Share the Love! Practice Etiquette

Jim Montgomery




Swimmers come from all walks of life, backgrounds, experience and ability.  It is very possible that the lane mate you think is a little rude simply does not know proper lane etiquette. With that in mind, and in an attempt to avoid navigational, comprehension and crowding problems, we at DAM are distributing this little review of proper lane etiquette to remind or educate you.

1. Get into the Correct Lane! Learn and know your practice times and pace and try to swim with others who are the same speed as you. If you are unsure of which lane to swim in, ask the coach. Sometimes the coach will move swimmers around to facilitate large numbers of swimmers or pool lane restrictions. The coaches are trying to provide a pleasant workout environment and one that is conducive for optimal learning and training for everyone.

2. What?!? As a common courtesy, swimmers should look at the coach during instruction, workout set explanation or stroke technique critique. All pools have terrible acoustics and personal conversations among workout attendees just add to the difficulty of hearing what the coach or instructor is saying.

3. Don't be a Leach! It is not nice to push off right on the feet of the swimmer in front of you, or to catch up to that swimmer and swim right on their heels lap after lap. And it is dangerous to draft, especially at turns where swimmers are pushing off the wall into potential head-on collisions. If you feel particularly fast or are consistently swimming on the feet of the swimmer in front of you, ask to go ahead on the next set or repeat. A good rule of thumb: If you can smell their feet, you're a leach.

4. Don't be a Lane Leader Hog! Even if you always go first in your lane because you are the fastest swimmer, it is often fun to rotate leaders. If you find that your lane mate is right on your feet, it's probably a good time to rotate the lead for that set. Healthy competition in practice enhances performance for each swimmer. Lane mates should challenge and encourage each other to bring out the best in each other.

5. Avoid the Draft! Standard swimming protocol is to give the person in front of you at least FIVE seconds lead time before you push off. In long course swimming (50 meters) or when there are only two or three swimmers in a lane, try giving the person in front of you ten or 15 seconds. By allowing more lead time, you'll avoid the draft of the swimmer in front of you, and build better personal aerobic endurance and proper pace capabilities. Also, your turns will be faster and unhindered because you won't have to spend your energy dodging lane mates who are still perfecting their turns or who have navigational problems.

6. The Golden Rule. Circle swimming is a group training method requiring the swimmer to stay on the RIGHT side of the lane going in both directions. When approaching the wall for your turn (about 5-10 feet away), start moving to your left to hit the CENTER of the wall. When you push off, do so angling to the right so that you are once again on the correct side of the lane.

7. Get Out of My Way! Common problems when passing is that the faster swimmer does not necessarily warn the slower swimmer in front that he/she is there. If you would like to pass the person ahead of you, lightly tap their feet once or twice so that this person knows you are there and want to pass. The second common problem when passing is that the swimmer in front/being passed attempts to temporarily speed up leaving the faster swimmer in the middle of the lane facing oncoming traffic. If you feel a tap on your feet, move as far right up against the lane line as possible, slightly slow your speed and allow the person behind you to pass on your left. Passing can be a very dangerous thing; the passing swimmer must swim in the middle of the lane possibly dodging oncoming swimmers from the other direction. Passing should be done as quickly as possible. Another passing option, especially if you are close to the wall, is to simply stop in the corner and let the passing swimmer turn past you. Then, get in behind the swimmer who went by. Be observant and aware of the other swimmers in your lane. If you know passing is inevitable, time your turn so the faster swimmer can pass at the wall.

8. Let Me Finish! When finishing a swim or repeat, immediately move to the center of the lane during a swim set or right/start side of the lane if finishing a set so that the swimmers behind you can finish at the wall, get their time and prepare for the next swim or repeat. Don't hog the wall space and let everyone finish the full swim distance at the wall.

9. Stick to the Workout! Try to stick to the set as given. It can be frustrating to your lane mates if you deviate drastically from the given set. Secondly, it's difficult for the coaches to track your times and progress when they don't know what you are doing. Communicate with the coach, let them know either what you would like to do or ask for suggested options if you cannot do the set as specified. If you cannot make a time interval, reduce the swim distance and stay on the interval for your lane. If you don't know how to use or read the pace clock, ask for help.

10. Express Yourself! It is very common for swimmers to have varying abilities between pulling, swimming and kicking. For this reason, lane mates should talk to one another and be ready to change the lane order for different sets. Also, if some people plan to swim stroke specialties while others are swimming freestyle during a specific set or workout, discuss this with each other before the set begins to avoid confusion.

11. Share the Pain, Feel the Love! Sometimes having a great workout sets the tone for the rest of your day. Sometimes it can be the best thing that happens to you all day. Let's all try to create and foster an environment of love, camaraderie, encouragement, mutual support and motivation so that we make the workout a great part of everyone's day!

You may also find this article on our DAM website at