Pool Etiquette

NOTE: The following article is an excerpt from "The Complete Book of Swimming" by Dr. Phillip Whitten. The book is published by Random House, and is available through the SwimInfo web site www.swiminfo.com and Amazon www.amazon.com. This excerpt is reprinted with permission from the author.

Pool Etiquette

by Dr. Phillip Whitten

You are just about to begin training. But before you do, a brief word about pool etiquette is in order. Every day more people are getting in the swim. Indeed, in many parts of the country, pools are filled to capacity. These people range in ability from rank beginner to accomplished athlete; from individuals who are focused completely on their own movement up and down the pool to those who are continuously aware of the position of every person in their lane. To avoid conflict, and make everyone's experience more enjoyable, a number of conventions have grown up over the years. Here they are in brief:


1. Lane designations. In most pools, lanes are designated as slow, medium, or fast. These are relative terms. Choose a lane compatible with your speed, then notify the others in the lane that you are joining them.

2. Swimming pattern. If there are two of you in a lane, you may opt to keep to one side of the lane; the other swimmer will stay on the opposite side. Three or more swimmers in a lane must circle swim. In the United States, Canada, and most of the rest of the world, the custom is to stay to the right, that is to swim counterclockwise. (As you might expect, in Great Britain, Australia, and a few other Commonwealth outposts, swimmers circle clockwise. When will these people get it right?)

3. Joining a workout. If there is a workout set in progress, you may join only as part of the set.

4. Speed. Slower swimmers must yield to faster swimmers.

5. Passing. Pass on the left (on right in the United Kingdom and Down Under). Tap the foot of the person in front of you before passing. If you are being overtaken at the turn, stop, and wait until the other swimmer has pushed off.

In addition, observing several rules of common courtesy will be helpful.

1. Do not stand in front of the pace clock.

2. Entering. When you enter the water, never dive, jump, or push off into oncoming swimmers. Wait until they have made the turn and pushed off.

3. Stopping. If you need to stop, squeeze into the corner to the right of oncoming swimmers, so they will have sufficient room to turn.

4. Push off underwater. This will reduce the waves encountered by oncoming swimmers.

5. At all times be aware of what is going on within your lane. Also try not to kick or swing your arms into another lane.

6. Keep your toenails and fingernails trimmed.