Gala Guide

Personal Best Times

A PB is a Personal Best time and is a better measure of achievement than where a swimmer finishes in a race. Parents should keep a note of their child's times for future reference and to be able to show the child their progress. As the swimmer gets older, they should learn to keep their own times!

Rankings list

There is also a National Ranking List, and once your child is over 9 years of age and has competed in a licenced Open Meet they will appear on it! So check out to see where your child is in relation to others in their age group, within the County, Region and Nation!


RADS enters swimmers in a variety of different competitions:

  • Trophy Galas - One-off galas against 4 or 5 other Clubs, with the winners often being presented with a trophy
  • Leagues, a series of galas against a range of Clubs around the county and further afield for the National Arena League
  • County, Regional & National competitions - for which there are Qualifying Times
  • Open Meets which also require qualifying times

  • Most competitions are "Age on Day". This is simply the age of the swimmer on the day of the event - though for some competitions that span more than one date (Leagues, County Championships, etc) it will be the age of the swimmer on the last day's swimming.


    The club takes part in a number of team and League galas. Swimmers from the age of 9 upwards can be selected to represent the club. Check for team lists to see if you have been selected. It is an honour to represent your club, so please make every effort to make yourself available if you have been selected. There is no entry fee for swimming in team or league galas, although spectators will be expected to pay an entrance fee. From time to time RADS is expected to ‘host’ team or league galas. At this time we will request the assistance of parents to help with various hosting duties.

    RADS compete in several leagues and swimmers can be selected from all levels:-

    Essex Mini League

    The Essex Mini League provides a framework for competition between amateur swimming clubs within the county of Essex. The league currently has 14 member clubs arranged in a single division. Each club swims in five galas each season, arranging and hosting one of them. Galas are swum on the second Saturday of each month from February to October (excluding August). The mini league is aimed at swimmers who have not achieved county qualifying times and operates on a series of time limits i.e. swimmers must swim slower than the time limits, or are issued with time faults. This may seem strange, but it is a mechanism to give less experienced swimmers a chance to represent their club.

    The National Arena Swimming League – London

    This is a prestigious national competition which is run in regional qualifying groups. RADS swim in the London region which currently operates 3 highly competitive divisions. Teams winning Division 1 have the opportunity to swim in the National finals in Ponds Forge, Sheffield.

    The National Arena Junior M11 Swimming League

    As with the Senior National Arena Swimming League this is a high profile competition. The league is aimed at swimmers between the ages of 9 and 12 inclusive and also holds a national final.


    County, Regional & National Championships

    To enter into these competitions, you will first need to achieve Qualifying Times.

    County times - these are the qualifying times required to swim in the County Championships in February/March each year, your chance to become the county champion! Times vary slightly each year and can be found on both our website and the Essex County ASA website. Qualifying Times have to be achieved within the 9 months prior to the closing date for entries, usually early March, but can be achieved in any Open Meet.

    Regional Times - one step up from County Times and enable the swimmer to swim in the East Region Championships in May/June and November. Again Regional times have to be achieved in the 8 months prior to the closing date for entries (usually from October 1st the previous year) - but can only be achieved in licenced meets. Details can be found on the East Region ASA website.

    National Times - for the very very few!! If you are at this standard, you probably won't need to be looking at this guide!

    Open Meets

    At most inter-club galas, a swimmer will be selected by the Coach to swim just a few specific races for the team e.g. 50m Freestyle. By contrast, at an Open Meet, the swimmer competes as an individual and can therefore choose to compete in whichever events they wish. Open Meets - which are "open" to swimmers from any Club, hence the name - also provide an excellent opportunity for swimmers to compete in a wide range of different events at the same competition e.g. 50m Freestyle, 100m Backstroke, 200m Breaststroke, 400m Individual Medley, etc.

    The Head Coach recommends several Open Meets each year that he will attend and these are always advertised on the notice board and website.

    Open Meets are licenced at Levels 1, 2, 3 & 4 by the Amateur Swimming Association and are "open" to swimmers from any Club. Level One is the highest, aimed at swimmers looking to achieve National Qualifying Times. Level Two is aimed at Regional Qualifiers and swimmers close to Regional Qualification. Level Three is for Club swimmers who are seeking County Qualifying Times while Level Four is for club championships.

    Each level usually has different entry criteria including Qualifying Times and Upper Limit Times. These are times set by meet organisers to control the number of entries. A Qualifying Time is the time that a swimmer must have already achieved in order to enter the competition, i.e. to enter the 200m Individual Medley, they must have already swum faster than the QT for that event. However, most meets have an Upper Limit Time (ULT) for each event too. This means that swimmers who have previously achieved times faster than the ULT are also not eligible to enter that event. Often, in Level Three galas, the organisers will accept a time acheived outside the licenced gala structure. This allows novice swimmers to enter their first galas and assists them to get their county times. For more information regarding entry to galas, please ask your coach or speak to the RADS desk.

    Gala Guide

    Details of all galas can be found on the RADS notice board and this website. Please keep a regular eye on these to see if your swimmer is on the Team Selection List in which case you will need to tick it to confirm that they are available to swim.

    Most galas last 2.5-3 hours. Sometimes a coach (bus!) is provided for galas that are further away or for Finals at a small cost. Directions to galas and postcodes are available on this website -Pool Locations. The Team Selection List or website will also advise you of the Warm Up time. It is important to be at the pool 15-30 minutes before warm up to get changed and get on poolside. Usually swimmers don't have to wait in the queue outside a pool - the queue is for spectators and swimmers should work their way through to the front.

    What to bring - swimmers:
  • towel
  • 2 swimming costumes/trunks
  • 2 pairs of goggles (in case one pair gets lost or breaks)
  • A RADS T-shirt/T-Bag top
  • A RADS Club Hat
  • Poolside shoes - flip flops or similar
  • Plenty to drink - squash or water (nothing fizzy)
  • Snacks - fruit, nuts, pasta, rice
  • Tracksuit/shorts

  • For full day Open Meets also bring packed lunch, spare set of clothes plus something to do (book, game, magazine, etc) Please remember all belongings are the swimmer's responsibility so it is a good idea not to send anything valuable, particularly with young swimmers. Remember that glass jars, bottles etc are not allowed on poolside.

    Gala preparation

    Ideally swimmers should not have eaten a large meal two hours before they swim, but they should have "stocked up" 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.

    Swimmers under 16 years old should be accompanied by a responsible adult who has the swimmers parents contact details if they are not the swimmers parent themselves. Please note swimming club officials will not take responsibility for your child's safety unless it has been agreed in advance.

    Before leaving your child at the gala, please make sure he/she is aware:
  • Of arrangements for getting home and meeting you
  • They must make themselves known to the RADS Poolside staff when they arrive so we know they are there
  • They should not leave the poolside UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES unless they have asked an adult poolside helper
  • What to bring - Parents (yes there is a list for you too!)

  • Wear layers - swimming pools get very hot!
  • Bring plenty of drinks and comfort food! Your child will probably want more than you have packed and you will probably get thirsty/hungry too - it's all the cheering!
  • Pen, paper, highlighter and if you are very enthusiastic a stopwatch!
  • Cash - there is always an entrance fee. This varies from club to club and depends on the type of gala. There is also usually a raffle (difficult to say "no") and sometimes (at open meets) you also have to pay for a programme. You will also end up paying for hot drinks, hot dogs and hot new swimming costumes if the Swim Shop is there!!
  • Reward systems

    Many parents operate a "bribe" system for the children and reward them for each PB - there is no standard for this - just to say BEWARE - many a parent has been left nearly bankrupt after a long open meet where their child has had a particularly good day!

    And Always Remember...

    ...It is the parent's job to support and encourage - it never looks very good when a parent starts ranting at their child for not doing as well as the parent expects. Don't get yourself labelled as a "pushy parent" - after all swimming is supposed to be fun; every swimmer will have a different potential and they will only reach this if they enjoy the sport. It is the Coaches' job to point out where a swimmer could have done better and to get the maximum learning out of a race.