.

To access this database, go to  Swimmers can enter their ASA number and see a list of their personal best times.  If you do not know your swimmer’s ASA Number, you can source it by searching under your swimmer’s last name.  By following, and completing the relevant options, swimmers can find their long or short course rankings for each event. 

Heat Declared Winner (HDW)

This term is used for events where there is no final.  It means that awards will be decided after all the heats for an event have been swum.  At most open meets, and at our Club Champs, age groups are mixed together in speed order in each event and results are split into age groupings before any winners are decided.  Confusion sometimes arises with heat declared winner events:  it is NOT the winner of each HEAT who wins an award, but rather the fastest three swimmers of each AGE GROUP of each EVENT after all the heats have been swum.


At some large open meets there are finals of each event.  These are always split into boys and girls and are usually per age grouping.  The swimmers who will take part in a final are decided after all the heats of each event have been swum.  They will be the swimmers who have posted the eight (depending on the number of lanes in the pool) fastest times in each age grouping in each event.  These swimmers will be the ones receiving the awards – sometimes awards are presented to all finalists but it could just be the fastest three in each final.  If a swimmer does not make it into a final, he or she will not be receiving an award even if they won their heat.

Long Course and Short Course Meets

There are two modern pool lengths as follows:

  • Short Course – this refers to a pool which is 25m in length.
  • Long Course – this refers to a pool which is 50m in length.

When host clubs advertise an open meet, they will specify whether it will be a “short course” or a “long course” meet i.e. swum in a 25m pool or a 50m pool.  On the entry forms you will be asked to submit either short or long course times.  This does not mean that they want the times for just 25m or 50m of each event, but rather the times for each whole event when swum in a pool of 25m or 50m in length.  Sometimes host clubs ask for short course times even if the meet is to be swum long course and they will use the short course times when seeding the heats.  On other occasions, you will need to convert the short course times to long course times before submitting them on the entry form.  Times may need to be converted to 50m times for entry into County, Regional and National competitions.

To convert times, follow the attached link where you will be able to convert times from short course to long course and vice versa.  Please use ‘ASA Tables’ when converting.

ALL information needed to enter an Open meet can be found in the hosting club’s Meet Conditions.

Completing an Entry Form for an Open Meet

All entry forms for open meets require a certain amount of information and full and correct completion of the form saves a lot of time and headaches for the person processing the entries.  On the following page, there is an example of an entry form.  A lot of the information required is self-explanatory.

Entry forms for open meets are often handed in for processing with crucial information missing i.e. ASA number, DOB, Full Name, entry times for events.  Quite often, they are handed in with incorrect entry fees or after the closing date for entries.  These omissions cause delays, frustration and extra work for the person processing the Club’s entries.

When completing an entry form for an open, PLEASE can you ensure:

  • That the swimmer’s name is completed legibly, in full;
  • That the swimmer’s date of birth and age are correct – this is to ensure they swim in the correct age group;
  • That the swimmer’s ASA number is entered;
  • That the swimmer has the relevant entry times;
  • That you keep a note of which events your swimmer is being entered into;
  • That the correct entry fees are detailed on the form and transferred in a timely manner;
  • That your entry reaches the person processing Bexley’s entries by our Club’s deadline date – this is always earlier than the official Open closing date.

Processing entries for open meets takes considerable time and it would be very much appreciated if you could adhere to these procedures.

Thank you.