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Written by Andrew Farrow
Monday, 7 December 2009 at 18:12

BAGCATS (British Age Group Categories) are a point-based system operated by the ASA.  Their objective is to encourage development across multiple strokes and distances for girls under 14 and boys under 15 and to discourage specialisation at too early a stage in a swimmer’s career.


You’ll probably come across BAGCATS  for the first time if your swimmer goes to Counties.  At Counties, in addition to awards for success in a specific stroke over a specific distance, success can also be measured on BAG Points across the competition as a whole.

To participate in the overall BAGCAT competition, you must enter and compete in at least one event from each of the following categories:

  • Best Sprint – 50m any stroke (all ages)
  • 100’s – 100m any stroke (ages 11-13 for  females and 12-14 for males)
  • Form – 200m back, breast or fly (all ages)
  • Distance – 200m free (all ages) can be substituted by 400m, 800m or 1,500m for older swimmers
  • Individual Medley– 100m or 200m IM (all ages)

Points are scored for each event, dependent upon time swum, contributing to an overall score and position. You can download a programme from the Club website here (it's called the "FINA Points Calculator") which will calculate the points equivalent of any performance.  If you enter more than 1 event in any category it is only the “best” score that counts towards the overall competition. This does not preclude a swimmer from entering only the events that they wish to participate in during the County Championships (although there is usually a minimum entry fee).

So why is this system only used for swimmers up to 14 year old boys and 13 year old girls?

Most importantly it is to ensure that swimmers do not specialise in one stroke at an early age.  A swimmer’s best stroke at age 9 may not necessarily be their best stroke one or two years later and the BAGCAT system with its requirement to swim Medleys is specifically designed to accommodate this.  The Form Stroke category also ensures that variety is maintained by swimmers having to be proficient at more than one stroke.

When swimmers move into their mid to late teens, their bodies become fully developed (girls sooner than boys – hence the difference in BAGCAT upper ages) and they should start to specialise in strokes and distances.  Therefore beyond BAGCAT ages, swimmers will compete at County, Regional and National events at individual events.

You shouldn’t need to spend too much time worrying about this until your swimmer reaches Otters, but if you’re interested more detail may be found on the ASA website.

Just a final word of warning …. A summary of BAGCAT points and age group placings are issued at regular intervals throughout competitions.  If you find you are near the top places at any point BEWARE of the swimmer who has not yet swum in a category and leaves it until the last session to add a few hundred points to their total.  It is a very fair system – but it can be cruel !!

Thanks to Swindon Dolphins for some of this article.

Last Updated (Saturday, 18 December 2010 at 06:56)

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