New to competitive swimming?


This information is designed to help people who are new to the sport of competitive swimming. We are gradually editing and improving it, so please contact us if you have any suggestions.

The value of a swimming club

Congratulations on choosing the fantastic Abbotsleigh swimming club! We do not deliver your routine swimming coaching – that is provided by the Aquatic Centre which is part of Abbotsleigh School. We here in the Club provide the crucial ‘social and competitive wrapper’ around the swimming core.

At Abbotsleigh we are extremely fortunate to have a very close relationship between the School, Aquatic Centre and Club. So much so that there is occasional confusion about who is doing what. Just remember that you pay the Aquatic Centre for routine coaching, caps and goggles; and the Swim Club for most other things.

We here in the club provide the crucial additional support, including:

  • Run special events, camps, socials, presentation nights, etc, etc.
  • Administer entries for carnivals
  • Fund coaches to attend carnivals
  • Run a regular ‘club night’
  • Support the coaches
  • Affiliate with the swimming authorities giving us access to a broader range of services including training, squads, Technical Officials, and a representative voice.

The Club is ultimately part of the School so all of our activities operate under their guidance and with their considerable support. The Aquatic Centre is part of the School.

Carnivals (Swim Meets)

Swimming carnivals are the bread and butter of competitive swimming! Swimmers regularly attend them to compete and try to improve their speed. Speed is measured in the time it takes to complete a certain event.

The club calendar on the website contains a list of forthcoming carnivals that the club will be attending, usually with one of our coaches. Whilst it is great to train, competing in carnivals is the sharp end of the sport. The club targets certain carnivals – this means that our swimmers are very strongly encouraged to attend, and at least one of our coaches will attend. You are welcome to attend other carnivals. Details of these can be found on the SNSW website, or the websites of other swimming clubs.

The summer is ‘Long Course’ season when events are swum in 50m pools. The winter is ‘Short Course’ season which takes place in 25m pools, or a 50m pool with a boom across. In theory the season starts with local club meets, followed by the Metro North East Area meet, then Metro (the 4 Sydney Metro Areas) and finally State. New swimmers are likely to want to focus only on local meets, or small specific ‘sprint’ meets.

Entering a Carnival

To attend an external carnival you must be a ‘full’ club member because this includes affiliation with SNSW. The more competitive carnivals often have Qualifying Times that must have been swum at an official meet. You may well hear of people ‘chasing times’ ahead of major meets like Metro or State so that they can qualify. Beginner swimmers shouldn’t need to concern themselves with officially validated times.

Short Course (SC) times are usually faster than Long Course (LC) times because swimmers save time turning and pushing off the wall. LC times can be used to enter SC events, but the reverse often has conditions or adjustments.

Swimming NSW has recently introduced an online system to automate the administration of carnival entries. Many carnival organisers are now using this new system. To use it visit the website of the club organising the carnival, locate the carnival information, and follow the entry instructions. To access the online system you will need a membership username and password for the swimmer, and a credit/debit card to make online payment. Please contact our club registrar, Darryn, if you have questions about the username and password for club members.

For carnivals that do not use the new online system, entries should be submitted by completing a cardboard entry form and posting into the letterbox on the Aquatic Centre reception counter. For these carnivals our super-efficient and helpful Race Secretary, Liz, usually sends out an email ahead of carnivals reminding swimmers to enter, and specifying a closing date for our club. This is the date by which she needs the entries. It will be earlier than the meet closing date specified on the meet details flyer. This information is usually repeated on our website in the calendar. It is recommended that parents plan ahead for entering carnivals, rather than await emails. Our closing date is usually 2-3 weeks before the meet date.

Entry forms (pink for girls, blue for boys!) can be obtained from the Aquatic Centre office, or download here. You should obtain a copy of the meet flyer from which to select the events to enter. This is usually a single A4 sheet and will include a list of events, event numbers, qualifying times (if any), entry price, and indicative session timings.

Payment should be made via EFT direct into the Abbotsleigh club bank account. Details are here. The club will make a single bulk payment to the organisers.

Competing at a Carnival

This cheat sheet from our own carnival should give you some useful tips. The advice won’t be 100% correct for all carnivals, but you will get the idea. Download here.

A timeline for the carnival is often made available by the organisers a day or two ahead of the event on their website. Please note this is approximate. Carnivals can run late due to operational issues, or early if there are many competitor withdrawals. You should plan to arrive in time to warm up ahead of your event(s) – usually 2hrs ahead of your event, or the start of warm-up, whichever is later. Be aware of traffic and parking time considerations for some venues, particularly if not arriving for the start of the event.

A start-list of competitors by event may be available ahead of the event on their website. Full programs showing heats are not usually available until the day in paper form at the venue.

Parent involvement

Our club is entirely volunteer run by parents and the coaches. Unlike some other clubs and sports, parent support is encouraged but not mandated. You are likely to be invited to help with some tasks, including timekeeping at carnivals. We find that the majority of our parents enjoy the social side of participating in club activities.


BF / FLY = Butterfly
BK = Back stroke
BS = Breast stroke
Country = the non-Metro part of NSW
DQ = Disqualified
DNS = Did not start (a race)
DNF = Did not finish (a race)
FLY / BF = Butterfly
Form = any stroke other than Freestyle
FS = Freestyle
IM = Individual Medley = FLY, BK, BS, FS swum in that order
Invitational = A meet open only to those clubs invited
LC = Long Course (refers to an event swum in a 50m pool)
Metro = Metropolitan Sydney, i.e. the non-Country part of NSW
NT = No Time (no entry time submitted)
Open Water = a swim course in an outdoor lake
PB = Personal Best (time)
QT = Qualifying Time
SAL = Swimming Australia Ltd.
SC = Short Course (refers to an event swum in a 25m pool)
SMNE = Swimming Metro North East (our local swimming Area)
SNSW = Swimming NSW
SOPAC = Sydney Olympic Park Aquatic Centre at Homebush
Sprint = usually 25 & 50m events only