Menaces to (swim) society: How to be a pool asshole

Do you enjoy enraging your fellow swimmers? Do you want your lanemates to secretly hate you – or possibly even overtly hate you?

If so, I made a list just for you. The Top 10 Petty Annoyances of Organized Pool Swimming. A handy guide to sowing chaos in an organized swim workout. Think of them as descending circles of Hell.

Courtesy of Swimming Memes

If you want to be a pool asshole, here are a few suggestions:

10. Swim right on someone’s feet during warm-up.

9. Cheat during the non-swimming portions of the workout — pulling when you’re supposed to be kicking; full stroke when you’re supposed to be drilling.

8. Pull on the laneline in backstroke.

7. During a distance set, when a faster swimmer in the adjacent lane approaches, suddenly speed up and “race” the faster swimmer, perhaps only for a lap or two.

6. Join a lane with slower swimmers, lead the lane, and then unilaterally change the interval so nobody else gets any rest.

5. Join a lane with faster swimmers and fail to make the interval except by using fins or paddles, or by stopping every few laps.

4. Be unaware of a faster swimmer approaching from behind and, when approaching the wall, swim across the lane and cut off the passing swimmer.

3. Leave 5 seconds apart in a long-course pool, even when there are only 2-3 others sharing the lane.

2. Leave 2-3 seconds early (Grrreeeeegggggg!).

And now, the #1 way to be a pool asshole:

1. Sprint to catch up to the swimmer in front of you. Pass him or her. Then, once you are in front, suddenly slow down.

29 thoughts on “Menaces to (swim) society: How to be a pool asshole”

  1. I little bit of unresolved rage from spending too much time with your head in the water?

    PS Some of us old folks use fins to take some pressure off our shoulders and swim instead of pull for the same reason.

  2. You’ve pretty well covered The List, though I heard of a situation last year where a very accomplished backstroker insisted on using oversized hand paddles during much of his training. Unfortunately, he didn’t want to pay the fee for the organized workout, and was relegated to the rec swimming lanes. Evidently, the damage he did by hitting the unsuspecting lanemates with those paddles was pretty bad. When an old friend tried to tell him to dial it back a bit, a very ugly scene ensued. So far as I know, they still are not speaking to one another.

  3. How about these:

    Stand in the way of the swimmers in the back trying to finish the set, ESPECIALLY during quality sets and things “for time.”

    Decide to head to the front of the lane, then when a fast female swimmer (who’s name you know) passes you declare loudly and irritably to the lane “Let the GIRL go!!!!”

    Swim down the center, especially if you have a wide recovery.

    1. #1 should have been on my list. Possibly #3 too, along with the corollary – swimming too close to the laneline with a wide recovery and thus nailing folks in the adjacent lanes. Collisions happen… but if it’s happening multiple times/workout with the same person, then there’s a problem. #2 goes beyond “pool asshole” into the “asshole, generally” category.

  4. I’ve been curious as to the hate on #7 (I think I saw it in the USMS rant thread as well). If you are leading your lane, then the folk in the next lane can be used as ‘aspirational’ pacers; trying to keep up with them (even if only briefly) helps figure out if you are ready to move up or not. I’m a late comer to the organized workout world though so could be missing something here.

    1. You are ready to move up a lane when you are capable of making the intervals. Period. Hanging with the guy in the next lane for 2 laps out of a 500 doesn’t tell you you’re ready to move up; it just distracts other swimmers from their own workouts. If you want to race me, fine, bring it on – race me for the full 500. Bottom line, this is obnoxious behavior, and it’s not OK!

      1. Joining an organized workout has been one of the more intimidating things I’ve had to in this whole swimming journey, a lot of the etiquette is not very obvious when you get started.

        I would like to offer up my own item to your list:

        Swimmers who can’t (or can’t be bothered trying) to make the interval and decide that the whole lane should swim slower because it’s “their lane”.

  5. And this is why I avoid swimming pools as much as possible. You don’t have these issues in the open water. 🙂 Tho, we have a girl on my masters team who routinely calls out people when they break ‘the rules’. It’s fantastic.

    1. Incidentally, Sarah, I just swam with a guy who knows you. Mark swims at U of D masters and visits Santa Barbara occasionally.

  6. How about the talented but lazy swimmer who sits behInd, taking it easy all session, until the very last hard set and nails it to finish at the front. Twat!

  7. Evan,

    I have written and deleted a post no fewer than a dozen times today but have finally opted to share it with you and everyone else who tunes in to your blog.

    I find it and the marathonswimmers forum you and Donal have started to be extremely useful, pithy, interesting and a true addition to both the swimming and endurance sports blogs/forums universe.

    While I agree with much of what you wrote in this post, I must tell you that the choice of title and nearly vitriolic tone stopped me in my tracks when I tuned in today. I have no issues with your very strong (and well articulated) views on this and other topics (wetsuits, for example) and wouldn’t suggest for a moment that calling it as you see it – on your own blog – is out of place. Rather, I would suggest that this site is probably a port of call for many more people than you realise precisely because of your insistence on civil discourse.

    You’re a welcoming voice and culture carrier in a sport that is exploding in popularity; this list and the responses could make jumping into a pool squad for the first time seem pretty intimidating.

    For what it’s worth…

    1. Luke, this is a very fair criticism, and I appreciate you posting it. I am working on a follow-up post (possibly two) that will attempt to be a bit more “constructive” in demystifying the nuances of pool etiquette. In retrospect, I should have made more clear in the original post that there are somewhat different expectations of adherence to etiquette depending on skill and experience. Someone jumping into an organized workout for the first time is not held to the same standard as someone who’s been swimming for 25 years (like me). My vitriol was directed at folks who absolutely should know better – these are the people I usually share a lane with, not the beginners.

      1. Evan,

        I’ll look forward to the follow-up posts and take your point about beginners vs those who should know better.


  8. Here’s my pet peeve: faster swimmers who sneak up on a slower swimmer in the lane and don’t make their presence known by a foot tap. I can’t tell you how many times I almost collided with this sneaky guy in my lane when I was doing a flip turn. I knew he was going to pass me at some point but he’d always wait until doing his turn to do so and without making his presence known. There is a point where I can’t tell if he’s there unless I stick my head down deep and look back. BTW, the pool my team swims in is so small that our fast lane is made up of several different speeds so lots of lapping goes on and stealth swimming is not cool.

    1. Kirsten,

      Through 12 years of club/age group swimming and 2 years of Division 1 collegiate swimming, foot-tapping was never necessary. Indeed, touching someone else’s feet was seen as an act of aggression or annoyance.

      It’s only at the adult/Masters level that foot-tapping is somehow considered proper etiquette. And the reason, I believe, is that Masters swimmers (which include many adult-onset and less-experienced swimmers) lack “lane awareness.”

      If you are aware of what’s going on in your lane – where other swimmers are, what speeds they are going, it’s impossible for another swimmer to “sneak up” on you. Foot tapping only becomes necessary to the extent that swimmers lack lane awareness.

      Also, if you turn on the “T” (not to the far left) and always look behind you as you flip-turn, collisions will never happen. Collisions happen when the leading swimmer goes to the far left when approaching the wall and cuts off a passing swimmer. Collisions at the wall are almost always the fault of the swimmer being passed.

    2. What I hate is with me, a lot of the time the person in front of me is faster than me and then we get to the wall and their turn/off of the wall is slower than mine and I end up passing them. We then get half way down the lane and the person I pass passes me again because how it is for the team I swim with is when a person tape your foot, you stop and go off to the side, wait 5 seconds and if there is a space you keep swimming. It then ends up that we constantly pass each other the whole set. Another thing that irritates me is when some people “tap” my foot, they actually pull my leg towards them or even scratches at my leg.

  9. Loved the tone, loved the title. I don’t care about a followup post.
    Dude… you just made my day.

  10. I love the foot tap conversation. So true that, growing up, you never touched someone’s foot. Fast forward, I am always afraid to pass someone because they are never aware of me and there is inevitably a problem at the wall. Further, I have a problem with the person who is being lapped in a 500 and not only does he not just stop for second and let the passer go at the wall, but he begins racing them, thereby causing a lane to become a clusterF$K and mess up everyone’s swim-for-time.

    The other thing that bugs me is guys that never ask a girl if she wants to go ahead of them, even if she is right there the whole set. I might not want to lead, but I would like to be asked once in awhile.

  11. 7-9 are mostly harmless. Unless it impacts other swimmers, who cares? Mallory is right on with her hates and I take Amanda’s pet peeve personally.

    1. you’re right, 8 and 9 are mostly harmless. I disagree about #7, though. It’s distracting and obnoxious.

  12. I’m new to all these, however I encounter equivalents in my daily life walking down the street and often feel the angry urge to kill someone. Especially when someone passes you and then slows down, or even worse does a stop and turn. I swear I will crush these people.

    Luckily people tend to be pretty good at following the etiquette at paid gyms and don’t come en-mass with their buddies to clog up the lanes.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.