All about Galas

Whether you are competing in Club time trials, galas and championships, or at Borough, County or National level, you still need to know what to do and when to do it. Preparation is everything and the better informed you are the more likely it is the competition will go smoothly.

Different galas are aimed at different levels of swimmers – Level 1 galas are aimed at the elite swimmers and usually have tough qualifying times, they must be held in a 50m pool. Level 2 galas have slightly easier times and must be held in a 25m pool. Level 3 galas are held in either 25m or 50m pools and are aimed at swimmers who’re not so used to competing or who have slower times – Level 3 galas usually have an upper qualifying time as well as a lower qualifying time. Level 4 galas are events like the Leander Club Championships and the Wandsworth Borough Championships – they can be held in 25m or 33m pools and don’t have to have electronic timing. Times from Level 4 meets are eligible for entry to the Surreys, but not to the London Regionals.

It’s a good idea to check your times against those held on the British Swimming rankings list. Your coach will tell you which galas you should enter – if you have any questions about the form, please ask your coach or squad rep.


Getting there on time means arriving in time for the sign in – if you don’t sign in for each event you will not be allowed to swim. Always check sign in, warm up and start times.

What about eating?

  • Eat plenty for at least 2 days before an event, especially the night before. Lots of pasta, bread, rice and potatoes (carbohydrate rich food is best).
  • Eat little and often during the day if the event is in the evening.

Foods to avoid

  • Greasy foods (burgers, chips and doughnuts)
  • Highly seasoned foods (pizza, curries and chillies)
  • Fizzy drinks

On the day of the Gala

Please turn up at least 15 minutes before the warm up and report to your coach.

Once you have warmed up you should dry off and keep warm (some swimmers will change into their racing costume).

Make sure you know when the events you are swimming in will start and then sit with the other club swimmers and wait for your coach to tell you when to go to the whipping area.

Try to speak to your coach before your swim for final preparation and then go the appropriate waiting area. Make sure that your costume is tight enough and you have your hat and goggles.

As their heat gets nearer, start to focus on your swim and think how you are going to swim it. By the time there are 2 or 3 heats to go you should be ready with your hat and goggles on. Good luck!

After the race

Once you have finished your swim you should swim down if possible and then report back to your coach for comment on the race.

When you have finished all your swims please ensure you let the coaches know if you want to leave – some Open Meets have finals.

Always clear up any rubbish and make sure you take home EVERYTHING you brought with you!

Medals are available for the first 3 places and some clubs give out ribbons up to 8th place. These can be collected once the final result has been published.

Some lower grade meets operate ‘speeding-tickets’ for swimmers who swim faster than the upper cut-off times. This means the swimmer is not eligible for a medal but it should be considered as a positive as their time has improved dramatically.

The day before

Make sure you know which events you are competing in the next day.

Food should be packed and ready in case of an early start. Choose things that are easily digestible and suitable for grazing throughout the day. The following work well:

  • Pasta/Rice
  • Bread, pitta bread, bagel or muffin
  • Rice cakes
  • Popcorn
  • Banana
  • Breakfast cereals or cereal bars
  • Sports drinks
  • Weak squash
  • Water – sip during the gala as most pools are very warm and it’s easy to get dehydrated.
  • Bring a snack with you for after the event. You have used up energy and need to replace it with something like a cereal bar, biscuit, sandwich, banana or chocolate bar.

Kit Bag

You warm up to get your muscles stretched and ready for competition. You then need to keep warm – standing around in a wet towel and costume is no way to do this! So, in your bag you should have:

  • Two costumes or more depending on the number of sessions you are doing (one for warm up, another for competition). Leander costumes are available but not compulsory.
  • Leander hats – one blue, one yellow
  • Goggles – take a spare pair just in case you have a last minute breakage. Make sure you are comfortable with both pairs.
  • T-bag and/or T-shirt (a Leander T-bag is good for team image and doesn’t stay wet like a cotton T-shirt);
  • Track suit trousers;
  • Sweatshirt or track suit top;
  • Pool shoes, CLEAN trainers or flip-flops;
  • Two towels or more