Guide to Galas

  • Always arrive promptly for a gala (preferably early) and certainly don’t be late for the bus if provided for away galas.
  • Ensure you listen to what the officials/coaches/managers tell you to do and act on it.
  • Be aware of when and what you are swimming.  The Team Manager will be able to tell you, your exact Heat & Lane.
  • If you need to leave the area, please ensure you tell the Team manager or Coach (even if you just go to the toilet – they need to know where all the swimmers are).
  • Keep quiet for all race starts.
  • Support and encourage your team.

What to take


  • Swimming costume/trunks x 2
  • Club hat & Club Gear.
  • Goggles x 2.
  • Tracksuit/shorts and spare t-shirt for poolside (to keep warm).
  • Poolside footwear (either proper poolside shoes or extra clean trainers).
  • 2 towels (one for use during the gala, and one for getting dry afterwards).


  • Drink in a plastic bottle with secure lid.  No need for anything special but not a fizzy drink.
  • Sandwiches, bananas, pasta are suitable foods.
  • Don’t eat everything you have all at once!  Eat and drink small amounts gradually during the gala.

Warm Up

  • Each gala will have a warm up period.  Make full use of the time to warm up for each stroke being swum in that meet, to practice turns (particularly back stroke) and to practice starts.
  • Always listen to guidance from the pool side by Club or Gala officials.
  • Do not dive in where other swimmers are warming up.  A sprint lane will be designated for starting practice.
  • Always continue to swim during warm up – do not stop in the middle or at lane ends (unless letting a faster swimmer pass).
  • Do not be disruptive in a lane and ensure you always keep in mind the safety of you and others.
  • A warm-down pool may be provided, which can also be used to warm up again between events.  If so, you are only allowed to use this facility when given permission by Club officials.

Targeted or Team Galas

Coaches & Gala Secretary will recommend your participation in certain open or Swim Ulster/Swim Ireland galas.  See Proposed galas on Noticeboard and website.

Coaches and gala secretary will also make selections for team galas.  Swimmers in competitive squads should be available for team selection.

All swimmers should make every effort to attend targeted galas and team galas.  They should notify the Gala Secretary/Team Manager as soon as possible if they are unable to attend an event for which they have been selected or have entered, giving reasons for their absence.

Open or Swim Ulster/ Swim Leinster/ Swim Ireland Galas

These are competitions held by swimming clubs and Swim Ulster/Swim Leinster / Swim Ireland which are open to swimmers from other clubs, although there may be restrictions based on qualifying times.

Meets are categorized as follows:

A         Aimed at the fastest swimmers with challenging entry times.

B & C Intended for slower swimmers, these events are time banded with minimum qualifying times as well as upper time limits to ensure swimmers of all abilities get a chance to succeed.

  • Swimming Clubs hold Open Meets for 2 reasons – primarily to provide opportunities for competitive swimming but also for fund-raising.  These differ from Club Galas, PTL, Aquasprints and other team galas, as you have to pay for each event you enter, and there is a closing date for when an entry has to be made.
  • Once the entries have been submitted to the Gala Secretary the fees must be paid, even if the swimmer later withdraws.
  • You will need to make your own travel arrangements, if possible car pool.
  • Most Open Galas will charge for spectators/programmes.
  • The Team Manager is there to ensure the swimmers know what Heats, Lanes etc they are in.  You should sit with your Team Manager and teammates and always inform the Team Manager if you are leaving the area for whatever reason.
  • The clothing and food requirements are the same.
  • As these events can last all day, you will need to ensure you have enough drinks and food to last you for the whole length of the gala.

5 good reasons to enter:

  1. To gain experience in competitive swimming
  2. To build your confidence for swimming events such as galas
  3. To set new PB’s as you are often competing against some of the best swimmers in the area which will stretch you
  4. It’s great fun
  5. If you’re lucky, you’ll win some medals!

Events are usually time banded – swimmers usually take part from about the age of 9 yrs (although some events take younger swimmers) and there may be no upper age limit.  Depending on the Meet, age groups may be within 1 or 2 year groupings – age on a specific day of the year is stated, often the date of the competition, or age in a particular year.

Look out for notices about these galas on the notice-board, website & Facebook, which will be posted approximately about 2 weeks before the closing date giving all the necessary information on the Meet.

You can also find out about Open Meets on the websites of the swimming clubs themselves as well as the Swim Ulster/Swim Ireland web sites.


It is strongly recommend, that all swimmers who are competing at galas apply the following procedure. This is a generic warm up but is applicable to most competitors across most distances and events. If a special case arises the coach and the swimmers / swimmers concerned will discuss the modified warm up / cool down.

  1. Use the full period of the official warm up to get all the energy systems and the nervous system kick started.
  2. Work aerobically in the main and include swim, pull, kick and skull. If practicable do fast turns though you are swimming aerobically.
  3. Do a few anaerobic swims / kick over 50 m.
  4. Always do a few dive starts and sprints for 15 to 20m.

If the warm up is more than 30 minutes before your race, it strongly suggested that you use the dive pool / warm down pool to keep your energy systems and nervous system in tune for your forthcoming race / races. This may require you to visit this pool a few times between the official warm up and your race. This requires you to be AWARE of your race schedule and programme progression / situation while with your friends poolside.

We also recommend that you do at least 10 squat jumps or deep knee bends and some shoulder rotations while waiting to approach the start.

It is also imperative that you focus on the race ahead and mentally go through the race preparing yourself for the effort required. Also believe in your ability, control your expectations AND do not concern yourself about other swimmers. Keep your body warm by wearing at least a t-shirt –preferably a sweatshirt / tracksuit, shorts and runners.

Food at gala. Hydrate constantly with water or water very mildly flavoured with cordial. Eat small amounts of bread, banana, fruit, nuts, yogurt etc. regularly during the gala.


Warm Down. This to include almost race pace speed reducing to steady pace over the same distance as you just swam. If a very short race, you need to do this 3 times. Then do 200m kick at steady pace. Remember the warm down gets you ready for the next race and is critical in aiding your recovery. Fluid and appropriate food are also vital elements and need planning.

On completing your race go to your coach / squad manager and they debrief him / her on your race. Talk about technical aspects, propulsion feel during race, fitness / fatigue onset – when and effect, areas needing work. Receive feedback for improvement or future goals / challenges and accept and enjoy well-earned praise. If you are qualifying for a final, analysis of your performance and your competitors can be very useful.

Volunteering at Galas!

‘It is a condition of the club’s entry to open galas that we provide volunteers to assist in the running of the gala. The roles are varied: programme selling; timekeeping; stroke and turn judges; marshalling; recorder etc. It is therefore a condition of entry with Sliabh Beagh ASC that if a swimmer enters an open gala they agree that they will provide a volunteer for one of the required roles.’

‘Being available for poolside duty, gala duty and/or any other specified duties, if and when required.’ These requirements and duties are set out under the Sliabh Beagh ASC rules.

‘As our numbers continue to grow and the number of Sliabh Beagh swimmers entered in galas throughout the year grows, so too does our requirement to fill gala volunteer positions (for every 4 swimmers we are assigned an Official’s Role). Remember the more parents that play their part in volunteering at galas, the less frequently each person will be required to volunteer. The expectation is that if you have a swimmer entered in a particular gala then you will be available to fill a volunteer role if required.’

Below is some updated information regarding the various duties involved in running a gala from Frank Stevens of Swim Ulster, most of these duties do not need specific training and anyone willing to volunteer will be given help.

Timekeeper Timekeeper: Reports to gala secretary >30 minutes before session and then to allocated lane 10 minutes before session. Familiarises him/herself with watch before start. Starts stopwatch at start of race and at end of race stops watch and presses back-up button and records all times taken in his/her lane.
Gala Secretary Gala Secretary: Should report at start of warm up. Tasks: to ensure that volunteers report and enter name legibly on attendance sheet and to keep announcer informed on those failing to report. Job ends when gala starts.
Programmes Programmes: Should report at start of warm up. Sell programmes/ start sheets and deliver money and unsold items to Meet manager
Announcer Announcer: Should report at start of warm up. Needs to be a good sight reader and comfortable tackling unfamiliar names. Main tasks: announcing event and heat number; telling swimmers to report to marshal; announcing results/ finalists award winners.
Marshal Marshal: Reports to gala secretary >30 minutes before session. Collects clipboard, pen, start sheets >10 minutes before session. 2 marshals. One signs in swimmers as they report. One seats swimmers in each heat in lane order and delivers them to the start at soon as the previous heat has begun. Reports to referee when swimmers fail to report.
Starter Starter: Shares with the referee joint control of the start. Ideally SI Level 2 qualified but unqualified volunteers can carry out the role with support if necessary.
Stroke Judge Stroke Judge: Reports at least 40 minutes before start. Is assigned working position by referee. Must observe the technique of swimmers in his/her side of the pool (i.e. 3 , 4 or 5 lanes depending on pool size) and report to referee breaches of rules including turns. Referee makes final decision on disqualification.
Turn Judge Turn Judge: Reports at least 40 minutes before start. Is assigned working position by referee. Must observe the technique of swimmers in his/her assigned lanes (ideally only 1) at one end of the pool from 5m out to first stroke on surface after turn and report to referee breaches of rules including turns. Referee makes final decision on disqualification.
Timing Timing: Should be comfortable working with computers and under pressure of time. Should have attended training. May be required to use Aries or Colorado systems, setting distance for each event, overriding false touches and clearing system after each race.
Recorder Recorder: Reports with other volunteers but job starts on completion of first event. Compares electronic results with timekeeper results and alerts referee when there is a discrepancy of >0.5 seconds. Usually one recorder reads out electronic time per swimmer, the other compares and both then mark off that swimmer on both records.
Computer Computer: Should be comfortable working with computers and under pressure of time. Should have attended training. Working with HyTek computer system, ensuring accuracy of results and bringing questionable results to attention of referee.
Chief Timekeeper Chief Timekeeper: Reports >30 minutes before session. Distributes stopwatches, pens, clipboards, timekeeper recording sheets to each lane. Starts 2 watches at start of each race as spare timepieces should a timekeeper’s watch fail. May be asked to take the time first finisher in each race. Collects timekeeper recording sheets after each event (i.e when all heats in an event have been completed).
Results Results: Reports with other volunteers but job starts on completion of first event. Delivers 3 copies of results: 1 to awards table, 1 posted for access by swimmers (poolside), 1 for access by parents (gallery).
Meet Manager  Meet Manager: Carries the responsibility to set up the gala; have programmes printed; install timing pads and wiring if necessary; ensure that all stationery, water are provided; manage volunteers.
Referee Referee: Reports before start of warm up. Must be a qualified and experienced official (Swim Ireland Level 2) who is the final arbiter on all decisions including fairness of start, officials time of each swimmer, conduct of all other officials.
Reserves Reserves: May be called on when necessary.


APPEARANCE: white top (preferable), clean, flat soled shoes, change of clothes in case you get wet! ( Swim Ulster/Swim Leinster & Swim Ireland normally provide volunteers with a TShirt.)

Poolsides tend to be noisy, wet & very warm environments. Ideally bring lightweight clothes with you to change into in the changing cubicles provided (then when you have finished your duties you can go home in dry clothes!) Footwear should have a flat, clean sole (beware that flip-flops can be slippy on poolside). Wearing a white top shows that you are part of the gala team.

BEHAVIOUR:           Be professional and impartial

Most parents’ first gala job is timekeeper. When doing this job your duty is to be a gala-team player by helping each swimmer in your lane.

  • Check that s/he is the correct swimmer for your lane by matching with your timing sheet. (always ask the swimmer for their name, when checking this)
  • If your swimmer is not ready because of a mishap (e.g. broken goggles) alert the referee
  • Count the number of lengths. If the swimmer miscounts you can wave him/her to go on.
  • Time the race and record both timekeepers’ times

To do your job properly you must put aside all allegiances to family and club. It is inappropriate to shout encouragement to a swimmer you know.
It is also inappropriate to watch a swimmer who is not in your lane 
(by doing so you may fail in the job you were appointed to do).

By carrying out your duties impartially you help the gala team to present a professional appearance.

If you feel unable to set aside your loyalty to your child you may arrange for a club colleague to take over your duties for the race your child is in leaving you free to return to the spectator area and support him/her.

KNOWLEDGE          To increase your knowledge refer to the volunteer roles in the table above

The Referee is the person who blows the whistle at the start of each race. S/he is usually the most knowledgeable official & will be happy to answer any queries you have if you are unsure of your role.

To further increase your knowledge you may take a Swim Ireland Officials Course. Level 1 gives valuable background information about how galas are run. Level 2 covers stroke rules in depth. Courses are inexpensive; both can be delivered in one day. There is no formal examination. The qualification is completed by working sessions at Ulster and Irish galas for Level 1 as Timekeeper and for Level 2 as Turn Judge.


Poolside is usually more interesting and enjoyable than spectating!

Working with swimmers is fulfilling & on poolside you will meet a wide range of interesting characters from many different clubs from around the province and beyond.

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