My first gala - What to expect

It is natural to be feeling nervous in the lead-up to a gala especially if you have not done one before. It is likely that you parents might be feeling a little nervous as well. It is really important to get a good night’s sleep before the gala and eat a good meal at least an hour ahead of when you arrive. This guide will hopefully give you a little bit of information about what to bring and what to expect.

Swimming kit to bring on the day

  • Two towels (or a towel and a dry robe). You can have one towel poolside and one to get changed with after you swim.
  • Goggles - make sure you have a pair that don’t leak. It is quite a good idea to have one in your changing bag just in case they break.
  • Club swimming cap (red). It is good to get one organized before the gala date. Richard (Head Coach) normally has some in his bag at training and these are £5. Also an NDTSC quick-dry T-shirt to wear poolside between races.
  • Drinking water for poolside. It is important to keep hydrated and a packed lunch/snacks for in-between sessions (but not too many sweets).


You will be given an arrival time by the coach before the gala, and details on times are normally available on the schedule which will be sent from the Competitions Secretary.  There can be some waiting around before entry into the changing rooms. To avoid it all becoming stressful, it’s best to arrive in plenty of time so you do not worry about missing a race. Swimmers will need to let a NDTSC club representative or coach/team manager know when they have arrived. 

If parents want to take photos they must sign a declaration before doing so which is normally located at the entry to the spectators area. There is normally a spectator’s fee for the day or per session. Seating is sometimes limited, so the earlier you can get seated the better. Programmes are sold at the entry desk and sometimes there are refreshments and raffles that you can get involved in if you wish. The proceeds made from these are normally used to host future galas.

Warm up

The club will be given a specific time and lane/s to warm up in. The team manager or coach will advise you when it is your time to warm up, swimmers are normally split into gender and age groups to do this. Warm up times always vary for galas so it is important that you listen to the instructions given.

Race time

The team manager will advise you when your race time is so it is important that you listen so you are around and not in the changing rooms when your race is called. You will be called to a marshalling area by a steward for each race, normally this is done a few races in advance so that you are registered in plenty of time. If it’s your first gala someone will show you where to go. You are then placed in lane order (normally sat on chairs or a bench). As each race is run you are called to the starting blocks. The official on your lane will check you are in the correct place.

Once you reach the starting blocks you will be ready for the starter to start the race.  You will hear them say ‘take you marks’, for backstroke this will mean entering the water and for other strokes to mount the starting block. When all the swimmers are ready you will hear the start signal. Silence is requested by the rest of the pool at this stage so that you can hear clearly.

During the race, judges are watching for correct stroke technique, correctly executed turns and false starts. Incorrect technique or a mistake in any of these areas may result in disqualification. Should this happen, it is not the end of the world and is a very normal part of learning to race. Even the best swimmers in the world can be disqualified.

If you are disqualified a reason will be given, your coach will be best placed to offer advice on how to avoid this next time around.

After the race

There is normally some time after the race before the results are announced. Any disqualified swimmers will ne notifed. Although you might have swum well it is possible that swimmers in the same age category might have swum in a different race so time is of most importance. For this reason it takes a while to compare the results for each category and therefore the correct results. Timekeepers at the end of each lane check the times and then a chief timekeeper checks results. The results are then handed to the results table and are then announced.  There may be a medal or certificate to collect if you place.

Parents can record the gala name, date, stroke and distance with the all-important time achieved by the swimmer. Results and times are displayed on a wall near the spectator area as soon as possible following races and are normally available from the club's website within a few days of the event.  They will also appear on the ASA website under the swimmer’s membership.  Someone from the club can show you how to access these.

When entering future galas, the organizers are likely to request the swimmer’s personal best (PB) time for that stroke so that they can put swimmers with similar times into the same heat.

Once all your races are completed at the end of session you will be allowed to go. Get in the habit of thanking the officials and coaches/ team managers who have given their time up to make the gala a success.