Information and Advice for (New) Parents

A brief guide to competitive swimming,...


Epsom District Swimming Club is a competitive swimming club and its members will have opportunities to compete in a variety of events.

Under ASA/Swim England Rules, swimmers who have not yet reached their 9th birthday are only able to compete in internal events (or the MK Junior League (if selected) as long as they fall nine before the date of the final round 3 gala (usually mid-September).

For this reason, swimmers are not registered as ASA/Swim England as Category 2 swimmers until the year in which they turn nine as such membership is not required –a Category 1 membership is sufficient.

It is likely therefore that the young swimmers first experience of competitive swimming in the club will be in the Club Championships (November) or the Club Sprint Championships (sometime in the Spring).

Club Championships

The Club Championships generally take place over two weekends in November at the Rainbow Centre. All club members are expected to take part.

Dates and details for the Club Championships are sent out well in advance/put on the website. (Please refer to the Events Calendar). Please mark the dates in your diaries as the club expects all swimmers to compete in every event they have been entered for.

The entry fees are included within the swimmer’s annual membership fees. These Championships provide the younger swimmers with a good introduction to how competitive events are organised and experience of swimming in such events.

The Club Championships comprise the following competitive strokes and distances:

50m: Backstroke, Breaststroke, Butterfly, Freestyle
100m: Backstroke, Breaststroke, Butterfly, Freestyle,
200m: Backstroke, Breaststroke, Butterfly, Freestyle, Individual Medley
400m: Freestyle, Individual Medley
800m: Freestyle
1500m: Freestyle

The Individual Medley comprises each stroke in a specified order – Butterfly, Backstroke, Breaststroke and Freestyle. Swimmers will be entered into events in accordance with ability and the squad they are in. Academy 2, for example, won’t be entered into the 1500m freestyle or the 200m fly!

All swimmers are expected to enter every event they are eligible for unless their coach has advised them not to.

It's definitely a "have a go" competition but there will be disqualifications so you should prepare the younger ones for this (see later section).
At this stage, after their first competitive event, it is a good idea to start keeping a note of your swimmers’ Personal Best (PB) times. It is important to know what they are in order to measure improvement.

These events are run as official ‘licenced/ events (level 4 meet) (see later section on licenced meets for an explanation of levels). This means that the times are officially recorded and sent to the ASA rankings. These times can be used to enter Opens and the Surrey Championships.

This means that for the (slightly older/more experienced) swimmers looking to gain qualification times for the Surrey County Championships, (which are held January through to March the times achieved at the Club Championships can be used as entry times.

Club Champs are open to all squads including Masters. Masters are invited to compete but must submit their entries by the closing date advertised on the website to the squad's administrator.

We award medals and ribbons based on the results from each age group. Trophies are also awarded as well as some special awards all of which are presented at our Annual Presentation evening in December.

All Parents are expected to help out at the Club Championships. Jobs range from timekeeping to helping on the door, there really is a role for everyone!

Sprint Championships

The Sprint Championships are run in the same way as the Club Championships but with fewer events. They generally take place on a Sunday in Spring/early Summer at the Rainbow Centre. All club members are expected to take part.

All swimmers will be entered into all events. The events are:

50m: Backstroke, Breaststroke, Butterfly, Freestyle


Almost inevitably, swimmers will at some point have their first experience of disqualification (DQ).

Like all sports, competitive swimming is governed by strict technical rules which are there to make sure that races are run completely fairly. These rules are included within the ASA/Swim England Handbook which is also available on the club website.

All gala officials such as referees and judges have passed examinations (both theoretical and practical) and would prefer not to disqualify swimmers, however they must maintain standards without which some swimmers could gain an unfair advantage.

We do understand it is very upsetting to new swimmers when DQs happen, but the club has to get the swimmers used to these rules from the outset. When a disqualification occurs, this is normally announced along with the reason when the result of the race is announced.

The main reasons for disqualifications amongst young swimmers are:

  • A false start – there are no second chances on the start. Please note a swimmer can also be disqualified on the start for moving on the starting blocks once the starter has called “take your marks”.
  • Incorrect stroke technique, particularly for breaststroke and butterfly
  • Incorrect touch at the turn or finish (again particularly breaststroke and butterfly when you have to touch with both hand simultaneously.)
  • Turning off your back to touch on your front when swimming backstroke
  • Incorrect turn

Being disqualified should be looked on as a learning experience; it is not the end of the world. It happens to everyone and even experienced swimmers are disqualified occasionally. It is much better to be disqualified early at a club event and learn from that disqualification, than to be disqualified at a County Championship or National League event, later in a swimmer’s career when it really matters.

League and Gala Fixtures

Epsom District Swimming Club basically competes in two types of swimming galas:-

  • Team galas where the club competes as a team against other clubs (such as the Milton Keynes Junior League (ages 9-12) and the National Arena League (ages 11 plus); and
  • Galas where the swimmer competes individually.

The club tries to ensure there is a varied fixture list for the whole year and this is set out in the Events Calendar on the website. The gala results and swimmers’ times are also posted there as soon as they are available.

Team fixtures are swum against other clubs and as such your child will form part of a team. As a competitive swimming club, coaches assume members will be available to compete for the club if selected. Although we accept that this isn’t always possible, we do expect swimmers to do their best to make themselves available when selected.

Team members are selected on merit and coaches spend many hours on team selection to try and field the best possible team combination given the type and format of the gala; it isn’t always a case of just selecting the faster swimmer for each age group/stroke. Team Managers will do their best to give as much notice as possible to parents and appreciate a timely response. Learning of non-availability at the last minute, or even worse, withdrawing from the team at the last minute, lets the club and the other team members down, as it isn’t always possible to arrange substitutes at very short notice.

As an example, four swimmers (both boys and girls) are normally selected for each age group, as the relays require four swimmers, one for each stroke in the medley relays and four swimmers in the freestyle relay. If a swimmer in the youngest age group were to drop out at the last minute and substitutes were not available, that team could not then compete in the relay team events and many points could be lost. With promotion and relegation at stake in the league galas, every single point counts.

In addition, as a competitive club, commitment to competing for the club is one of the main criteria for progressing through the club. Repeated refusal to compete in galas or league fixtures calls into question a swimmer’s commitment, and in turn his or her place in a particular squad.
As a parent of a competitive swimmer, please, therefore, take a look at the fixture list and try to ensure your child is available for events they are likely to be selected for. The coaches are always available to offer advice if required.

Most team galas tend to be held fairly locally and parents usually drive to these galas, often on a lift-sharing basis. For galas held further afield, such as the National Arena League Galas and Junior League galas, the club may, depending on distance, organise coach transport to and from the venue. Swimmers are encouraged to use the coach as this helps team spirit and ensures the whole team arrives at the gala on time.

Age at …

Galas use different dates to determine the age of swimmers for a particular age group at the gala. Most Open Meets are ‘Age on the Day’ galas, which is self- explanatory (age on the final day of the meet if the meet spans a weekend).

Other galas which are run over several rounds tend to use the age on the date of the final round of the competition to determine the age of the swimmer (i.e, the Milton Keynes Junior League).

Club Championship and Sprint Championships (our internal galas) use a swimmer’s age at the end of the year (i.e. age as at 31st December) as the relevant date as this is consistent with what is used at County, Regional and National Championships.

‘Friendly’ Galas

When possible, the club competes in ‘friendly’ galas by invitation from other local swimming clubs. These galas are ‘fun’ events providing fantastic competition for young swimmers in a relaxed atmosphere and are excellent for young swimmers perhaps swimming in their first competition.

League Galas

League competitions are major events with galas held all over the South of England.

The club currently swims in the following Leagues:

  • Milton Keynes Junior League – a competition run over three rounds from June to September. The club is currently in Division 1 of the League.
  • National Arena League - run over three rounds during October, November and December each year. The club is currently in Division 1 of the National Arena (South) League.

The National Arena League is split into 7 Regions across the country. Epsom District SC competes in the South Region, which is divided into Premier, Division 1 and Division 2 Leagues. We currently compete in Division 1. Details of the League can be found at:

In both leagues, teams are seeded in Rounds 1 & 2 with the aim of ranking the teams such that the top final round gala comprises the 6 strongest teams fighting for promotion. The result of the final round gala determines the final position in the Division and ultimately promotion/relegation to/from a Division within the region.

Licenced Open Meets

Open Meets are essentially galas in which the swimmers are not selected as part of a team. Instead, swimmers qualify for the meet based on their Personal Best (PB) times. Although they are representing the club, they are also swimming for themselves with the aim of obtaining an improved time which would qualify them for County, Regional or National competition.

The Amateur Swimming Association (ASA) licenses meets at levels 1(highest) to 4 (lowest).

  • Level 1 meets will have minimum standard qualifying times and are broadly aimed at swimmers aiming for National Qualifying Times (NQTs) which must be set in a Long Course (50m) pool.
  • Level 2 meets take place in Short Course (25m) pools and have minimum qualifying times and may have upper limit times; these are aimed at swimmers aiming for Regional and County qualifying times (QTs).
  • Level 3 meets typically have upper and lower limit qualifying times (swimmers may not enter if their times are faster than the specified QTs) and are aimed at County and Club swimmers.
  • Level 4 meets may have QTs in the same way as Level 3 meets, but they have more freedom in terms of using electronic timing and qualified officials. These are suitable for obtaining QTs for County Champs and Level 3 meets. Generally, Level 4 is only used for Club Championships and the club’s own Championships are licenced at this level to allow times to be used for qualification to the Surrey County Championships.

Open Meets are open to anyone who meets the appropriate age and time qualifications and pays the required entry fees. The club attends various Open Meets throughout the year. These are specifically selected by the Head and Squad Coaches for a variety of reasons.

Swimmers are not recommended to attend Open Meets on their own.

Where the club supports an Open Meet there will always be a coach/assistant present on the poolside to support the swimmers and ensure they get to the right place at the right time.

Your squad coach will give you advice as to which individual events your child should enter.

Surrey County Championships

The Surrey County Championships (‘The Surreys’) are open to swimmers from all clubs in the county. For competition purposes, the County of Surrey consists of the eleven boroughs in the administrative county of Surrey together with the London boroughs of Croydon, Southwark, Lambeth, Wandsworth, Merton, Sutton, the Royal Borough of Kingston-upon-Thames and the Royal Borough of Richmond.

The events are held during January, February, March across various venues (Surrey Sports Park Guildford, Crystal Palace, London Aquatic Centre and the Guildford Spectrum), depending on the event.

Qualification times must have been achieved at a licensed meet between the end of the last championships and a specific cut-off date ahead of this year's competition. A list of the 2019 Surrey Qualifying times will be available on the club website from around September. These qualification times tend to change year-on-year and we will do our best to ensure they are kept up to date.

Details of the Surrey Championships can generally be found in the Age Group section on the Surrey website – see:

Entry into the Surrey County Championships is coordinated by the coaches and the Competition Secretary.

South East Region Championships

The ‘Regionals’ generally take place over 3 weekends in May and June and are split into 14/u and 15/o events. The earliest you can compete, should you qualify is the year in which you turn eleven.

The Qualifying times for the ‘Regionals’ are understandably tougher than the county championships and have to have been achieved at a Level 1,2 or 3 licensed meet since 1st October in the preceding year.

Those competing at the Regional Championships can post times to qualify for National events.

Further details can be found on the South East Swimming website see:

The National Championships

The National Championships (both British and English) take place at Ponds Forge in Sheffield during late July/early August.

Qualifying times must have been achieved at a Level 1 or 2 licensed meet between 1st October and 31st May.