Frequently Asked Questions

All parents both new and experienced will have times when they are unsure. Below are some of the most frequently asked questions and answers to them. If you have any other questions that you would like to see the answers to please use the contact us form.

What equipment will I need?

The following are essential items of kit:

  • Swimming costume
  • Swimming hat
  • Goggles
  • Drinks bottle
  • Towel
  • Short blade training fins (short flippers)
  • Kick board
  • Pull buoy.

There are additional items which may be required for more advanced training as advised by the squad coach, for example:

  • Hand/finger paddles
  • Training snorkels
  • Drag shorts.

A mesh bag to keep the equipment in, is also a good investment as it allows it to dry after each session and stops it going mouldy. See the news section of the COSC website for advice on prevention and what to do if the mould has already set in.

Please note the Club kit, i.e., costumes, hats, tee-shirts and track suit tops must be worn at all events in which the club takes part.

Can I buy equipment through the club?

Yes, you can buy a variety of swim wear and accessories such as club costumes, hats, track suits, tee-shirts, hoodies, club kit bags and so on.

Where can I find forthcoming galas to enter?

Forthcoming galas for the season are published on the club website. They are also indicated on the gala calendar for each squad. Not all meets are relevant for all squads or all swimmers in a particular squad – it is the coach’s decision on who is entered for a particular meet.


What are the different competition types?

Competitions are generally classified as “open” or “closed”. An open competition, as the name implies, is open to all (although there are usually qualifying or consideration times – see below).

Closed competitions are for selected groups of swimmers, usually from certain geographical areas e.g. Oxford and North Bucks Championships. COSC attends these competitions as a team, but the swimmers will be competing as individuals against other individuals. Usually swimmers in the top three positions win medals or similar.

Open meets are targeted at different standards of swimmer and are designated a level (and the qualifying times reflect these different standards). Level 1 and 2 are for national standard competitors and only times achieved at these events are eligible for entry to national competitions. Level 3 and 4 meets are for those who have not met level 1 standard, to help qualify for Level 1 and 2 meets, and for younger swimmers. Times achieved at levels 1- 4 are eligible for Oxford and North Bucks County championships.

COSC also enters various league competitions including the National Arena League and the local Milton Keynes Junior League.

There are also, from time-to- time, “invitational” competitions, where a club invites another club or clubs, to a friendly head-to-head gala. These are not usually designated as Level 1-4.



Club Champs


Oxfordshire and North Bucks County Championships – Age 10+. These are held annually, usually over three weekends in January through to February. They consist of individual events and club team relays. To enter these championships, swimmers must first achieve a Oxon & North Bucks Qualifying time. These times are updated yearly and published on the Oxon and North Bucks website.



South East Regional Championships. This is the next level of annual Championships, held in May/June. Clubs from the South East Region can enter swimmers who have achieved regional qualification times in a Level 1, 2 or 3 ASA Licensed meet. These times are updated yearly and published on the South East Regional website. This is a high standard competition and the club expects all swimmers obtaining these times to compete.

Summer Championships


Home Nations –


Milton Keynes Junior League and Arena League – Swimmers selected for these galas are listed on the COSC notice board in the competition pool at Leys Leisure Pool and do not require entry forms.

What do I do with entry Forms?

The entry forms for each open and closed meets will be available on the website and it is the responsibility of swimmers’ parents to print off the appropriate forms, fill it out correctly and get it back in time with correct payment. This involves reading each meet terms and conditions carefully. If in doubt ask your squad rep. The coach may advise swimmers of the events they would like them to enter.

What are personal best times (PBs)

Swimmers are responsible for keeping a record of times they swim in competitions. These are referred to as “personal bests” or PBs. Times used on entry forms must have been achieved at a licensed meet (an official, ASA licensed meet Level 1-4), not in training or unlicensed meets (e.g. development meets). Times swum at all licensed meets are entered on the British Swimming Rankings, which can be found on the British Swimming website, a link for which can be found in the “Useful Links” section of this website. Alternatively you can copy this html into your browser:

It’s worth spending some time familiarising yourself with the rankings as it is likely that parents and swimmers will be using them a lot!


What is a time conversion and when will I need it?

Normally short course meets (25m) are swum in the first part of the season (September to December) and long course meets (50m) are swum between January and August. As turns are faster than swimming, if a swimmer only has a short course time and wants to enter a long course event, a time conversion will be required. Similarly, if a swimmer only has a long course time and wants to enter a short course event, a conversion will also be required. When a conversion is needed, it is always sensible to read the gala information where there will usually be a section called “Promoter’s conditions” which describes what they accept. There are tools available to convert between the two. You can use traditional comparative performance tables (these are accessible on the British Swimming website – see “Useful Links” page), but the easiest ways is to use online conversion tools on and (also available on the Useful Links page). If you have any doubts about time conversions, try asking other parents, your squad rep or child’s coach.


What are qualifying times?

Sessions in competitions are time-limited, so organisers have to control the number of entries. This is done through qualifying times and these are checked by the event organisers. If qualifying times are set, only swimmers who have achieved those times (or faster) are able to enter that event. Even then, they are not guaranteed entry. If the meet is oversubscribed, swimmers

with the slower entry times may be rejected from that event. This is particularly true for level 1 events.

Those entering have to wait and see whether their entries are accepted or rejected. Lists of accepted and rejected entries are usually available on the organising club’s website, and coaches will be informed in advance of the meet. However, parents and swimmers should keep an eye on the relevant host clubs website too.

Level 3 and 4 meets can have qualifying times, and often have lower and upper limit times if it is a “graded meet” – in other words, entrants’ PBs must not be faster than the lower limit, and not slower than the upper.

What do I do when handing in entry forms?

Once the relevant entry form has been downloaded and printed, all the information requested in the form should be provided and includes the swimmer’s: name, squad, DOB, age, ASA membership number (searchable on the British Swimming website if you’ve lost your child’s ASA card) and PBs (converted, as described above, only if necessary). Once the entry form has been completed, these should be given into the coach, who will sign off the entry form if they are happy with the events entered. They may want to discuss the entry form with the swimmer and parents.

The completed form should be returned as soon as possible and certainly, before the deadline on the form. If you need help, approach the coach after training, as soon as possible to prevent unnecessary delays. Please don’t try to speak to the coach or squad rep during a training session. Collating all the club entries is a huge task for the volunteer external fixtures coordinator, and timescales are always tight. If your entry arrives after the internal closing date or without correct payment, or incorrectly completed, the entry will not be processed. This is because we cannot delay the entire club’s entry to a gala (because the competition calendar is designed to complement the training season).

Don’t forget to include a cheque to cover the required entry fee, made payable to COSC. Ideally parents should keep a record of all the races entered in each meet as it is very easy to forget what events have been entered, particularly when entering more than event at a time (see section on draft programme below).

What is age group swimming?

Most competitions organise swimmers into age groups for awards/medals. Sometimes these are single year age groups, sometimes double, with medals and other awards presented to the top swimmers in each event in each age group. Heats are usually spearheaded according to entry time, irrespective of age. Some events will also swim finals, particularly closed meets like the Oxon and North Bucks County and South East Region Championships.

Most UK competitions run on a system called “age on day”, which means that the age group a swimmer enters is their age on the final day of competition. If a competition runs over several weekends, for example the long course Yorkshire County Championships, swimmers enter all events as age on the last day of the whole competition – i.e. the age of your child on the day of the team relays in March.

In addition to individual age groups, competitions may also be split into Age, Youth and Senior groups.

Age is up to 14 for girls and boys.

Youth is from these ages to 17 for females and 18 for males.

Senior is all ages above these.

The introduction of the new British Swimming competitive structure in 2015, may see some events using year of birth, rather than age on day, as the age group structure. The British Championships, British Summer Nationals and English Nationals will be run on this basis.

What are meet programmes ?

Draft meet programmes are usually published some weeks ahead of the meet on the host club’s or organisation’s website. They are published so that any entry errors can be spotted and reported to them before the final meet programme is produced. Our “Useful Links” page has links to all the main swimming organisations and local clubs. Parents should check that the swimmer appears in the events entered in the programme. This is when it is very useful to have a copy of the entry form so you can confirm what was entered. If the swimmer’s name does not appear, you should contact your squad liaison officer in the first instance, who can then advise on what to do.

If you do not check that the correct events have been entered in good time before the event, the organisers of the meet will normally not make changes to the programme if they are notified on the day.

The meet programme will normally be available for sale at the venue, listing all swimmers in each event in order of time, and it usually provides information about the event. They are useful to work out when swimmers are competing so parents can schedule comfort breaks and trips for refreshments.

When and where are results found?

Electronic timing is normally used at licensed meets. Timekeepers provide backup in the event that this system does not function properly. The results of each race will be shown on the display board, but they have to be ratified by the referee and declared as such by the announcer before they are deemed “official”. The provisional results may need amending due to disqualifications for infringements of technical or stroke rules, or the electronic timing may not have been operating correctly (e.g. a swimmer may not have touched the pad hard enough). This means that the results seen on the electronic board after the race may not be accurate. Official results are usually posted on the walls after the events, and are often available on the host club or organisation’s website within a couple of days. COSC will also publish links to the full results on the COSC website.

What are national rankings ?

All the results from licensed Level 1-4 meets are forwarded to British Swimming which maintains the ASA National Rankings Database. As described earlier, this can be accessed on the British Swimming website or by following this link:

It ranks each swimmer in all of the age groups, for each stroke and distance, for long course and short course.

What swimming kit will I need for competition?

So the day of your first competition is fast approaching but what kit do you need?

Swimsuits. The good news for parents is you can forget about that expensive top of the range racing suit for now. All you really need is something tight fitting to keep the water out and make you feel that you can go faster.

For the boys, a pair of Lycra™ (or similar) jammers; for the girls, a Lycra™ (or similar) racing suit. Also note that from 1st January 2010, there are new FINA (Fédération Internationale de Natation – international governing body of swimming) rules on swimsuits. For more details on these rules, click here for the latest list of FINA approved swimsuits.

Other points to note. If the suits are kept solely for competitions they will last much longer. As for sizing, because Lycra™ stretches, typically you need to go down a size from your normal swimming costume.

Goggles. In our experience, the Speedo Futura Juniors with split headstrap are excellent beginners goggles as they have good suction and usually stay in place as you learn to dive competitively. Elite racing goggles (such as Speedo Speedsockets) are much smaller (and expensive) and many young swimmers can find them very uncomfortable until they have been wearing goggles for 3 or 4 years.

Please note the Club kit, i.e., costumes, hats, tee-shirts and track suit tops must be worn at all events in which the club takes part.

It is also advisable to take plenty to drink (not fizzy) and some food, as children tend to become hungry quickly. Swimmers are not allowed to leave the poolside without footwear, so flip-flops or pool shoes are useful. Some swimmers also like to wear shorts poolside.

When do swimmers move between squads?

The coaching staff continually assesses the progress of swimmers. The assessment factors include performance, consistency, attitude and attendance. When the time is right to move to the next squad you will be contacted to discuss the move. Please note that as a swimmer progresses through the squad structure, the required level of commitment to training and competition increases.

Can I discuss my child’s progress with the coach?

Yes of course. Our coaches are always happy to answer your questions but with one important caveat. Please don’t expect to have the discussions during the training sessions, as the coaches will be very busy. Better to ask before or after the session if it’s a quick question, or for longer discussions arrange a suitable time via email.

What is Swim21?

Swim21 is the ASA’s Accreditation and Development tool that allows swimmers, teachers, coaches and those responsible for developing programmes to continually improve. The City of Oxford’s accreditation is your guarantee of quality provision for your child. It’s about putting the swimmers first and ensuring young learners follow the pathway the ASA recognises for training and competition.

For further information go to our swim 21 page or click this link.

What’s a logbook?

Swimmers usually find it useful to keep individual logbooks to maintain a record of their progress. It is also a good idea to keep a note of your training sessions and what sets you made to record your improvement. Download the ASA Swim21 Logbook (MS Word format) and Front Cover (Acrobat PDF). Ask your coach for further guidance.

What is a PB?

PB is short for Personal Best. It is the best time an individual has achieved for a particular stroke at a given distance. A record of PBs from licensed events can be found by searching the British Swimming Results and Rankings database. That said, swimmers are encouraged to keep a log book if they can (see above).

Where can I find out what times I have achieved?

After each club event, the results including the times and positions of each swimmer will be displayed for that event on the meets page of the gala web site. For other events, the results will be posted shortly afterwards to our

How are teams selected for galas?

Coaches select the teams for inter-club galas, for example the National Arena Swimming League A and B teams and the Milton Keynes Junior League.

What does ‘age on 31st December’ mean?

If a gala is run on an ‘age on 31st December’ basis (e.g., our Club Champs) it refers to how old the swimmer will be on the 31st December in the year of competition. It does not mean the age of the swimmer on the day of the competition, which may be different. So for example, if a swimmer’s birthday was the 20th December and they turned 12 on that date, they would swim as a 12 year old in the Club Champs even though at the time of the events (October/November) they were still 11 years old.

What does ‘Licensed Meet’ mean?

For an event to be licensed by the ASA it must meet certain criteria (regarding, for example, officials and time keeping) which are assessed when the meet organisers make their application. From a swimmer’s perspective the most important points to note are that to qualify for the:

  • National Championships a qualifying time must have been achieved between set dates at an ASA Licensed Level 1 or Level 2 meet
  • Regional Championships a qualifying time must have been achieved between set dates at an ASA Licensed Level 1, Level 2 or Level 3


What does ‘Short Course’ mean?

Events held in a 25m length pool.

What does ‘Long Course’ mean?

Events held in a 50m length pool.

What does ‘Sign in’ mean?

Some galas require the swimmer to sign in once you have arrived at the pool. On arriving the swimmer should ask where the signing in desk is, check their name against the lists on the desk and sign. If your name is not on the list you should see your coach immediately. If a swimmer does not sign in they will not be able to compete.

Similar to sign ins, some galas operate an entry card system. Cards will be sent out by the organising club prior to the meet and given to you by your coach. Usually there is one card per event with details of the session and warm up time plus your name, club, entry time, etc.

At the gala, the cards have to be posted by a set time before the session starts or you will be deemed a non-attendee and will not be able to race. There is usually a card post box near the entry desk or changing area to post your cards.

Will I be able to take photos at the gala?

Some galas do allow photography (though some don’t) but you will first have to register with the meet organisers and provide details such as address and phone contact details to get a pass to take pictures or video. This is to satisfy child protection policy.

My name is on a results list but has DQ by the side, what does this mean?

DQ means Disqualified and it’s something that virtually all competitive swimmers will have to face sometimes. At the gala (usually wearing white shirts) there will be a starter, a referee, time keepers on each lane and several judges looking at starts, turns and stroke technique. If you breach one of the rules surrounding starts, turns or stroke you may be Disqualified or DQ’d. It is of course disappointing but is still part of the learning process. What you need to do is to find out why you were DQ’d and then work with your coach in training to try to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

Why do you need qualified Officials?

For any competition, the officials provide guidance and regulation; they ensure the rules of the sport are enforced fairly and impartially and that the event is conducted safely. They ensure that fairness is achieved in the competition by adhering to and enforcing the ASA laws and Technical Rules of swimming. Although the promoter of a swimming event has the overall responsibility for Health & Safety, all the pool side officials must also be vigilant to try to prevent any accidents.

What types of Officials are there?

There are five types of technical swimming official, each described below. Click here for further information on training and qualification:

  • This is an introduction into the world of the swimming official.
  • The minimum recommended age for candidates to undertake this training is 14 years and all need to be registered members of a British Swimming affiliated club or a member of the Institute of Swimming (IoS)
  • Judge Level 1. This is the first level of British qualification. It encompasses the role and duties of a Timekeeper, Chief Timekeeper and Inspector of Turns.
  • The minimum age to start training is 15 years
  • Judge Level 2. This is the second level of qualification. It encompasses the role and duties in relation to all aspects of judging and the theoretical role and duties of Starter.
  • The minimum age to start training is 15 years.
  • Candidates wishing to qualify as a Starter will be required to hold the Judge Level 2 qualification and be a minimum age of 15 years. Successful candidates will be attributed with the Starter qualification: Judge Level 2S
  • Responsible for running the event safely and fairly. Candidates for this course are required to be qualified at Judge level 2S and may register to start training aged 17 years but must be 18 years at 30 November in the year of the course.

There are also other ‘non-technical’ officials which, although they do not require any particular qualification, are still vital for the successful running of an event. These include:

  • Reads out safety announcements prior to the gala and then announces each race and any other information as directed by the referee
  • Record the results of each race from slips provided by the judges. There are normally two recorders required to write down the results and cross-check them throughout the meet
  • Door Steward. Posted at the pool entrance to collect entrance fees, give out programmes and sell raffle tickets
  • Competitive Stewards/Marshals. To organise the swimmers for events/heats based on start lists and guide them towards the starting blocks at the appropriate time
  • Health & Safety Marshals. To ensure that the venue health and safety regulations are complied with.


How do I become an Official?

The Club is only able to function and succeed as a result of people kindly volunteering and giving up their time freely so that swimmers can enjoy their competition. If you are interested and want to find out more then please speak to a committee member. Or why not ask one of the club members who already officiates about their experiences. Or contact ONB counties directly through their website.

Each level of technical official consists of some training, a short examination and a practical evaluation of the skills required. Further details of the examinations and other helpful material can be found on


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