As a competitive swimming club, The Borough of Harrow SC attends many galas throughout the competition season, which runs from September through to July. There are many types of galas and this can be quite confusing for new parents. This page aims to provide some useful information and guidance for the new swimmer and their parents/carers.

The Club circulates emails regarding gala meets on a regular basis, especially during the Spring/Summer months, and it can be quite confusing to know which ones to enter your swimmer into.

Gala meets do not have to be licensed by Swim England, but where they are, specific Swim England guidelines must be followed. Results from these galas are submitted to Swim England for the National Rankings database.

Licensed Levels 3 Galas usually work on a ‘no faster than’ (NFT) qualification time system, which means that it is geared towards the more novice swimmers who are just starting out on the gala circuit. Even if your swimmer has not taken part in any galas before, Level 3 galas usually let you enter if you have no times in any events (‘NT’), unless otherwise stated. This will enable your child to gain important personal swimming times so they are able to enter other galas, where a minimum entry time is required. If times are required then you will need to check the meet eligibility report which is published under the meets section of this site, this will enable you to check your child’s times and see if she/he is eligible to enter the gala and in what events.

Once you have found out if your child can enter the gala, the next stage is to look at the meeting schedule. Galas can run for one day, or they can run over a whole weekend. If you don’t want to spend all weekend at a swimming pool, it is best to guide your child to pick events from a specific session and/or day. They can do as many or few sessions as they like, and a rough guide is to pick two or three races per session maximum. The coaches usually ask new swimmers to start with the 50m events and the 100 IM. However, if in any doubt at all about which races to enter, then please ask your swimmer to speak to their coach for guidance.

As your child progresses and their times get quicker, they will become eligible for Level 2 galas.  The eligibility reports for Level 2 & 1 galas show the minimum entry time, so your child needs to be at least as quick as the time shown for their age group. You may find that your swimmers may only be eligible for one or two races at these galas.

Finally, Level 1 galas, which are held in a 50m pool.

Most galas entered by the Borough of Harrow Swimming Club are short course meetings, ie they are held at short course pools (25m). If a long course gala requires an eligibility report, your swimmer’s short course times will be converted to long course times (there are usually a few seconds difference between the two to take into consideration the turn and push off in a 25m pool).

The general rule is read the gala info documents carefully to see if your swimmer is eligible to enter and please ensure that your chosen gala doesn’t clash with holidays etc, as refunds cannot be given unless there is a medical reason for the swimmer being unable to race on the day, ie a broken arm or something similar.

A Team or Club Gala, is where swimmers are selected by the Head Coach to represent The Borough of Harrow Swimming Club in a team event. If selected, it is important that you let the Head Coach/ coach know if you are available for the event as soon as possible, and to ensure that once you have committed to the event that your son/daughter attends the gala. If you are not available please be sure to let them know as a matter of urgency, so another member of the club can be selected for the event.

If you like to plan ahead to make sure that there are no clashes in your diary with forthcoming galas then please take a look at club’s Gala Fixture List. It is updated regularly and can be found under the Competitions section of this website.

Club Organiser makes it extremely easy for you to enter gala meets.
Simply log in to your club organiser account and you will see a list of upcoming meets published in the home page that your swimmer is able to enter, together with the all the relevant gala information, including Qualifying Times, Programme of Events and closing date. The swimmers will also be able to view the events that they have already entered in any of the upcoming meets.

Gala day has arrived! The Coaches like all participating swimmers to arrive in good time at the competition pool, around 20 – 30 minutes before the warm up. The ensures that they have time to sign in, get changed, grab a locker and do some mobility before the warm up starts.

Equipment: A swimmer will always need the basics at a gala – trunks/costume, towel, goggles, (and a spare pair) a club swim hat (and spare) together with a club T-shirt to wear poolside. Swimmers are not allowed to leave the poolside without appropriate footwear, so flip-flops or pool shoes are a must. Some swimmers also like to have shorts to wear poolside – these are optional.

No large rucksacks or bags are allowed on poolside due to safety and lack of space, so swimmers should bring with them a small drawstring bag in which they can put a drink, food and their locker key.

Food & Drink: All swimmers must bring with them plenty of drink during the gala as it is very easy to get dehydrated. This should preferably be water or weak squash and most definitely not a fizzy drink. Also your swimmer will need plenty of easily digestible food for the day, energy giving food such as pasta, bananas, flapjack, nuts and malt loaf are good.

Team Etiquette: Swimmers should sit together with the team  and the coaches so that when the Team Manager asks for swimmers in a given event to go to the marshalling area, the club coaches can find them and get them to the right place at the right time. If a swimmer has to leave poolside at any time during the gala they must inform the coach or team manager.

Parental responsibility: Please note that all swimmers under 16 must have a parent/carer in attendance at the gala at all times. If you cannot be there for any reason, then it the responsibility of parents to arrange for an alternative designated adult carer to be responsible for your child and to make the Team Manager aware of this arrangement.

Marshalling: As each event comes up, the Team Manager or Coach will inform the relevant swimmers to go to the designated marshalling area along with swimmers from all the other attending clubs. Once there, the gala organisers will get the swimmers into the order that they will swim the races; they will ensure the swimmers are in the right heat and correct lane.

Races: The swimmers will be swimming against people placed in the event according to their entry time, not age. Hence, it is not uncommon to see 10 year olds racing 14 year olds etc. It should be every swimmer’s aim to get a Personal Best (PB) time in each race they compete in, ie to beat the time that they entered with – this is how progression is really measured. When your child finishes their race they should immediately return to their coach for a debrief.

Results: At the end of the event the times are examined and ordered by age group. Printed results are posted throughout the gala, these will show the swimmer’s official time for the event and their placing. Whether a swimmer gets a medal or not depends on where they have came in their age group NOT their heat. Usually the first three in a given age group get the medals – Bronze, Silver and Gold. All medals need to be collected from the medal desk.

If your swimmer was disqualified (DQ’d) this will also be shown – it is best for your child to discuss the reasons for any disqualification with the coach. Results are also sent out to the clubs taking part in the event.

Parents/carers and spectators are welcome to take a seat in the spectator area alongside the pool. There is normally a fee for spectators and there may also be a fee for a gala programme. Our club parents will try to sit together, so they can cheer on all our club swimmers, it also helps to have someone to talk to between events, otherwise it can be a very long day!

If after a while you find Gala Meets become long and tedious, you can always volunteer to become an Official!  Swim England Licensed Gala meets cannot run without officials, and these are simply parent volunteers who have undergone some training. Officials are identified as the adults wearing white shirts and trousers during the duration of the gala. Their job is to make sure that all the Swim England swimming rules surrounding starts, turns and stroke are adhered to and that all swimmers are competing on a fair and level platform. If you are interested in volunteering for the Club, please visit our Volunteers page on this website under the ‘About Us’ heading.

So we hope you enjoy your first gala, have fun, swim fast and have a great time with your team mates and we’ll look forward to your great results for Team Harrow!

Hopefully, these guidance notes have made the gala process easier to understand however, if you have any further questions, please speak to one of the coaches or to one of the committee and they will be very happy to help.



We are a competitive sport club - with our swimmers competing at all levels from local team galas to British National


Do you want to be part of Harrow Swimming Club sport experience? Feel free to contact us for more info.