The Warm-up Pool War Zone

By Emily Mason

PHOENIX, Ariz., August 10. IT’S early in the morning and the warm-down pool is already swarming. Etiquette is often forgotten or is simply unknown to various teams, not to mention the different styles of utilizing pool space. For example, some teams circle swim beginning to the left instead of the right. A rumor circled one day on deck that the Australians don't really swim reverse in Australia, but just do so at international meets to keep others out of "their" lane.

I ended up in one of these lanes, which also happened to be a pace lane. How bad could it be to do a 400, 300, 200, 100 going 50 free and 50 fly? Real bad. I am used to turning off my right arm coming down the right side of the pool, but coming down the left is another story. I'm pretty sure those were the slowest turns of my life because my coach, Frank (Busch), was just laughing at me.

On my last 100 with the 50 all out, a guy tried to change the direction we were swimming and was headed straight for me. I saw him right away. It's kind of hard to miss a train heading toward you. Frank was whistling at me, to warn me, but I was being stubborn and wanted my 50 split. It was pretty much a game of chicken, and I won, he moved over.

I'm pretty sure someone dove into me while pacing fly, too. It was like a tsunami when I came up for a breath. I probably swallowed half the pool, not to mention it ruined my split. I tend to get a little obsessive-compulsive about my splits pre-competition.

Back to etiquette though, there are many different types of offenders. The ones that drive me the most nuts are the clusters standing or hanging off the walls, leaving no room to turn. Being the non-aggressive type, I have very seldom had the heart to flip-turn on someone, but this meet tested my patience. They just stand there like chickens, squabbling in a language I can't understand, completely oblivious to the frustration they cause, but hey they're having fun.

Strange to me were the swimmers who might not have known how to swim much at all. They caused terrible traffic jams where two or three people would try to pass at the same time. We're talking about swimmers who swim a 50 breast in over 50 seconds trying their best. I feel like a bad person for being so critical, but it happens.

Stranger still were the ones who stopped in the middle of the pool to look around. Casually they stopped, stood up and just turned around in circles. Of course this only led to more problems. Someone doing fly would smack them in the head and stop to check if they were okay. The offenders just brushed it off and continued to stand still, as if nothing happened, as if they didn't mind being smacked in the head by a 7-foot German pacing fly. I just don't understand, but it made me think of pinball.

Another particularly infuriating move during warm-up is someone pushing off the wall in front of you when you are three-quarters of the way through your turn. So when you push off you are at their shoulders. It's even more criminal when you are obviously going faster than they are planning to or even could go and you have to pass them anyway.

My roommate mentioned the bothersome warm-down she had while trying to pass a backstroker. Unfortunately it was more than one pass too, she had been doing fifties and kept getting ahead of her again when she stopped at walls. As she moved up to pass him, he would latch on to the laneline and pull himself ahead with one arm, making her attempts at passing nearly futile.

Don't get me wrong, the facilities provided to us were amazing, but warm-up always, always is like this. It's just part of our day, it's not so much complaining when we discuss it, but more like story telling. Some of us even have battle scars from rougher collisions. I, myself, mauled a younger girl at the Santa Clara meet in California. We both had been warming up in the diving well with no lanelines and no markers. It just so happened we pushed off of opposite ends at the same time in the same direction, both sprinting. We both were fine, no injuries, but she was really about the size of my leg and I felt awful.

So much of this is unavoidable, due to crowds, but I must emphasize etiquette. Number one, if sitting on the wall stay to the sides, there are others who are not as kind as I am and they will flip on you. Number two, do not push off in front of someone you can see is going faster than you. Number three, if someone is trying to pass you, scoot over as much as possible to help them out, karma is a good thing. Number four, for your own sake, do not stand in the middle of the pool, you are a sitting duck for getting whacked. Number five, do not warm up in a designated pace lane, it's annoying. Help out your fellow swimmers, end warm-up pool stress!

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