Swimming etiquette: Unwritten rules of a public pool | india | Hindustan Times
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Swimming etiquette: Unwritten rules of a public pool

There would be few among us who have not been victims of the public pool, at the receiving end of pool atrocities by overstimulated kids and frazzled parents. Unfortunately, manners often go right out the window in public spaces like the pool.

india Updated: Jul 11, 2012 13:09 IST

There would be few among us who have not been victims of the public pool, at the receiving end of pool atrocities by overstimulated kids and frazzled parents. Unfortunately, manners often go right out the window in public spaces like the pool.

Rules documented by signs are usually followed, as we know the lifeguards or pool wardens will tick us off, if we break them.But the unspoken rules are a lot tougher. Rules of etiquette may not be focused entirely on safety but their importance cannot be undermined.

Every swimmer demands and deserves basic courtesies -simple, mostly instinctive, extensions of basic good manners.To keep the poolside experience as enjoyable as possible, make sure your family and you follow these simple rules ofetiquette in the pool.


Yes, your child's hygiene habits reflect on the whole family and will directly impact your social status at the pool. Stay on top of the pecking order by making sure all grime is confined to the bathroom. There isn't enough chlorine in the world to kill all of the germs that people bring into the public pool - a virtual bacteria party originating from sweat, urine, and such.

The way out is a simple shower with soap and warm water before jumping into the pool. Kids need to be instructed firmly about using the bathroom beforehand and NEVER, EVER, even in an emergency, to use the pool as their personal toilet. Babies and toddlers must wear waterproof swimming diapers only and diaper changes need to happen in the bathroom, too.

Almost all pools insist on swimming caps for swimmers with long hair and that rule must be followed strictly asthere is nothing more disgusting than swimming along with loops of dead hair!

Another critical must for children is to use the gutters around the pool for spitting out swallowed pool water or blowing their nose. In a crowded pool, even sharp and long fingernails or protruding jewellery can easily scratch other swimmers, and need to be taken care of.

Respect other's space - in and out of the swimming pool

Out of the Pool:

It is a test of skill trying to get showered and changed in a crowded changing room anyway. Can you imagine how much more annoying it can be, if you have to fight your way through a pile of someone else's towels and bags? If lockers are not available, keep your things in one neat pile and avoid spreading out everywhere; whether you're in the change room or by the side of the pool.

In the Pool:

This is where respecting another swimmer's space is more critical - more for all-round safety but as an important rule of etiquette as well. While getting into the pool, carefully check for the position and speed of other swimmers. Children must also do this before diving or jumping into a lane, or entering a lane from the side (i.e. under water).

Diving is absolutely prohibited in most pools these days and for their own safety, children must strictly follow this rule. They must also respect the demarcation of lanes that is made in most pools - active lap lanes meant for serious swimmers and lanes where slower swimmers and children can hang around. The slow lanes are also the ones meant for people doing aqua-exercises.

Dress appropriately

Wear suitable swimwear that fits you well, does not get in anyone's way is and is not too radical for a public pool, where people of all ages congregate.

Keep noise levels down

Kids are in the pool to enjoy themselves and no one will object to playful shouts and laughing. But the minute the playful shouts turn into unnecessary shrieks, you need to ask them to calm down, before they are ticked off by anyone else. Adults are often as much to blame for "noise pollution" as children. Blasting loud music from portable music players is one of the most common pool-etiquette violations. Have fun in your own way, just don't force that experience on everyone else around you.

Watch your kids

Again, kids will be kids and need to be left alone to have fun, but not at the expense of other pool visitors. Lifeguards should not have to be responsible for disciplining children; they need to focus their attention on potential drowning victims and other hazards of swimming.As a parent, you're in charge of keeping your kids polite and respectful and to ensure that they follow the rules of the public pool, like walking instead of running on the sides and not getting too boisterous in the water.

Respect property of other swimmers

It is tempting to reach out and play with a swimming toy just lying around unused. But unless you have obtained permission from the owner of the object, you should not even "borrow" kickboards, fins, hand paddles, balls etc. Maybe the owner isn't doing something with that toy at the moment but he may have plans to incorporate it into his workout in just a few minutes - or seconds.

Respect the lifeguard

How many times have you seen a lifeguard being yelled at simply because he ticked off someone for not following basic safety procedures? The lifeguard is just doing his job - and a very important one at that - keeping us and our children safe. The least we can do is treat the person with respect and not take offence at being asked to obey rules. Just a little common sense, some basic courtesy and consideration - observed by everyone - can go a long way towards making swimming safer, more pleasant, and more efficient for all.