Lessons in pool etiquette: Masters edition

Rob and Donal have already said what needs to be said about lap swimming etiquette – and with great style, I might add.

What I’d add to the discussion is this: The importance of etiquette is not limited to lap swimming! It’s not just the noodlers and resolutionistas. You might think Masters swimmers would pick up the basics of pool etiquette pretty quickly. It’s tougher to get away with being oblivious and/or rude in a team environment. You might even think more experienced Masters swimmers – those who, by virtue of their proficiency, have obviously been swimming for many years – would be least likely to offend.

Which leads me to a funny story. On my Masters squad, we recently had a new person join, who just moved from out of town. We’ll call him/her “Pat.” Pat is an excellent swimmer – most likely, (s)he once competed at the college level. Nonetheless, here I am, writing this post…

With a tip of the hat to Bill M., here are five New Rules of Etiquette in Masters swimming:

  1. When you join a new Masters team, join the lane you can keep up with… without equipment. Do not join the lane you “aspire” to swim in, but can only make the intervals with the assistance of gigantic flippers.
  2. If, on your previous team, everyone used gigantic flippers on all the main sets, do not assume that on your new team everyone will also use gigantic flippers on all the main sets – and that therefore, it is still OK for you to use gigantic flippers on all the main sets.
  3. Do not leave five seconds apart when everyone else is leaving ten seconds apart. Especially in a long-course pool with only three people per lane.
  4. When politely asked to leave ten seconds apart, do not petulantly ask at the next break, “Is it a crime to leave five seconds apart?”
  5. When it is explained that, “Yes, sometimes people get annoyed when someone pushes off right on their feet in a long-course pool with plenty of space” — do not, in response, say, “Well, I like chasing after bubbles – it makes me go faster.” Um, no. See, here’s the thing, Pat: It’s not about you.

Actually, that’s a pretty good rule to live by when swimming with a team: It’s not about you. 

Rob‘s guidelines for lap swimming etiquette boiled down to: Don’t be a dick. 

Donal‘s guidelines boiled down to: Be aware of what is going on around you.

To these I would add:

When you join a new team, pay close attention to the prevailing norms. Everywhere is different. What is normal in one place might be unbearably annoying in another. It’s your responsibility to figure that out – not your teammates’.

18 thoughts on “Lessons in pool etiquette: Masters edition”

  1. New rule: pay attention to the direction you are breathing (especially when you are breathing hard!) It shouldn’t be on me.

  2. Can we add in chasing competitively from behind until you’re on someone’s feet and are allowed to pass at the end….and then not being able to sustain the pace and slowing back down, causing a log-jam behind you.

    there is a place for freestyle only and that is called OPEN WATER

    Discuss with your lane mates what your “descend” intentions are. personally, I always opt for the incremental, which means I start out with a pretty good effort; others like stroll along and go all out on the last repeat. If you’re strolling….. let me go first.
    (same with “negative split” assignments)

  4. …if you’re given a set, don’t stand at the end of the lane for 10 minutes negotiating a different set because the given set would result in too much swimming being done.

  5. Does this mean we now have the fabled and long sought after, Unified Pool Etiquette Theory, (UPET)? Can we get it peer published? We’ve got the peer reviews!

    1. UPET… take it anywhere in the world, and never piss anyone off! Perhaps we can make little laminated waterproof cards, suitable for carrying in a swim bag.

      This actually reminds me of a time I was vacationing in France. I decided mid-vacation that I really needed to swim a few laps, so I found a local pool. Unfortunately, I hadn’t brought my speedo… only board-shorts for the beach. I walked out of the locker room in my board shorts and got ready to jump in. No fewer than three lifeguards started waving and shouting at me in French. They literally would not let me in the water in board shorts. Briefs only. Thankfully, they had a lost and found…

      1. I tend to be in the “that which does not kill us makes us strong” camp as far as tolerating bad behavior in the pool. I hardly ever get pissed off at other swimmers.

        UNLESS THEY SMELL BAD. The pool is not a substitute for a bath.

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