Best Advice for Swim Meet Etiquette

Swim meets are often loud, busy, and chaotic. And in the midst of them are several unspoken rules for proper swim meet etiquette. While these vary by location, some rules remain the same. 

Related article: Swim Meet FAQ

If you’re new to swimming, we’ve compiled some basic swim meet etiquette to help get you started. And help you ensure that your first or next swim meet goes as smoothly as possible!

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1. Respect Other Swimmer’s Belongings 

Swim meets can be crowded and when they are, space is limited. This makes it hard at times to find a place to sit and put your belongings. 

It’s tempting to push swim bags off to make room for yourself or step all over someone’s towel. And some swimmers will! But it’s poor swim meet etiquette and you’re more likely to be yelled at for it. 

Related article: The Rudest Things Swimmers can do at a Meet (coming soon)

Or worse, you might break something.

You wouldn’t like it if someone moved your swim bag or sat on your towel. So don’t do the same to someone else 🙂

2. Mind the Designated Lanes

All meets have designated lanes for starts and turns. And if you’re at a Masters swim meet, there’s a dedicated lane for 65+ swimmers.

It’s important and in good form to acknowledge what each lane is designated for. If the lane is for pacing only, don’t get into the lane if you don’t plan to pace. This makes it frustrating for the swimmers who need to use the lane for its specific purpose.

Related article: Simple Swim Meet Terms

Just as you shouldn’t be swimming in a lane specifically for starts. This is incredibly dangerous for everyone.

Typically, it’ll be announced when and which lanes to clear for pacing and starts. You can usually find this in the meet information, too. Some meets may also have these marked as regular warm-up or pace lanes.

Designated lanes aren’t created to make things more frustrating for you. Rather, they’re there for everyone’s safety.

3. Be Mindful of Other Swimmers in the Pool 

As best you can, be mindful of the other swimmers in the pool. Whether that’s during general warm-up or in the cool down/warm-up pool.

And yes, we know. General warm-up is like a free for all brawl. And the cool down pool isn’t much better. They’re typically crowded beyond capacity, making it difficult to do anything and you’re usually kicked more than once.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t show respect at the same time. 

Take care not to jump on another swimmer when entering the water. If you can, let those know on the wall that you’re planning on getting in. And don’t push off in front of someone else if they’re sprinting and you’re not. 

These same rules apply to the warm-up and cool-down pool, too. If you’re cooling down, be mindful of those who need to warm up. Let others go before you if you’re kicking or plan to work technique.

5. Don’t Sit on the Wall

It’s both practice and swim meet etiquette, but don’t sit on the wall. The pools are already crowded enough as it is. And for those who need to warm up, swimmers sitting on the wall get in the way.

It’s disrespectful to other swimmers and you’re more likely to have someone flip turn on you. Or run into you on a finish. And you’ll be at fault. 

Related article: Best Advice for Swim Meets

That said, if you’re done in the pool, get out. Don’t sit around and have a conversation. It’s frustrating for those who still need the pool and wall space to prepare for their next race. Or swimmers who need to cool down properly.

6. Don’t Block the Deck Space

Again, we know this is a hard one. Deck space is often limited at most pools and between coaches, swimmers, and officials walking around, it’s easy for traffic jams to occur.

But part of having good etiquette at a swim meet is being aware of your surroundings.

Don’t stop or stand in the middle of the walkways where people are walking. Just as you shouldn’t be looking at your phone and trying to walk at the same time. You tend to slow down or run into people.

While unintentional, it impedes those who are trying to get somewhere.

Instead, try to ensure that you’re not blocking any walkways. Whether that’s when you’re talking to someone or watching a race. It’s an simple way to make swim meets easier for everyone 🙂

7. Move out of the Officials Way

Every swimmer has been at a meet where there’s one official who ferociously protects their area of the pool. And to be fair, they have a vital job!

For those officials who walk up and down the side of the pool, it’s important that they have a clear path. This means swimmers (and coaches or parents), shouldn’t be hanging over the gutters or rope barricades.

If the pool doesn’t have a roped-off area for the officials to walk safely, try not to crowd too close to the edge. Give them enough space to walk the length of the pool. And don’t take offense if they nudge you back or ask you to move.

You can always cheer and encourage your teammates from over the roped-off area whenever the official isn’t near that spot. But when they come back around again, make sure you move out of their way. 

8. Practice Good Sportsmanship 

It should go without saying, but put your best self forward. At swim meets and at practice! 

No one likes watching or listening to a swimmer with an inflated ego or someone who constantly puts down others. It’s in bad taste and it’s lousy swim meet etiquette. You’re more likely to drive people away with a bad attitude.

Instead, practice good sportsmanship as often as you can. Will you have bad days and bad swim meets? Yes! But as best you can, don’t take it out on other swimmers.

Some ways to practice good sportsmanship are:

  • Offer words of encouragement to teammates and even other teams!
  • Don’t be negative 
  • Steer away from trash talk
  • Stay humble 
  • Congratulate the lanes around you after a race
  • Support and cheer on your teammates
  • Help other swimmers with caps and adjusting straps 

These are only a few examples of ways that you can be a better swimmer at meets. You can celebrate your victory and still be humble and graceful about it. Never think that you’re below congratulating someone. 

And remember that there is always someone who looks up to you and sees you as a role model. So be generous in your support and humble in your wins. You never know who you’re inspiring. 

9. Thank the Officials, Timers, and Volunteers

We feel that this isn’t done enough but thank everyone who helped the meet run smoothly. 

Let the timers know that you appreciate their efforts and thank the officials for their time. Without them and others, we wouldn’t be able to run our swim meets.

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It’s a little gesture but it’s still an appreciated one!

10. Pick up After Yourself

At the end of the meet, do everyone a favor and pick up after yourself. That means that you recycle any plastic water bottles, take back any hotel towels that you used, and throw away your trash. Better yet, invest in a reusable water bottle so you’re less likely to forget it.

Not only is this good swim meet etiquette, but it’s the right thing to do. At the end of each meet, someone has to clean up and you shouldn’t make their job harder for them. Especially as you’re a guest at the facility. 

As always, to happy swimming!

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Bonus Content

What to Bring to a Swim Meet: Not sure what to bring to a swim meet meet? Here’s a list of essential items to pack in your swim bag for your next swim meet.

How to Prepare for a Swim Meet: (coming soon)


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