Lane Etiquette

Tips for Lane Etiquette

Check out these tips for smoother swimming in the lane. If ever you have a question regarding lane etiquette, please ask the coach!

Lane Leading

Who should lead the lane? Nothing makes a set run smoother than a great lane leader. The first swimmer in the lane must understand the set and all the intervals, be able to see and read the pace clock and have a good sense of pace. If you typically take it out fast and fade, you are better off swimming the set behind a teammate who will pace the set better. The Lane Leader should use common sense and realize that the way he/she swims the practice affects everyone in the lane. The other swimmers need to support their Lane Leader, politely correcting errors and electing new leaders at the correct times.


With the number of swimmers in our lanes, the need to pass another swimmer in a long swim is almost inevitable, especially in distance sets. The key to keeping the lane running smoothly and help all the swimmers keep focus on the practice is to determine the passing strategy for the lane before the set begins. Communicate with your lane mates to determine what will work best everybody in the lane! Passing in the center in a crowded lane is dangerous and not recommended. Instead, we recommend using this common set of general guidelines across all our lanes:

It is best to make the pass at the walls rather than in the middle of the laps. Here is how it works:

  • Passer: Gently taps feet of Passee.
  • Passee: At the next turn, pulls over to the Right Corner and stops.
  • Passer: Makes flip turn at Left Corner of wall.
  • Passee: Starts swimming again, behind the Passer.

In general , when circle swimming in practice, swimmers should make their turns at the Left Corner of the lanes. As soon as the swimmer ahead of you finishes his turn and goes by, you should swim towards the center of the lane, make your turn to the left of the cross on the wall, and push off on what is now the right-hand side of the lane. If everyone does their turns this way, we will avoid crashing in to each other.

With regards to resting on the wall in the middle of swims, swimmers should hang on the wall in the Right Corner of the lane. This will allow the other swimmers to continue to make their turns in the Left Corner without interference.

Also, when finishing your swims, be sure to finish as far to the left as possible so that the swimmers behind you have some room to your right to finish as well.

Arriving Late and Leaving Early

With the hectic lives we are leading, it is almost unavoidable that all of us will arrive late to practice on occasion. When arriving late, you will want to consider that the practice has been designed from warm-up through cool-down, and when you hop into the action midway, you will not be getting the maximum benefit from the practice. Late arrivers can potentially disrupt the flow of a lane if they are not considerate of those busy in the main set.

Here are a few things that you can do to integrate into the practice more smoothly when arriving late:

  • Talk with the coach to find out what set the lane is doing and how far through the set they are. Do not expect the swimmers to stop and explain it to you.
  • Wait until the swimmers are resting at the wall to announce your arrival. Do not surprise them by just hopping in and swimming behind them. This often leads to collisions.
  • Swim at the tail end of the lane and warm-up slowly before raising your heart rate. Once you are up to speed and the interval allows, adjust your position within the lane to one most appropriate for your speed.

Arriving late, early departures are just part of our tightly scheduled days. Before the set begins, let your teammates know that you will be leaving early. This is particularly important if you are leading the lane. Those behind you will want to make sure they understand the set, the intervals and the send-off times. Also, once you’ve escaped to the showers, use the hot water sparingly. Those following you when the workout is completed will appreciate it!

Starts and Turns

Negotiating the walls properly leads to a smoother running lane. Imagine that it is Wednesday morning, you are feeling great, and you’ve found a great rhythm. The lane is crowded, but has run smoothly through the first half of the main set. Then it happens: a traffic jam at the wall. There are people all over the place and no place to turn. The swimmer in front of you just about clipped you coming out of his turn. You begin to think it is safer to be on Highway 101 right now! You’ve lost your focus, your count, your rhythm, and your enthusiasm, and the rest of the practice is a waste.

How can this be avoided? Follow these guidelines for negotiating the walls in your lane and you will encounter less traffic hazards:

  • Pushing Off: The leader in the lane should always be on the far right side of the lane, ready to push off into the swimming lane. The other swimmers should move to the right side of the lane as their turn to push off approaches and as the people ahead leave.
  • Turning: As you approach the wall for a turn, cross over to the far left hand corner of the lane once the people ahead of you have passed by. Make your turn in the left corner of the lane, and push off along what is now the right side of the swimming lane. If you experience crowding at the walls and there are a limited number of swimmers in the lane, consider leaving with 10 seconds between swimmers.
  • Finishing: As in turning, finish as far to the left in the lane as possible. Leave wall space so that the swimmers behind you have an opportunity to get to the wall.
  • Passing: Communicate a passing strategy within your lane before the set begins. The same strategy will not always work in all lanes. If you stop for any reason in the middle of the set, stay to the far right corner of the lane, out of the way of the other swimmers. See the comments above.

Modifying the Practice

Generally, the coaches frown upon modifications to the practices since they have designed each one with certain goals in mind. However, our Masters Swimmers are free to adjust the sets as they like. Nevertheless, when only some or one of the swimmers in a lane is making adjustments, there can be problems. All the swimmers in a lane need to discuss on modifications before beginning the set, and they need to agree on the new plan. If it is inevitable that people will be swimming different sets but sharing a lane, they all need to use the proper passing techniques discussed above to stay out of one another’s way. That said, the people who are following the coached practice will get priority within a lane over the others. For Example: if you decide you want to swim freestyle during a non-free workout or you are wearing fins, you still need to work with the intervals assigned to the lane you are in.

Showers, Sinks, Mirrors, and Electrical Outlets

This is a “hot” issue indeed! It is not proper etiquette to bask, shave, and/or brush one’s teeth in the shower, when fellow swimmers are waiting. Our hot water supply is limited, and it would be more courteous to shave legs or bask after everyone has had the opportunity to get a basic shower. Considering that we are supposed to be an environmentally conscious group, it’s also kinder to Mother Earth to shave faces and brush teeth at a sink where the tasks could be performed with a quart or two of water, as opposed to a number of gallons.

Be sure to share the sinks, mirrors, and electrical outlets with your teammates as well. If you aren’t in a hurry, let someone who is get on their way.

Pool Covers

This can be a very sensitive topic. Everybody knows that the covers must be removed to allow us to swim. We are all adults (God bless Masters Swimming!), and we all understand that we should pitch in and do our part to keep the team running.

That said, everybody needs to realize that there are several valid reasons why a swimmer may not be able to pull covers on some days. They could have an injury or they pull covers so often that they’ll take a well-deserved day off.

What we ask is that if you are capable, you make your best effort to arrive to the pool 15 minutes early to help.  If you arrive a little later, step in and take over for those who have already removed some covers.  If there is something that is preventing you from pulling covers, you can also help the coach by bringing out the carts.


Following all the guidelines above will help make our practices more beneficial and enjoyable for everyone. It is also important to have a good attitude about the practices and your lane mates. We train very early in the morning, so it is understandable to be grumpy during practice. However, there is no reason to take it out on your teammates. If you are looking for a conflict, please don’t get in. Thanks! 🙂

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