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Competitive Swimming Explained

There are many different galas to choose from, and a lot of gala jargon. It can all seem rather bewildering, so the following will help you find your way.

Individual Galas

  • Most galas require swimmers to be at least 9 years old
  • Qualifying times are age specific
  • Races are seeded on time rather than age
  • Results are age specific and based on results from all the heats of each event
  • The calculated swimmer age can vary (it could be the age on the last or first day of the gala, or the age on 31 December of that year etc).   Check the gala conditions for details.
Entry Times
  • All swimmers must submit an entry time for each event to indicate how fast they have swum previously. These can be found on Individual Best Times | Swim England (
  • For some galas this time must have been swum in another gala of a required level or within a certain period of time.
  • If gala conditions allow, times can be converted between long and short course by using the time convertor Time Conversion System – Darlington ASC Membership (
  • If gala conditions allow, and a swimmer does not have a previous time the Coach may be able to provide an estimated time that can be used for entry (Coach’s time)
Heat Declared Winner (HDW)
  • This means the swimmers’ times in the heats are compared and the winner is determined without a final being swum.
  • Some galas have heats and then the fastest swimmers compete in a final to determine winning positions.
Gala Levels

There are 4 levels of gala:

  • Level 4 – the lowest level of licensed gala which could be either over a long or short course and usually there are no minimum entry standards.  Our Club Galas are licensed at this level. Times from these meets can be used to enter other galas but not for County, Regional or National Championships
  • Level 3 – long or short course meets usually with limited entry time requirements that sometimes exclude faster swimmers.  It may be possible to enter with a Coach’s time if a previous time has not been recorded.  Times from these galas can be used for entry into County and Regional Championshipss.
  • Level 2 – short course galas with entry time requirements, often a time faster than a standard.  This includes County, Regional and National competitions.
  • Level 1 – long course galas aimed at swimmers who have achieved the more challenging qualifying times.  They include County, Regional and National Championships.

For more information on Gala levels see Licensed Meets | Competitive Swimming in England

DASC Club Galas
  • DASC holds 4 main internal club galas throughout the year at the Dolphin Centre. All swimmers are encouraged to take part in appropriate events.
  • The club galas are licenced at Level 4 so times achieved are recorded on the Rankings database and can be used to enter some external galas.
  • Medals are awarded for the top 3 swimmers in each age group, with the winner often receiving a trophy.
  • Results from certain events are awarded points to determine the Open and Female Club Champions at the end of the year.
  • Distance Galas may also be held for more able swimmers.
  • DASC can only run these galas with the help of many parents of swimmers and friends of the club, so please get involved Gala Officials – Darlington ASC.
  • To find out more in the DASC Club Gala current programme

SENER Championships (NERs)
  • SENER stands for Swim England North-East Region and is the regional organisation to which DASC is affiliated.
  • SENER organise two sets of NER Championships each year, the short course Regional Championships are usually held in November or December and the long course Regional Championships in April or May.
  • Swimmers must have a recorded time that is faster than the qualifying times, achieved in a suitable gala and within a given timeframe.
  • The qualifying times are issued a few months before the galas and can be found on the ASANER website.
  • Qualifying for events at the NER Championships is a major achievement and a proud moment for our swimmers.
British Championships
  • DASC is very proud to have had a number of swimmers compete at the British Swimming Championships, which usually take place in April. 
  • British Swimming organise the British Championships. To find out more see
Swim England Registration
  • For almost all licenced galas, swimmers who wish to compete must be registered at Club Compete level. (This is not necessary for swimmers competing in the Durham and District Junior League, the ‘Diddy League’ or internal club galas)
  • It is possible to upgrade to be a competing swimmer at any time during the year, by paying an upgrade fee.  Contact the Club Membership Secretary (  for more information.
  • You can find your swimmer’s SE registration number and category at English and Welsh Membership Check | Swim England (
  • The swimmers in each event are seeded from slowest to fastest.  This means swimmers race against others of similar ability rather than a similar age.
  • For each heat the fastest swimmers generally  swim in  the middle lanes.
Short Course and Long Course
Gala Results
NDSA Championships (N&Ds)

National Championships (Nationals)
  • Swim England generally run two sets of National Championships each year.
  • In December they hold the short course National Winter Championships. Qualifying times are very challenging.
  • In July or August they hold the long course National Summer Meet. The top-ranked swimmers in each event are invited to compete at the British Summer Championships which take place in July. 
  • Then the next ranked swimmers, at Swim England affiliated clubs, are invited to compete at the National Summer Meet which follow the British Summer Championships.
  • The rankings are on swimmers’ performances at Level 1 meets during a qualification window, typically between March and May of the same calendar year.
  • See Major Events | England National Swimming Entry Details and Results for more information
  • This is the next level up and the best swimmers from our club aspire to qualify for these galas.
Disqualifications (DQs)
  • Unfortunately disqualifications or DQs can happen when a swimmer does need meet the technical requirements  during the start, the race or the finish. 
  • When a DQ occurs it is important to find out the reason from the Coach at the gala to help understanding and prevent a reoccurrence.
  • DQs can be disappointing but are all part of learning. 

Team Galas

Durham and District Junior League (Diddy League)
NDSA Team Championships (N&D Teams)
  • NDSA (Northumberland & Durham Swimming Association) organise the N&D Team Championships which generally take place in a short course pool in March.
  • All the events are team relays which are organised in year age bands – this is a great chance for our swimmers to swim as part of a team.
  • The coaches will advise you on whether your child has been selected to swim and represent DASC. 

If you have any questions about galas, please ask the coaches, the Competition Secretary (  or other parents or guardians who will be happy to help.