A Parent’s Guide to Swimming at Step Rock

Swimming can be a mystifying sport to begin with so here is a guide to help you through it and to make you aware of what you might be letting yourself in for!

If you have a child in Learn To Swim, please take them swimming too!

Please ensure your child arrives in good time and with proper kit for their session, and do keep your child off if s/he is ill.

If you have any concerns about your child’s progression, please speak directly to your child’s coach after the session.

Be prepared to wear whites! The sport relies on parents being willing to train as “timekeepers” or “technical officials” (T.O.s). The course is quite straightforward and takes up one evening. As a club, we are required to provide T.O.s whenever our swimmers are competing, so it is essential that parents do chip in and do their bit.

The next step is training to become a judge – sounds daunting but there are courses and a mentoring scheme designed to help. Again, essential for the club and its swimmers.


Club Championships/Friendly Galas. These are unaccredited meets, with no Scottish Swimming licence required. All levels of swimmer can enter, though for the Friendly Galas, the coaches will generally select the more novice swimmers for experience.

Novice League. This is an introduction to competitive swimming, and is a meet licensed at Level 3 (which means that swimmers tend not to get disqualified as it is to encourage them to participate). Swimmers race against swimmers of similar age and ability from other Fife clubs. It is a team event, with relays at the end of every meet; the events are held at the Michael Woods Centre in Glenrothes. The Novice League is time-banded, so swimmers who are “too fast” for a particular stroke are not permitted to be entered for it. This gives encouragement for swimmers to develop proficiency in all 4 strokes, rather than just one or two. Points are awarded throughout the season, and at the end of the four events, the “Novice League” champions are announced in the different age/gender groups. At Step Rock, we select swimmers to participate in the Novice League teams, usually in early January, based on proficiency and commitment to the four dates.

Fife League. This gala follows on from the morning Novice League, and is intended to be a Level 2 licensed meet (which means that the times can be used for official entry into higher level galas). Teams of four girls or four boys across different age categories compete over the four strokes at 100m for league points. A 200m or 50m swim is also offered.

Club galas (by invitation). The club enters swimmers for a number of other galas throughout the year. The Head Coach issues an invitation to the parents of swimmers to indicate for which sessions of a gala they wish to be considered, and he and other coaches decide which swims within that session to enter the swimmer for. Gala entries are done using a computerized system, and Closing Dates are strictly adhered to. Any swimmer withdrawing from an invitational gala without adequate reason after indicating they wished to participate is required to refund the gala fees to the club (fees range from ~£4:50-£10 per race, depending on the gala). When all the entries from all clubs are in, the organizing club informs us of which swims have been accepted, so unlike the Novice and Fife Leagues, entry does not guarantee a swim.

East District Age Group Championships (“EDAGs” – by invitation and qualification). A Level 1 meet for swimmers turning 10+ (age is age on 31st December). Swimmers must have achieved consideration times for these. Round 1 is long distance events (400m+) and round 2 is 200m stroke events (both held at Michael Woods). Round 3 comprises 50m, 100m and 200m Individual Medley events, and is at the 50m “long course” Royal Commonwealth pool in Edinburgh. For round 3, swimmers with “short course” (25m pool) times may enter, but their times will be adjusted (slower) for “long course”. See, for example, www.pullbuoy.co.uk/times. Achieving a consideration time does not guarantee entry – events may have too many entrants to finish within a prescribed time, in which case the slowest swimmers are “oversubscribed” (per event) and do not get to swim. There are also “reserve” spots allocated, and the swimmer stands a reasonable chance of getting to swim in this case (but is not guaranteed).

Scottish National Age Group Championships (“SNAGs” – by invitation and qualification). Entry is similar to that for EDAGs, but times are listed as “Consideration Times” (allowed to enter the gala) and “Qualification Times” (will definitely get to swim if the time is achieved). SNAGs takes place over 5 days at a 50m pool (usually Tollcross or the Aberdeen Sports Village).

Other: not a gala, but something that our swimmers aspire to be part of is the “District Regional Programme” (DRP, sometimes referred to as the Scottish Bronze Squad). Times for entry to this three-day training programme are quite demanding, but we have had a handful of swimmers selected over the past few years. The times are reviewed annually by Scottish Swimming (for currently-required times, see Scottish National Squad Selection policy for 2017_18, a pdf downloadable from www.scottishswimming.com/compete/swimming/national-squads/district-regional-programme.aspx). At least one coach from the club is required to attend if any of our swimmers are selected; this provides valuable CPD and ensures our coaching team is up-to-date on the latest coaching advice from Scottish Swimming.