Swimming is NOT a Non-Contact Sport


One of the more ironic aspects of swimming is that people who only see swimming on TV, and usually only once every 4 years at that, all think of swimming as the ultimate non-contact sport. They only see swimmers racing in their own wide lanes, with the only contact being an occasional hug or handshake afterwards. What a prim and proper sport!

Of course, the reality of swimming is so vastly different.  Training involves almost constant contact at every practice. You can’t have up to 10 people in a lane, swimming in opposite directions, and doing butterfly and breaststroke without having contact. It’s just impossible.  And meet warmups, at least in our area, are far, far worse. At meets, we usually have dozens of swimmers in each 25m lane, each trying to go over, around, under or through slower swimmers ahead of them. It’s not uncommon at all for swimmers to come out of the pool with scratches or bruises, and I’ve even seen bite marks. It’s crazy, stupid, unsafe and all kinds of other words. But the reality is that swimmers get use to lots of contact at an early age. 

All of this makes it even stranger when I get the occasional complaint from a new swim parent that another young swimmer bumped into their child during practice.  And by contact I mean, they accidentally bumped into or locked arms or ran into or touched the foot or many other trivial contact issues that swimmers are pretty much used to. But new parents aren’t used to that, and so they think this is unusual or a problem.

Of course, some forms of contact are strictly forbidden. But luckily I’ve found this to be extremely rare.

So, the next time you hear someone talk about swimming as a non-contact sport, just let them know they couldn’t be farther from the truth.

7 thoughts on “Swimming is NOT a Non-Contact Sport

  1. Yeah, it’s not quite like water polo though. 🙂 And I have read that one of the most trying parts of triathlons is getting through the swimming part without too many bumps and bruises as hundreds of participants start the swim together.

    1. You’re so right about water polo. But at least there’s no expectation that it’s not non-contact. I’ve heard the worst is cross-fit competitions for brutal swim starts. And triathlons also have that problem. Not sure we always do sports for our health. 😛

  2. That is true, also entering the pool can be tough, I wait to make eye contact and wave. Some people don’t get it and jump in on top of you. My biggest complaint are of occasional swimmers who hog the fast lane because “ they paid for the day.” The other issue is to please leave your expensive Rolex watch at home- nearly broke a finger on that one. One of my swimmates had his nose broken in warmup once. So, contact is everywhere. I try to swim around people or simply, say stay on the other side of the lane so; to avoid complaints.

    1. Exactly right, Susan. I think the most dangerous pool swimming is during public lap swimming, when people with no knowledge of lane etiquette get in the faster lanes. Totally unpredictable

      1. In most of the large 10k, half or full marathon races that I have run many people have no idea what their pace is or believe they’ll have an advantage by starting out in the faster pace places. So for the first few km I find you’re dodging around these people. This is much more complicated in the mostly one dimensional world of lane swimming.

I love comments, especially when they disagree with my view.

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