On pool etiquette and experience

In a comment on my recent post on violations of pool etiquette (“Menaces to Swim Society“), reader Luke took issue with my tone and choice of words, saying they’re likely to turn people off from organized swimming. Nobody wants to be a “pool asshole” – or worry that others might think them one without realizing it.

It’s a fair criticism. I was aiming for humor with a tinge of snark; I may have over-done the latter. Reader Bob Needham correctly identified it as “unresolved rage” from recent, real-life experiences.

So allow me to offer some clarification: If you are a beginning swimmer, please don’t feel intimidated from taking the plunge and joining a Masters squad. My List was not aimed at you. It was aimed at those who should know better.

Which raises another question: Who should know better, and who is cut some slack? There’s a very simple test: Are you swimming in the “fast lane,” or close to it? If so, you’re expected to behave accordingly. If you’re a newbie, you’re probably not in this lane. Most likely, you’re sharing a lane with other newbies, or people who are accustomed to swimming with newbies. Relax – it’s all good!

At my pool, the “fast lane” has a base interval of 1:25 per 100 LCM. Almost everyone in this lane swam competitively at the collegiate level. When I swam with Stanford Masters, the “fast lane” was 1:20/100 LCM. In this lane we had the occasional 1984 Olympian.

In collegiate and high-level club swimming, you’re swimming with other people – sharing lane-space with them – for, in many cases, more than 20 hours per week. At this level, you don’t get away with violating pool etiquette. You’re going to get yelled at – by your teammates, and by your coach. So generally, etiquette faux pas just don’t happen in these environments. By the time you’ve made it this far, you’ve pretty well learned your pool etiquette.

These are the people who “know better.”

And really, is it any different in other sports? Especially sports in which you’re sharing limited resources with other participants.

Take surfing etiquette, for instance. At a beginner break (in my area, Campus Point in the summer), you can mess up and generally people will cut you slack. Snake or drop in on someone at the Ranch, and you can expect to get yelled at (or worse). If you want to play with the big boys & girls, then act like one.

Next: Demystifying pool etiquette: A handbook of fundamentals

2 thoughts on “On pool etiquette and experience”

  1. Nice follow up to the first posting. Compare swimming to Golf – rules are there so EVERYONE can enjoy the sport. I’m glad you clarified for beginner swimmers. For example, when I first started swimming my 6 kick, 1 pull drill was so slow that my lane mates would be leaving the wall on rep 2 before I got there (and I was in the slow lane). So, I would leave the wall last, do a 25 of drill and swim the return length. I swam when I should have been drilling, but I kept out of everyone’s way and slowed or pressured no one. Good to know the rules, but also how to work around them to benefit yourself and others.

    1. Thanks Sully. Actually very few of the items on my list are relevant to the slow lane at a masters workout. In that situation, perhaps the basic rule of etiquette should be: “Try to stay out of other people’s way.” I feel badly about not clarifying this in the first post 🙁

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