Dear Swimmers and Parents,
In conversations with some parents recently, I have been reminded that a number of the current ‘squad’ swimmers (Dolphins to seniors) will be new to the whole competitive swimming environment, along with the parents and may be wondering what it’s all about, what do some of the terms mean and how best to approach them. With this in mind, the committee thought that a quick run-down in general terms around the open’s structure in Sussex and a few brief tips for ‘on the day’ might be helpful.
Before I get into the detail, by way of a quick introduction for those that don’t know me or my son Oliver, I found myself increasingly spending more and more weekends at various pools across Sussex, the home counties and as far as the midlands as Oliver’s drive for competitive swimming increased in the years before Covid. I took over the opens secretary roll for the club in 2019 a little by default being the person that knew the annual look-a-head lists and dates for all the Opens in the southeast. I am by no means a complete knowledge, but I’m very happy to share with you all what I have learnt along the way that at the very least, will hopefully make your hours pool side a little more comfortable and your swimmers experience that bit more enjoyable.
So what are ‘Opens’? in simple terms, swimming events that are either held by clubs or at County level for all swimmers of all abilities, to experience a competitive race environment to lesser or greater degrees depending on the meet. Under Swim England guidance, all club, county and regional Open meets are split into Levels 3-1 over either short or long course. All Opens are timed using in-pool timing pads.
A Level 3 meet is designed for all swimmers apart from the very elite with a main focus on new or swimmers who want to enjoy a more relaxed meet taking part for personal times. There are usually ‘Not faster than’ entry times to restrict the entry of established country race swimmers and no minimum time requirement. These are mostly short course.
A Level 2 meet introduces Upper and lower entry time requirements although some will accept either NT (no time) or outside of the requirements. L2 meets are run to strict SE rules where correct starts, underwater phases and turns judged. These can be either short or long course.
All Level 1 meets are mostly county meets with tighter entry time requirements and held long course.
Short course (SC) is held at 25m pools. Long course (LC) is held at 50m pools.
There is no minimum or maximum amount of meets your swimmer can attend. It is entirely up to you based on the level of interest, enjoyment and time available. Not every child wants to be Olympian and there are a number of swimmers that just attend a few L3 meets across the year just for the enjoyment of it. A few things worth noting;
Level 3 is obviously the entry point for all new swimmers. Once you have attended your first meet, the times will get logged at www.swimmingresuts.org which is where clubs will check future entry time requirements. If your swimmer finds that they really enjoy competing, they may want to work towards the county level meets held in Nov and March each year. To gain entry to these, they will need minimum times and have previously attended a qualifying meet. For example based on the above current schedule, any of the L3 meets, then winter counties as a L2 meet before targeting March LC counties which will be a L1 meet. I have details of meets outside of Sussex and there is no restriction on where you compete, although this will only usually apply if you need additional qualifying swims/times to enter regional and national championships.
A few tips for you and your swimmers comfort and enjoyment at Galas and Opens
- Once your swimmer has gone through to change, their clothes will need to go in a bag and either given to parents or in a locker. Ensure they have a few pound coins for these as only small personal bags with food and drinks are allowed on pool side. There will be a designated area for 1066 swimmers to come to pool side. The amount of bags on the pool side is usually heavily policed by the officials.
- No matter the amount of events they are swimming, they will have down-time at pool side. Reading material or something to do in the bag helps to fill the gaps. Phones and tablets are allowed but obviously its at your own risk. No games with small pieces to be stood on with bear feet!
- About 15-30mins before the swimmers event, they will be called into the ‘whipping’ area, arranging into order of swim heats depending on their times. Slowest or NT first heat, fastest last. We will direct the swimmers on where to go at the right time.
- I have only ever been to one pool where the spectator seating is comfortable, and its not one of the above listed! You can see from the session times, you can be sitting for a number of hours if you are there for all the sessions. A thin cushion can make the difference between extreme discomfort and bearable.
- At any time of year, 8hrs on a pool side is a hot and humid place to be. Dress for a hot summers day, shorts, thin layers so you can get a comfortable.
- It would seem that the pandemic has been the springboard for clubs to move spectator entry fee to on line. Ensure you bring confirmation with you as seating is limited at most venues.
- With some early starts and 1 hour + drives, a good night sleep and dinner the night before will set them up for a best possible start. Dinner wise, anything carb heavy, pasta, Jacket potato is great, Breakfast cereal that has whole grains is ideal, muesli or similar. Cooked food sits heavy and slow to digest.
- Through trial and error, food on the day for the swimmer seems to work best as ‘picky’ bits. Nothing too heavy and easy to digest, Oliver has a box of Oat flapjacks, nuts, seeds and a small tuna pasta salad as a main lunch. Eating little and often is key to keeping energy levels up. A sensible amount of chocolate is fine but avoid anything sugar heavy which gives a very short energy boost but a dip afterwards. Energy gels are now very popular and have there place.
- Lots and lots of fluids! Simple water is obviously the ideal, My Oliver has a mix of water and Lucozade bottles but this is just his preference. Try to avoid anything in cans and obviously no glass. Plastic bottles can be refilled in the changing rooms.
Hopefully the above helps with the basics as we return back to competitive swimming meets so our newer swimmers can have the best possible experience. I’m sure there will be many additional questions, please do feel free to speak to me if you see me at the pool or you can email me on firstname.lastname@example.org.
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