Swimming Competitions - an overview

by James Nock — in


There are three main types of competition in the UK:

  • Team Galas
  • Open Meets
  • Pathway Meets

Team Galas

Clubs race against other clubs - your swimmer will be picked for the club's team if they meet criteria. Some Team Galas are used to measure performance, others are more about development. Your swimmer might swim in one race or several - either way, always say 'yes' to these... they're great for bonding and lots of fun.

Open Meets

These are competitions that span a whole day or weekend. You enter them through your club and select the events that your swimmer will compete in. If you're unsure which events to enter, ask the coach. On the day of the Open Meet, the first warm up will usually be early in the morning before the racing starts. The Coach(es) and/or Team Manager(s) on poolside with your swimmer will help them get ready for their races at the right time. It's important to pack plenty of food and drink for consumption during the meet.

Pathway Meets

As swimmers progress, their personal best times will improve. Along the jouney there will be pathway meets that they may become eligible for. The pathway is:

County → Regional → National → British → International

Pathway meets operate in largely the same way as Open Meets do but are sometimes run over longer timespans such as a week or over multiple weekends. It is important that swimmers attend these meets regardless of whether they qualify on one event or multiple.

There are also Closed Meets...

Think of these as Open Meets that are not open to swimmers outside of an invited group. The most common 'closed meet' in the UK is the 'Club Championships' event that clubs run throughout the year which will run in much the same way as an Open Meet but is only open to swimmers in that club. Another example of a Closed Meet would be an event such as Duel in the Pool.

What age should swimmers start competing?

In the UK, swimmers can compete from the age of 9. Ask the coach if you're unsure whether or not they are 'ready' - they'll be open and honest with you. Maybe don't enter them for the 200m Butterfly the first time though. Make sure your swimmer has club kit so that they look like part of the team.

What is a licensed meet?

In the UK, Open Meets are normally 'licensed'. This simply means that the times that are swam will get submitted to British Swimming Rankings. Normally, only licensed times can be used to enter Open Meets with. Licensed Meets will be licensed at either Level 1, 2, 3 or 4.

Eh, but I don't have any licensed times

That's okay, your club's Club Champonships Meet will probably be a 'Level 4' licensed Meet so make a start by entering every event that you can there. Some Level 3 Open Meets will allow you to enter without times but no Level 2 or Level 1 Meets will.

What's the difference between Level 1, 2, 3 and 4?

  • Level 1 Meets are always long course (in 50m pools). National, Regional and County Championships are all Level 1 Meets. Their purpose is to enable athletes to achieve qualifying times for entry into the next meet up along the pathway.
  • Level 2 Meets are always short course (in 25m pools). National, Regional and County Championships are licensed at Level 2 if they are held short course.
  • Level 3 Meets can be either long or short course events. Their purpose is to enable athletes to achieve times for entry into Level 1 and Level 2 Open Meets.
  • Level 4 Meets are entry level events and events such as Club Championships are normally licensed at level 4. Their purpose is to enable athletes to achieve times for rankings which enable them to enter Level 3 Open Meets. Times achieved in Level 4 Meets cannot be used to enter Level 2 or Level 1 Meets.
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