16 Unspoken Swimmer Laws


Don’t Violate These 16 Unspoken Swimmer Laws

By Allison Peters

Once, during a meet, I had a revelation. After almost being jumped on by one of my teammates during warmup, I thought to myself, “Wow, he’s really breaking a norm right now.” Then I realized the way swim meets and swim practices run are basically just dependent on a bunch of unspoken swimmer laws that help things flow and prevent fights from breaking out.

Here’s a list of some of the unspoken swimmer laws that most swimmers abide by:

1) ALWAYS go AT LEAST five seconds apart.


Unless you’re told you should go 10 or even 20 seconds behind the swimmer ahead of you, always be courteous and give a full five seconds. This does not mean push off three seconds after them, or four or two.

2) Don’t jump in a lane where someone is just about to do a flip turn.

Not only can this be frustrating, but dangerous. If you need to get into a lane, wait until the person has already pushed off past the flags.

3) If you’re doing butterfly, watch out for other swimmers’ arms.

If you’re the one doing butterfly, chances are someone doing freestyle or backstroke will not see your arm about to collide with theirs. If you’re about to hit them, pull a one arm stroke and go right back into your rhythm. This not only saves your fellow lane-mates’ arms, but prevents injury for you as well.

4) If you stop during a set for any reason, don’t jump back in front of the swimmer who never stopped.

Whether you stopped to get water, or “stretch an injury,” don’t push off ahead of someone who is working hard at completing the full set – especially if you may stop again! Slip into the last spot and just do what you can without messing someone else up.

5) Wait your turn to do a warmup start.


These lines can get longer than the lines in the cafeteria. It’s very important that everyone gets a feel for the blocks before their race so they can reduce any chance of a false start.

6) If an away team arrives to a meet and wants to get in for warmup, they should only take up half the pool’s lanes.

Unless the away team is told they have the full pool for warmup, this is just rude. Being a distance swimmer, I need at least two times the warm up that my teammates need, so I get in much earlier than them. An away team visited our pool this year and took up every lane without asking. I didn’t get to warm up as much as I needed. It not only hindered my performance in the meet, but my mentality as well.

7) Don’t lane jump.

If you’ve warmed up in lane six for the past four months, don’t switch to lane one randomly one cold morning practice. Swimmers can be territorial of their warm up lanes, especially if you moving from lane six to lane one will kick someone out who was already there.

8) Don’t drag off other swimmers during practice.

Not only are you making the set easier on yourself because you catch their wave, but you make it harder on them because they have to pull you. How will you get better as a swimmer if you don’t do the sets independently?

9) If you’re on someone’s feet, pass them!

The way to go is to tap the person’s foot when you catch them. Once you have done so give them a second to either go faster or let you pass them.

10) If someone is on your feet, let them pass!

If someone does touch your feet and you know you can’t swim any faster, move towards the lane line to let them pass or stop briefly at the wall so they can flip ahead of you.

11) Let everyone finish to the wall.

When you come in to touch the wall, touch and move over. This allows a clear path to be made so everyone can hit the wall to practice their finish and get the extra five yards in that the first person easily achieved.

12) Don’t pull on the lane lines.

Not only can other swimmers tell when you’re doing this, but the coach sees you as well.

13) When you’re kicking on your back, don’t sneak in arm strokes.

If you’re doing a kick set on your back, it’s okay to do a stroke into the turn so you can work your backstroke flip turn. But this does not mean you can take a few double arm backstroke pulls in the middle of the lane.

14) Don’t yell about the sets.

Sometimes your coach gives you a set and you go into a full-on panic mode. I completely understand this because it happens to me from time to time. But, no one, I repeat no one, wants to hear you yell about how hard this set is and how everyone is going to fail at it. Stay positive and try your best. When in doubt, just keep it to yourself.

15) Don’t steal equipment.

If I grab a kick board for myself, please don’t reach over and grab it from my lane because you’re too lazy to jump out and grab one yourself. Get your equipment before practice all ready to go so you don’t have to worry about stealing someone else’s, or having someone steal yours.

16) What happens off the pool deck stays off the pool deck.

Sometimes your teammates are your best friends. Some days, they can be your biggest enemies. I find this most frequent on college teams because the swimmers literally eat together, room together and practice together. Any beef you have with your teammates should be forgotten once you step onto the pool deck together. Once there, your job is to support and cheer for each other, no matter what has happened.

If you have any swimmer laws to share, feel free to leave them in the comments.

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Allie Rose
3 years ago

I wrote this article back in 2015! ??‍♀️❤️

John Lohn - Editor-in-Chief
Reply to  Allie Rose

You did a nice job. Added your byline to top of article.

Madison Scott
3 years ago

Megan Elizabeth Everritt

Megan Elizabeth Everritt
Reply to  Madison Scott

Madison Scott I resonate with too many of these ? particularly when we were doing that repeating 100 stroke set and couldn’t decide who should go first

Cindy Fraser
3 years ago

Jake Mackie

Jo Allan
3 years ago

Absolutely true, new & young swimmers should definitely read this!

Aaynaan Patankar
3 years ago
Reply to  Jo Allan

Jo Allan reading with my daughter … for sure

Tristan Harrison
3 years ago

How many of these have we broken Ethan Crisp Rory Thornhill

Ethan Crisp
3 years ago

Tristan Harrison absolutely none of them. I’m the perfect swimmer ??

Julie Harrison
3 years ago

Sammy Harrison very true!

Sammy Harrison
3 years ago
Reply to  Julie Harrison

I’ll have to share it with my swimmers!

Michelle Gibson
3 years ago

Joanne Ashmore, see it’s not just me that does most of these. Think a few in The fast lane need to read this (although the fast lane may not be the quite so fast lane when we get back!) x

Tom Trapp
Tom Trapp
3 years ago

Stay off the diving boards/platforms

Leila Sermek
3 years ago

Don’t pull leg of the swimmer that you are passing. We used to do that a lot when we were kids?

Ryan Peebles
Ryan Peebles
1 year ago
Reply to  Leila Sermek

Ok, new swim dad, kids first real year competing, 10 and 12 year olds. Warm ups at competition, dozens of kids in each lane(all ages 9-18 yrs). Space is tight tight. Not the regular “lane swim” on a Sunday afternoon. On multiple occasions at competition, my kids have been pulled, from swimmers behind them, either one or both legs forcing them either down under water (then they pass by swimming over) or pulled sideways into the lane rope. To me this is not of good sportsmanship and given the pure number of athletes in each lane and the age of the athletes not appropriate behaviour. Am I wrong?

Michele Rai
3 years ago

1.) & 10.)………enough said !

Kari-Hanna Espejord
3 years ago

Swimming is often compared to driving a car. Hm wonder why?

Russell Fox
2 years ago

Jordan Fox

Patchie Arroyo
2 years ago

Jacob Rex Arroyo

Michael Higgins
2 years ago

Well I guess they aren’t unspoken anymore!?❤️?

2 years ago

Please know what you are doing when you circle swim. This mainly applies to older adults who lap swim, not the teens they know what they are doing.

Terry Li
Terry Li
2 years ago

Standing or treading water in front of the T should be on here

Andrea popovics Schmalz
Andrea popovics Schmalz
2 years ago

one of my coaches who was an Olympian herself, Szekely Eva said ” only the winner alow to cry” trying to remember this all my life

Kandia Spain
Kandia Spain
2 years ago

Do not ask your coach what time it is during practice.

2 years ago

Don’t get in a lane with swimmers that are faster than you or that can maintain a faster pace than you.

11 months ago

A lot of these are correct. However, don’t touch my feet. If you’re on top of me, I’ll stop at the wall and let you pass. If you refuse to pass (which I have had people do), then you need to back off. There are very few swimmers I know who are okay with their feet being touched. And why would you care if anyone sneaks in arm strokes if they kick on their back? I frequently swim with people who are wearing fins (I don’t), but refuse to go ahead of me when we’re doing a kick set. Sometimes, I’ll take a few extra strokes so I don’t slow them down. Honestly, I don’t care if people draft off of me as long as they don’t touch my feet. I prefer to lead because I get a better workout.

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