Swimming Etiquette

The key to a smooth, well-run and enjoyable practice is to follow a few simple guidelines known as lane etiquette.  You can download these rules by clicking here or read on:

  1. Please shower before entering the pool.  Clean swimmers mean clean water and happy swimmers and City staff.  This is mandatory.
  2. Choose the right lane.  It is important that you swim in a lane with swimmers of similar ability.  The coach has final say which lane you should swim in and would prefer to see swimmers start off at skill levels they can easily handle and then gradually move up.  This is especially true if you have been ill or for some other reason have missed a week or more of practice.  Instead of jumping in with the old gang when you return to practice, it is usually best to try an easier level until you are back in shape.  If you have any questions about which lane you should be swimming in, ask the coach.
  3. Even out the lanes.  If your usual lane is very full compared to the next slower or faster lane, consider moving up or down a lane.  After the warm-up, the coach may move people between lanes as he/she sees fit in order to even out the number of people in each lane.  Please cooperate, and don’t take this personally!  You may need to move to make room because more than one lane is very full.  If you move down, lead the lane to set the pace.  If you move up, or cannot keep up, sit out the occasional 50 metres, and let the faster swimmers pass to keep the lane moving.
  4. Always leave at least 5 seconds apart.  Unless the coach otherwise specifies, swimmers should always start (push off the wall) a swim or a swim set at least 5 seconds apart.  In a 25-metre pool, when there are fewer than 5 in a lane, it is best to push off 10 seconds apart (the only exception to this is at the most advanced skill levels).
  5. Look before your leave.  Serious accidents can occur if you blindly push off the wall (especially with backstroke).  Be aware of other swimmers who are either swimming into the wall (do not push off just in front of someone coming in) or waiting next to the lane rope or side wall (see if they are about to leave).
  6. When you are finished, get out of the way.  When you finish a swim or are taking a rest, move to the side of the lane so other swimmers can have a clear path to finish or turn at the end of the pool.
  7. Pass to the inside of the lane.  The correct way to pass someone in a lane is to lightly touch the feet of the person ahead of you.  This tells the person being passed to allow you through.  It is usually best to wait until reaching the end of the pool before passing.  The person being passed should continue swimming into the outside corner of the lane, stop, and give the swimmer that just passed a 5 second head start.  Also be sure and see if anyone else would like to pass before starting to swim again.
  8. Who is going first?  For many of us, it seems to be much easier to swim behind someone than it is to lead.  This is why you will sometimes see confusion at the start of practice about who should go first, second, third, etc.  The best way to solve this problem is to talk with one another and find out who is swimming what stroke and/or what pace each swimmer would like to set.  Don't be left at the end of the pool staring at each other when it is time to swim.
  9. Watch your swing.  Accidents can occur when swimming the butterfly or freestyle stroke and when using swim paddles.  Because of the arm recovery characteristics of the butterfly, it is important for those of you who swim fly to time your arm recovery or switch to one arm butterfly so that you don't hit another swimmer.  Taking that extra kick when your arms are extended in front of you can avoid a collision.  Hand paddles should always be used with caution and watches or bracelets should not be worn when swimming.
  10. Know what's going on around you.  Being aware of what others are doing around you is one of the most important ingredients of good practice etiquette.  Make sure everyone in your lane knows your intentions.  This means communicating to everybody what stroke and pace you plan to swim.  While swimming make sure you keep a close eye on what people are doing behind and ahead of you, especially in a passing situation.
  11. Pick up after yourself.  Kickboards, swim fins, pull buoys, and other pool equipment is your responsibility.  If you use it, please return it. Finish swimming and exit the pool 2 minutes before the end of practice.
  12. A note to latecomers.  If you start the practice late, do not start at the beginning.  Pick up the practice at the same point where the people in the lane presently are.  If the warm up is over then consider swimming at the end of the lane until you have warmed up.  Then move into your usual spot when it is appropriate.
  13. Listen to the coach.  Above all, listen carefully when the coach is giving instructions.  If you don't understand something a coach has said, ask someone in your lane to explain it.  If you still don't understand, don't be afraid to ask the coach to explain it again.  Also remember the coach has final say on all aspects of the practice and swimmers while at the pool.

 And a fun comment on lane swimming from Olivier Poirier-Leroy, a former national level swimmer based out of Victoria, BC:We've all experienced it - extraordinarily limited pool space.  Whether it's the synchro team taking over a couple lanes (generally seen packing a piece of silverware that bangs loudly against a pool ladder - give me a heck yeah if you know what I mean), another group on the team, or a batch of shrieking kids in for public swimming, we've all been there.12 swimmers, 1 lane.Having a crowded lane can be a nightmare when all of the swimmers aren't on the same page.  Here are ten ways to be a super-duper teammate and lane-mate:

  1. Leave when you're supposed to.  Don't think the person in front of you doesn't know what you are doing back there you sly dog.  When coach says leave on 60, and the rep is for time, we all get that same urge to sneak off a second or two early.  Sure, taking off just a shade early might make for a faster time, but it's a result, no matter how much you try to tell yourself otherwise.
  2. Don't complain between sets.  The shared struggle is what bonds us as swimmers.  We all suffered through the two-a-days, the happy-fun-time distance sets coaches "challenge" us with, and the holiday bender of workouts.  Misery begets misery, so instead of bringing everyone down, supply encouragement or some of golden silence.  Complaining doesn't serve you or your teammates any good.
  3. Agree to some basic passing etiquette.  It can be infuriating having a teammate who is unable to pass correctly.  Either they claw at your feet, ankles and calves for 200m before they pass you, or they wait until they get to the end of the lap to make their move, causing a pile-up at the wall.  In a crowded lane it can be helpful to have a pre-arranged protocol for passing: one tap on the foot and then make the pass.  The passee knows what is coming, and the passer knows that it is time to make a move.
  4. Waves are fun, just not when you are swallowing them.  Jumping or diving in when a teammate is coming into the wall on a breath?  Yeah, please resist the urge.
  5. Be a rad teammate.  We all have swimmers in our lives that we rue training with.  Maybe it's their unclipped nails, their propensity to steal our kickboard when they think we aren't looking, or their broadcast announcements that they are urinating while we are all hanging on the wall.  Whatever the case, strive to be a killer athlete and a great teammate by respecting the boundaries (and kickboards!) of the swimmers in your lane.
  6. Fold your arms when swimming past doing butterfly.  I frequently have nightmares of doing a yards fly set with Michael Gross, Matt Biondi and this dude named Jason I swam with back in the day who had an 18-foot wingspan (or at least it seemed it was at the time).  Not only are they not allowed to do any dolphin kicks off the wall, but they are all wearing paddles.  XXXXL paddles unavailable anywhere else except for this particular nightmare.
  7. Let your teammates finish.  At the end of the set or repeat we are gassed, bushed, exhausted.  We have invested everything we had kicking that set's butt so much to the point that we float into the wall and forget that our teammate is coming in hot right behind us.  Don't forget to move over and let the others finish with an artsy flourish as well.
  8. Circle swim.  It seems so basic, doesn't it?  Swim up one side, swim back the other.  But even swimmers can find a way to mess with something so simple.  I had a teammate (not the aforementioned Jason, thankfully) who during the more challenging parts of the workout swam with his eyes closed between the flags - seriously leading him to careen into oncoming traffic frequently.  Master this simple process of swimming circles and you're halfway there.  Okay fine, maybe a third of the way there.
  9. Don't stop mid-lap.  Okay, there is a bit of an asterisk on this one.  The occasional hamstring or calf cramp will leave you no choice but to halt all forward progress and hang for dear life on the lane rope.  Otherwise, stopping mid-lap - for what reason, I cannot imagine - and floating in the lane will get you run over.  If you feel the insatiable need to halt all forward progress, do so without impeding the progress of the swimmer behind you.
  10. Be courteous.  One rule to rule them all.  If you are about to set off to warm down, and a teammate is coming in hot and about to turn, wait till they pass.  Remember, at the end of the day you guys are all in the soup together, and a little courtesy can go a long way to make it a productive session for everyone involved.