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Guide to Your First Competition

14 Jun, 2022

Guide to Your First Competition

14 Jun, 2022

With this years Club Championships fast approaching, here's a rundown of what to know and how to prepare for racing.

The Day of Competition

Ensure that you are fully hydrated and have had a good meal the day before to give your body the energy it needs to perform.

Try to get to the pool in good time, giving you plenty of time to get changed and prepare for racing.

Make sure you're wearing your full team kit, arrive in club hoodie/joggers and have poolside shirt/shorts to change into. You may also like to bring poolside shoes/sliders for walking about on poolside.

If you don't have team kit, make sure to bring a sports t-shirt and shorts that you can change in/out of. This will stop you from getting cold during the competition, and ensure you don't go home wet at the end of the day.

Make sure to pack plenty of water and snacks for the day. It's important to stay energised and hydrated even during a short evening gala. Ideally these should be kept in your bag or changing rooms (depending on pool policy) so you have easy access rather than needing to get your parents.

Warming up

Just like during a training session, you need to warm up your body before you can start racing at maximum effort.

If there is time, a coach or senior swimmer should lead a short land exercise to prepare everyone before getting in the pool for your warm up.

Every swim competition starts with a warm up session. These are typically broken up into multiple 10-30 minutes sessions to give everyone space. Your squad coach or team manager will direct you to which warm up session you are in.

warm up

Your warm up lane will probably be much busier than a typical training session and can feel rather chaotic, but don't try to swim it too fast. Instead focus on familiarising yourself with the pool and ensure you are loose and ready to race later on.

A warm up will then finish with some sprint practise. This gives you a chance to try out diving off the blocks and sprinting, with the lane to yourself. Try to match your sprints to whatever races you are doing this session. So if you'll be swimming 100m Backstroke, it's a good chance to practise your backstroke start for later.

Preparing to Race

While the competition is underway, make sure to stay poolside so that your coaches and team manager know where to find you. 

It's often hot on poolside so make sure to keep yourself hydrated throughout the day. For competitions which involve longer waiting, it's important to avoid sitting for long periods to prevent your body from tiring too easily.

As there will be too many people to race in the pool at the same time, each race or 'event' (e.g 100m Freestyle) are split into multiple races known as 'heats'. These are sorted according to time, so newer swimmers will be in the early heats, with older and faster swimmers towards the end. You may be in a heat with older swimmers, but you are only competing against those in your own age group. 


When it's almost time for your race, your team manager and/or race steward will call for you and organise the swimmers into their 'heats'. Make sure not to wander off or you could miss your race!

While waiting for your race it can be a good idea to listen to the starter (the person saying "Take your marks", and pressing the buzzer to start). Each starter has their own voice and rhythm, so it can be helpful to familiarise yourself before you get on the block for your own race.

The Race

Walk to the lane you've been given, and remove any team kit you're still wearing. It's a good idea to keep this on till the last moment to keep your muscles warm.

If your racing blocks has an adjustable back 'fin' you should move it into the position you normally dive from (typically numbered 1-5). 

Once the referee blows their whistle, you're under the starters orders. (If you're not racing, it's important to be quiet at this point).

Then it's simply time to dive in, and do as you've practised hundreds of times already in training.

Once you hit the wall at the end, you can relax! 


If the pool has a time pad, don't worry about trying to hit it too hard - It's more important to reach out and touch it before anyone else does!

In the event your touch isn't registered, there will be no time displayed on the board but your timekeeper will be able to take a backup time instead.

After your Race

Most competitions use 'over the top' starts. This means the swimmers who finished the last heat stay in the pool while the next heat dives over them. Once you've finished your race, stay in the pool and hold onto the lanerope. The referee will then direct everybody to exit the pool by the side when they are ready.

The first person you talk to after your race should be your coach. They will want to discuss your race with you and offer any guidance or support. 

If there is a swim down pool available, you should swim down as directed by your coach. This will allow your body to recover quicker for your next event.

Finally, it's time to rehydrate yourself. If there is enough time before your next race, now is a good time for a light snack to re-energise yourself.

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