The basics of pool etiquette

When swimming in a public pool, remember to keep to the right of the lane.

When swimming in a public pool, remember to keep to the right of the lane.

Just like at the gym, there are rules (sometimes spoken, sometimes not) at the pool about how you should move through the water and interact with your fellow swimmers. While following standard practices may not be necessary in an empty pool, most likely you will be swimming during peak times – evenings and weekends – with dozens of other athletes. 

U.S. Masters Swimming compiled the following list of dos and don'ts that seasoned and beginner swimmers should adhere to in a public pool: 


  • Dive into the water 
  • Grab or hold on to another swimmer
  • Hold on to the wall in the middle of a lane – move to the side
  • Stand in place, unless you are against the wall
  • Swim down the middle of a lane – shared or not
  • Swim too closely behind another athlete (tailgating)
  • Use a lane that has been pre-designated for a workout group
  • Use starting blocks unless you are participating in organized training.


  • Allow five seconds between you and the swimmer in front of you
  • Dive from the starting blocks when instructed to do so by a coach or trainer
  • Gently enter the water feet first 
  • Get out of the water if you are too tired to continue swimming
  • Stand against the wall at the lane corner if you are taking a break
  • Swim in a circular pattern, keeping to the right of the lane and moving toward the center only when you are ready to turn
  • Tap the toes of the swimmer in front of you if you intend to pass them. 

Depending on the pool or the swim group that you work with, the rules may be slightly different from what is listed above. Make sure you understand the culture before donning your Dolfin Uglies swimwear and hopping in.