Welcome Guide for New Swimmers

Welcome to Anaconda Swimming Club! 

This guide is for parents who are new to Anaconda and would like to know the fundamentals of competitive swimming. If you have any questions after reading this guide, please email Squads.

This document covers the following: 

  • Squad Pathway 
  • Equipment needed 
  • How competitions/galas work 

Squad Pathway



All the equipment in your kit bag should have the swimmers name on as lots of swimmers will have the same equipment and it is very easily picked up by the wrong person.


Kit Bag

Every competitive swimmer should have a kit bag which holds all of the swimmers key equipment which will be listed below. It is also referred to as a mesh bag so the bag can be placed on poolside and not hold the water from the wet surface.


Training Fins

The fins that competitive swimmers wear are a lot smaller than your average fins you may find elsewhere. They are to give the swimmer a little boost while kicking but not too much otherwise it would be too easy!


These come in lots of shapes and sizes. Paddles help a swimmer hold the water better by offering a larger surface area to pull the water with. Depending on the preference of the swimmer, you can choose between a paddle with straps or a paddle without. They both work the same but different swimmers prefer different types so it may be a good idea to try a few out before purchasing. What size? Typically - the bigger the swimmer, the bigger the paddle. You can also get finger paddles which I would recommend to younger/smaller swimmers who may find it difficult to wear the bigger paddles.


These are used to isolate the legs during kick sets and they can be used for recovery between sets. We recommend getting a sturdy board with hand supports offering swimmers comfort while kicking.

Pull Buoy

Floats that go in between swimmers legs to stop them from kicking/sinking. This will increase the strength in a swimmers upper body as the legs won’t be in action.


Used to focus on technique by preventing the need to breathe by moving the head, therefore allowing a swimmer to spend more time perfecting a drill.

Water Bottle

We require every swimmer to have a water bottle on poolside to ensure they stay hydrated. Although a swimmer is still in the water, they are working very hard and still sweating out vital fluids so having a water bottle on poolside is a must.

Swimming Cap

Swimming caps have multiple purposes. They reduce water resistance while swimming, are more hygienic than swimming without one, and they help coaches recognise our swimmers at competition as they proudly represent the club. It is always nice for parents in the stands to spot an Anaconda cap so they can cheer them on!


We highly recommend having at least 2 pairs of goggles at all times in case one pair breaks. There are training goggles and racing goggles. Training goggles tend to be cheaper and more comfortable. Racing goggles are significantly more expensive but have a more sophisticated style and hydrodynamic fit.

Swim Wear

There are different types of swimming costumes for each occasion. In training, swimmers should prioritise a costume that is comfortable. At competitions, swimmers can use a racing costume which is much tighter and therefore hydrodynamic. These are considerably more expensive, but not a necessity for young swimmers.

Team Kit

At competitions, it is important for swimmers to keep warm before racing. Putting on the team tracksuit top and bottoms is a great way to represent your club and keep yourself warm.




Anaconda Swimming Club is a competitive swimming club offering children of all ages and abilities the chance to develop and enhance their skills as swimmers in a competitive environment. The swimming environment is one that establishes friendships, endorses sportsmanship and promotes a healthy and competitive lifestyle. Success in competitive swimming comes through hard work and dedication, but most importantly through fun and enjoyment. It can be a confusing and daunting experience when trying to understand how the competition structure works, and therefore we thought it would be a good idea to write a few pointers to show parents the different levels of galas (sometimes referred to as “meets”) available to the swimmers of Anaconda and hopefully answer some of the questions you may have. 

Personal Best (PB) 

For a competitive swimmer, galas are the main reason why they train so hard. A PB shows improvement and progress. There isn’t a better feeling than swimming a race at a gala and finding out you got a PB! 

Where to get PBs

You can get a PB anytime you race, however not all PBs are ‘official’. To swim an official PB that would be recognised on the National Rankings database, the race has to be swum at a licensed meet which has strict rules on using qualified officials. Anaconda Time Trials, for example, aren’t licensed so the times appear as PBs on our records, but they do not count as official licensed times. Swimmers will not be able to use these times to enter certain competitions requiring qualifying times (County Champs, for example). A good way to get official times is to enter Open Meets and Development Meets, as they normally accept swimmers who haven’t got official times yet. 

What are Time Trials? 

The first experience your child may have of racing is Club Time Trials. These are compulsory for younger swimmers, and are a good way for you and your child to see how well they are progressing. The club trials are held every other month (odd months - Jan/March/May etc.). All trials are held on the second Tuesday of the month, and then the following Monday. These can be found in the events section on our website. Swimmers are time-trialled in all four strokes over 50 metres, then the four times are added together to give an aggregated time. Junior squad groups are chosen in part using this time. 

What is ‘SC’ and ‘LC’? 

Some competitions require qualifying times. Some will have ‘SC’ and some will have ‘LC’.  ‘SC’ stands for short course which means they are asking for PBs swum in a 25m pool. ‘LC’ stands for long course which means they are asking for PBs swum in a 50m pool. 

What are Club Galas? 

Club galas are competitions where Anaconda invites swimmers to represent them. This is a big honour and if you receive an invitation for one of these galas, we really need you! We are part of the 

National Arena League and the National Junior League where we will pick the fastest swimmers in each age group to swim as part of a team for Anaconda. 

The National Junior League is held over the months of April, May and June, with one gala each month. The age groups are 9yrs, 10/under, 11/under and 12/under. There are two divisions with 12 teams, each year the bottom three from Division 1 are relegated and the top three from Division 2 are promoted. The club that wins Division 1 goes through to the Southern Area Final to try and qualify for the National Finals. This is a very high standard of competition against some of the best clubs in and around London. If your child is selected they may swim individual races, relay races or both. Every swimmer that is selected is an important part of the team and it is vital to have a full complement of swimmers available. 

The National Arena League is for age groups 12/under, 14/under, 16/under, and Open (17 years and over). It is held over October, November and December and like the Junior League there is one gala held every month, usually the second Saturday of each month. This is a very important competition for the club where only the fastest swimmers in each age group will be selected for the team. We expect all those invited to accept their invitation. There are three divisions, Anaconda are competing against some of the most elite clubs in the south east. 

What are Licensed Open Meets? 

Licensed Open Meets are events where our swimmers compete as individuals. Anaconda usually have a large number of swimmers competing and they are joined by at least one coach (often more) who helps them to prepare for each of their races and then give them feedback after each swim. 

Middlesex County Amateur Swimming Association (MCASA) holds two Development galas every year; these are a great introduction to open meets. They are held in the spring and in the winter. The club will post the dates of the competitions on the website and contact you by e-mail to enter your child, through the Active system. There is always a closing date for these meets and unfortunately, late entries cannot be accepted. We expect all children (particularly in junior squads) to compete, as these competitions are their first step towards achieving qualifying times for county and regional competitions. Children are expected to enter a wide range of races over all distances, ranging between 50m and 400m. Please speak to your coach for further guidance. 

Getting licensed meet times are very important if the swimmer wants to progress as far as he or she can. As the swimmer gets faster they will want to swim in a whole range of events but some of these events will only accept licensed meet times. Unfortunately, club time trials, trophy competitions and Junior league meets do not provide licensed times. 

Licensed open meets are compulsory for children swimming in Anaconda’s competitive squads. We expect all swimmers to compete at the highest standard they qualify for. 

There are four levels of licensed open meets. 

  • LEVEL 4 - Is for swimmers and those beginning to enter individual open competition or seeking a county time. To enter these competitions no upper or lower limit qualifying times are needed. 
  • LEVEL 3 - Is for swimmers who are seeking county and regional qualifying times. These meets have qualifying times and upper limit times set at an appropriate level. 
  • LEVEL 2 - Is aimed at regional and national qualifiers and swimmers close to regional qualification. These meets take place in 25m pools and have a set minimum time (fast enough) for entry. 
  • LEVEL 1 - Is aimed at national qualifiers and swimmers close to national qualification looking for opportunities to achieve national qualifying times. These meets take place in 50m pools and have a set of minimum qualifying times for entry made by the ASA. 

National qualifying times will be accepted from meets licensed at level 1 (for LC) and 2 (for SC). 

Regional qualifying times will be accepted from meets licensed at level 1, 2, and 3. 

County qualifying times will be accepted from 1, 2, 3 and 4. 

What events should my child enter at an Open Meet? 

Coaches will always encourage a swimmer to try a variety of swimming strokes and distances. At a younger age, it is important that children enjoy the experience of racing and not put too much pressure on them to swim specific distances or too many events. We recommend that you sit down with your child and highlight the events they enjoy swimming and then throw in a few swims that they would feel comfortable trying out – slightly outside their comfort zone. 2-3 events in each session is a good amount as any more may result in fatigue. After swimming them once, they might love it and keep swimming that event, but hopefully continue to try new ones. When applying for galas, there will be a schedule attached. This will allow you to see what events are being swum in each session. Have a look through the schedule and choose the events your child is interesting in swimming. Follow the steps on the swim portal to enter the event. Each race you enter has a cost and you will be charged for each race. 

What do I do if I can’t make the Gala I entered for? 

On the rare occasion that you can’t attend a gala due to illness or change of plans, it is very important you go onto the events website and fill out a withdrawal form. This will be sent to the organisers of the gala and your child will be taken out. If you are cancelling the night before, please send a message to [email protected] or if you know of a coach who will be attending, let them know so they can fill out a withdrawal form on poolside. If you do not withdraw your child, you will be fined by the organisers on top of your original payment to enter.