Popular Pre-Race Rituals Found Among Swimmers

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Popular Pre-Race Rituals Found Among Swimmers

By Mauro Pacsi, Swimming World College Intern

Swimmers around the world all know what it is like to prepare for their meets and races. Preparation for meets comes with practice, but pre-race rituals are very real and are taken quite seriously. Everyone has a mix of what they like to do to get themselves ready to go, and it could be something simple or complex. In either case, every swimmer has some sort of routine they like to go through before racing. Here are some common rituals (with some fun titles) that you may see your teammates or competitors partaking in on meet day.

The Entertainer

Jul 18, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Sierra Schmidt of the United States dances on the pool deck before competing in the women's swimming 800m freestyle final during the 2015 Pan Am Games at Pan Am Aquatics UTS Centre and Field House. Mandatory Credit: Erich Schlegel-USA TODAY Sports

Photo Courtesy: Erich Schlegel/USA Today Sports Images

Those who sing or dance on the pool deck always seem like they are having the most fun. Even watching them is entertaining. They may do so to shake off nerves or just to hype themselves up, but either way, it is a sight to see! Such a bright mood on the pool deck also alleviates some tension, bringing out more smiles than serious faces. There is just no way you can watch someone dance and bop their head without smiling yourself, right?

The Chest Slapper

There is always a chance that any aggressive sprinter is going to give themselves a chest slap, especially in the 50 freestyle or in a relay. Doing so hypes themselves up and shocks them into getting ready to race, and maybe even has an intention of intimidating the competition. There have been times where I have heard so many slaps behind the blocks that it sounded like the flapping of wings. Maybe the common equation here is, a red chest equals fast swimming? Kudos to Cesar Cielo for figuring that out.

The Behind the Block Stretcher


Madisyn Cox stretches before the 200 breast at the 2019 TYR Pro Series at Richmond; Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Stretching behind the blocks is probably something you have seen most frequently as a pre-race ritual at any swim meet. I do this just before the race starts. Loosening up the body just before diving in is the primary goal here, but that is not the only thing. Stretching behind the block, to me, is the time you have with yourself to go over how you are really feeling. If you find that you are sore in one area more than another, go ahead and stretch it out. Checking off parts of your body to make sure they feel good is essential to piecing together a good race.

The Clapper

Some swimmers will clap their hands behind the starting block, while stepping up on the block, or even while standing on top of the block itself. There can be either a series of long claps or short claps. While some may disapprove of clapping, it seems like a way of welcoming the challenge. Clapping seems to represent the phrase, “bring it on.” To clap is to welcome and accept what is to come. In fact, why not applaud before the race, especially if you feel that it will be good enough to receive applause after.

The Cheer Squad

The team cheer is the most fun to partake in before the start of the meet and races. A cheer brings all your teammates together, usually in a circle, and raises moral and confidence throughout the pool deck. A good cheer can set the tone for the session and will have you roaring to race. If everyone gives their all-in cheering, then they are sure to do the same while swimming. That is especially noteworthy if the smallest team on the pool deck has the loudest cheer. Watch out!

The Water Splasher

Now, if it was not already a given that races take place in the pool, some swimmers take up the ritual of splashing themselves before diving off the blocks. It could just be a way to wake themselves up by splashing water on their face or perhaps they like the feeling of not being dry going into a race. Whatever the case may be, it is completely a swimmer’s right to do it, unless they splash so much that it goes into the lanes next to them. Nobody wants to feel like they are in a rainstorm, only to look over next to them and see water being tossed from their competitor. Keep the splashing to a minimum, please!

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