Guidelines to going to your first Team Swimming Gala

Your first swimming gala is likely to be a fun team gala which has been specifically set up to be a development opportunity for young swimmers, however the guidelines below also apply to all galas including those where your child is swimming races you have chosen to enter them for (open meets).

In a team gala the coach and team manager will have chosen which races your child will swim based on their ability and the cut-off time. A cut-off time is a time which the swimmer can not have swum faster than to enter that race. This means that the swimmers are fairly equally matched in each race. If your child can swim faster than the cut-off time for their age group the coach / team manager may decide to move them up an age group depending on the ages and abilities of other swimmers in the team. Our aim is to let everyone compete and, where we can, for everyone to swim a similar number of races (usually 2 or 3 per gala). You will not know which races your child is swimming until you arrive at the pool this is so as not to set any expectations for the swimmer as there may be last minute changes etc.

Before the Gala

Swimmers should avoid eating a large meal at least two hours before swimming but it’s a good plan to eat well throughout the day as swimming is hungry business. Swimmers should do their normal activities throughout the day but try to have a bit of a rest before setting out for the gala.

Sounds obvious but make sure you know:

  • where the gala is and how to get to it – some pools are not particularly well signposted!
  • what time you are due to meet (this is important as warm-up times are often very limited)

Please ask if you are unsure of any of the meeting arrangements and have the team managers mobile number in your phone in-case of traffic delays etc.

At the pool a team manager (in a club top) will usually be in the foyer waiting to sign the swimmer in – please make sure the swimmer lets the team manager know they have arrived before they go into the changing room.

Arrange with your swimmer where they will meet you at the end of the gala (e.g. outside the changing rooms or in the pool reception). A team manager or coach will stay until the last child has been collected so if you are not watching your child – please check what time the team manager thinks that the gala will finish.

Spectators usually join a queue and pay a small entry fee to go into the spectator area and watch the gala.

A kit list for swimmers and spectators is given on the last page of this guide.

The Gala

We want the swimmer to feel part of a team therefore we ask that they stay on poolside with the team throughout the whole gala to cheer their friends on. They must not leave the poolside under any circumstances unless they have asked their coach or team manager.

Once the team is assembled poolside there will initially be ‘blood-flow’ – a poolside warm-up and stretch and then usually 10 minutes of warm-up in the pool. This gives the swimmer the chance to practice their turns for the strokes they are swimming and also have a practice on the starting blocks if they are using them. For most development galas the use of the blocks is not compulsory – they can start in the water if they do not want to dive – they just need to let the coach know beforehand.

At team galas the team manager will tell the swimmer when it is time to go up for their race and which lane they are swimming in.

Starting a Race

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. The swimmer should check their goggles & hat, and take off any clothing and be ready for the race (if they 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 the swimmer 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 for the swimmer to get into their take off position, and then sound the buzzer or horn, which is the signal to start your racing dive.

After they have finished their race they should go straight to the coach for feedback. Sometimes this is difficult to do without stopping to talk to their parents but we ask your help in discouraging this as the coach will have feedback which needs to be given out in the order the swimmers compete (otherwise it gets confusing)!

All the children are encouraged stay to the end of the gala so that they can cheer each other on and support their team mates. This will allow them to develop and bond as a team.

It is important to remember that team galas are about developing a swimmer and a club. They can sometimes be daunting for a first-time competitor but the most important thing is that your swimmer has fun!

If your swimmer has any concerns please ask them to talk to the coach or a team manager at any point either before, during or after the gala.

Kit list

Swimmers should bring the following in their swimming bag:

  • 2 towels – one for drying, one to sit on
  • 2 swimming costumes/trunks
  • 2 pairs of goggles (in case one pair gets lost or breaks)
  • A T-shirt or hoodie to wear pool side to keep warm between races – preferably a Piranhas club T-shirt or hoodie
  • A Piranhas Swimming Hat (these can be purchased for £5.50)
  • Poolside shoes – flip flops or similar
  • Plenty to drink – squash or water (nothing fizzy)
  • Snacks – fruit, pasta, rice, sandwiches, wraps (no nuts as we have a swimmer with a nut allergy)
  • They can bring books, magazines or games to keep them busy but they are discouraged from bringing electronic devices and phones in case they get damaged or lost (valuables are taken at your own risk)
  • The children shouldn’t leave anything in the changing rooms, they should bring their bags poolside. Please remember all belongings are the swimmer’s responsibility
  • Swimmers should check that their bags have all their kit in them at the end of the gala before they leave the pool – but ask the team manager if you are missing anything as they do a final sweep of the team poolside area on leaving and kit often makes it’s way into other swimmer’s bags!

What parents should bring

  • Wear layers – as you know from training swimming pools get very hot!
  • Bring plenty of drinks and some food
  • Pen, paper, highlighter if you want to record your child’s swim times and if you are very enthusiastic a stopwatch!
  • Cash – even if the race is free to enter there is generally an entrance fee for parents which varies from club to club and sometimes you have to pay for a programme.