23 Thoughts Your Lap Counter Has During the 500

Photo Courtesy: Brian Jenkins-UVM Athletics

By Cassidy Lavigne, Swimming World College Intern 

At some point in most swimmers’ careers, whether it’s their event or just for training, we are faced with swimming the 500 freestyle. If you haven’t swum it, then you’re in the stands cheering, or maybe, you’ve been trusted with the important should-be-simple-but-actually-isn’t task of counting.

While distance swimmers have their fair share of thoughts during their races, so do those counting for them.

So, if you’ve been one of the many chosen ones to count for your teammate during their distance event, here are 23 thoughts that counters have during a 500:


Photo Courtesy: Cassidy Lavigne

1. I have been given an important task!

The initial reaction you have when your teammate asks to count for you. Maybe you are a pro and do this for them every meet. Maybe you are a pro but still remember that one time you messed up counting, or saw someone mess up counting, or worse, drop the counter in the pool. But you know what you’re doing, you can count.

2. What lane are they in again?

When you see the officials place the lane counters at the far side of the pool and you search for your swimmer behind the blocks getting ready, and then you spot them.

3. Nope, skip lap 1. 

As you flip the counter to lap three. Why do they even have lap 1 if no one ever uses it? Unless you’re just trying to mock your teammate. 1 down, 19 to go.

4. How do I even use the counters with the pole? 

You’ve seem them at certain meets, a long wooden stick at the top of the counter. Maybe you’ve never used one, and instead stare in awe at how much easier it is to count when you’re not sitting. Or maybe you’ve tried it and it wasn’t your thing, or saw too many others mess up with them, so you steer clear.

5. I should’ve brought a towel to sit on.

As you’re sitting on your knees blocking your teammates splash from their turn and trying to be somewhat comfortable.

6. I should’ve just worn my suit. 

See above. You’re soaked. Maybe you’re in a parka, or wrapped in your towel, either way, your sleeve is soaked from dunking your arm in (if you don’t have a pole, see #4.)

7. Could you have any more of a splashy turn?

See #6

8. Did I change it already?

Did you change it after they flipped on your side or the far side? You remain calm but have a slight panic in you..

9. Wait, lane 6 is on lap 13 and they’re pacing with them, so it’s lap 13. 

…So you start cross checking.

10. Is coach telling me to shake the counter now?

Because coaches never look right at you, they just wildly wave their arms.


Photo Courtesy: Taylor Brien

11. No, it’s up and down not side to side.

This is based off of personal preference, some even don’t like any movement from the counters: “Side-to-side is just obnoxious,” my teammate once told me.

12. Okay, they’re at the flags in 3,2,1… and in the water.

Just your typical counter trying to time out when to put the counter in…

13. …last stroke, and pull up.

…and when to move it out of the way for the turn.

14. Did I place it too early/late?

See #11 and #12.

15. What is their pace?

Lap counters cheer and know their teammates records too!

16. They’re slowing down.

I would’ve been tired too.

17. They’re speeding up!

As they close in on the leader and make their move.

18. (At halfway mark) I would’ve been dead by now.

Thoughts from a sprinter-mid-distancer.

19. The timer in lane 4 is cute.

Distractions, distractions.

20. They’re in the lead!

Even though we aren’t the ones doing the racing, there is a lot of pride that comes from counting if your teammate is in first.

21. Just took out 17, and we skip 19, flash red. 

The conversation you have when you skip a number, similar to not using 1, except now its more exciting.

22. Go go go!

Paired with vigorous arm shaking in the water and using the last of your voice to cheer for your teammate on their last length.

23. Whewf…made it!

And feeling just as happy for your teammate that they finished their race.

All commentaries are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Swimming World Magazine nor its staff.



  1. Karen Jean Childs

    Interesting!! I swam the 500 free in high school 🙂

  2. Merry Burns

    Sheryl Webster lmao please show Bridget! 😘

  3. Zach James

    I went to state for the 500…. I could swear it was like drawing straws to find a counter

    • Caitlin Daday

      Somehow I can see these being your exact thoughts 😂

    • Gwe Marie

      It was my pleasure!
      8,9,20 & 22 are SPOT ON!!!! Thanks for the laugh & fun memories!

  4. Andrew Garcia

    Noah Houskeeper number 7 👌🏼👌🏼

  5. Tami Stensby

    Felicia 18 & 19 are personal favorites!

  6. Heidi Ho

    Laurie Ann O’Shea

  7. Ally Webb

    Kaitlyn Flynn💝😂

    • Kaitlyn Flynn

      You think I would be good at it by now lol

    • Ally Webb

      lolol your better than you know who😂

    • Lori Peternell

      I remember counting for Kathy one time and fell in! 😂

    • John J. Coan

      Lori Peternell haha! That is funny!

    • John J. Coan

      You probably dozed off in between laps for Kathy Wright Brown

  8. Jordan Little

    Megan Elizabeth Steen Only one year left as my personal slave-I mean lap counter

    • Erin Kelley

      I’m telling you right now that I mainly am trying to see if I’m on the right number

  9. Adil Assouab

    Is that what was going through your head back in the day haha Derek Allender

    • Paula Nolte

      This is the truest thing I’ve ever read 😂😂

    • Sophie Moody

      Always- would never EVER think of doing that

    • Sophie Moody

      Would never make such a rookie mistake

  10. Vee Vanderpoel

    We wouldn’t know bc we are blessed Katherine

  11. Fay Kilburg

    Amy Robinson Tara Wilsey-Slater Renae Miller Conlee

    • Renae Miller Conlee

      Ha ha, Yep I would have been dead by now! I remember Tara looking like she wanted to die after finishing her 500 once. We had some really great times didn’t we?!

    • Tara Wilsey-Slater

      Lol… there was no mention of yelling french fries. Or the swimmer yelling obsenities as they did flip turns…lol

    • Tara Wilsey-Slater

      Maybe those r unique experiences. Yes we had great times. Minus swimming the damn 500

    • Amy Robinson

      I remember being so happy when I was the counter and not the swimmer 🙂

  12. Mary Gus

    Sarah Yukiko ❤️❤️

    • Sarah Yukiko

      the good old days when i could actually swim a continuous 500!!!

    • Sarah Yukiko

      you were the world’s #1 counter everyone must know

    • Mary Gus

      Sarah Yukiko the dream team

  13. Ellie Mackintosh

    Escadar Alemayehu Elena Staver Gabrielle Camp-Lagueux

  14. Anthony J Martinez

    My best friend Jaime Amaya was usually my counter in high school. And once I was his counter.

  15. Liz Hughes

    Patricia McCabe this is pretty accurate!!!

  16. Sara Mamie

    Joël Jossi stahne trotzdem immr zur verfüegig hahahaha

  17. Harrison Rodts

    Logan Ziegler I’m sorry for all the hardship I put you through

    • Logan Ziegler

      It was honestly about 97% of the work

    • Mariana Mb

      😂😂😂😂😂Pero no eran 500 eran como 58780633

    • Rachel Barczyk

      haha i saw this and thought about you!!

  18. Kallie Farley

    Kristen Dawson thanks for all your counting 😘

    • Jessica Ryabin

      Omg so accurate!! I feel such a responsibility when I count for you…I can’t mess up! Commence with panic, pace checking, and loud cheering. Would not replace with anything <3

  19. Joel Woodruff

    lol I had those thoughts many times!

  20. Kirsten Copeland

    Marisa….this reminded me of counting for you!

Author: Cassidy Lavigne

Cassidy Lavigne is a rising senior at Soka University of America. She swims sprint-mid-distance freestyle and butterfly for the Lions in the NAIA. She grew up in Marin County, CA.

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