A beginner’s guide to the swimming gala

Many of you will know these procedures, but many first timers will be unfamiliar with just how a swim gala operates. Here are a few guidelines as to what happens, and how you are expected to behave.

1. You must swim events and galas that the Coaching team has entered/selected you for, unless agreed otherwise by prior agreement with the relevant club official. Each competition is carefully chosen for specific reasons and training adjusted accordingly.

2. It may seem obvious, but before you set out to your gala please check you know:

  • Where the venue is
  • What time you are supposed to meet
  • What time the sign-in is
  • What time the warm-up is, and what time racing starts.

3. At all Open Meets, check when you should sign in for your races. Sometimes this is done by ticking a sheet, and sometimes you will have to post race cards. If this is the case, then be sure to post them on time.

4. After signing in and getting changed, you will then go poolside to get ready for the warm-up. This is to prepare yourself for the racing ahead. First there will be a poolside warm-up, to limber up and get the body ready. The coaching team will give you advice and help you during the warm up.

5. Then you will start the Warm in the pool. Use this time to warm-up properly by concentrating on your swimming, not playing about or stopping in the lane.
You should get the opportunity to practice turns and then starts from the blocks. Again, the coaching team will tell you when.

6. Be part of the team. Stay with the team on poolside. If you leave for any reason you must tell the Coach or Team Manager where you are going.

7. Listen for your race to be announced. Go to the marshalling/whipping in area in time and report in. Take your hat, goggles and a drink with you. Your team manager should instruct you to do this. You will then be told which lane you are swimming in, and when the time is right, told to take your position behind the blocks. This is generally done just after the race before has started.

8. The procedure to start a race is as follows:

  • The Referee will blow the whistle 3 or 4 times. This is to warn everyone that a race is about to start, and that EVERYONE should be quiet and still. If you are a swimmer, this is the time to check your goggles & hat, and take off your tracksuit or other clothing and be ready for the race (if you haven’t already done so!)
  • The Announcer will introduce the race on the PA system, and then hand back to the Referee.
  • Next, the Referee will give one long blast on the whistle. This is the signal for you to either stand onto the racing blocks, for Freestyle, Breaststroke and Butterfly races. If it’s a Backstroke race, then you get into the water. For Backstroke only, the Referee will give another whistle to get you to hold onto the blocks and be ready.
  • When everyone is on the blocks (or in the water) and the Referee is happy, they then hand over to the starter. Everyone should by now be concentrating on the start of their race, and be still (no fidgeting or adjusting goggles).
  • The Starter will say “Take your marks” which is the signal to get into your take off position, and then sound the buzzer or horn, which is the signal to start your racing dive.
  • You must concentrate on your race at the start – and everyone else should respect this by being quiet and still until after the race has started. Once the race is underway then everyone can cheer their swimmers on.
  • Some swimmers may not be ready for a full ‘Racing Dive’ start, and so you will be allowed to either start from the end of the pool (alongside the blocks) or in the water. Again, your coach or team manager will help you with this.

9. Support your team mates. Everyone likes to be supported.

10. You must wear club uniform and hats when representing the club.

11. Swim down after the race, if possible. Do not use this time to play. The coaching team will give you advice on swim down procedure.

12. After your race, report to the coach, not your parents. Receive valuable feedback on your race.

After a while all this will become second nature. But the main thing to remember is – Have fun with your sport!