Sports Etiquette | Life. Game On!

Sports Etiquette

Behave yourself! Are you frustrated by fellow competitors who refuse to follow the rules? I am. When it comes to playing a sport few things get in the way of having fun. One of those things is etiquette.

I’ve been swimming competitively my whole life. I know the rules of the pool and I know the importance of abiding by them. I do however, also know what it’s like to walk into a completely different surrounding and have absolutely no idea what you should and should not do.

The first time I tried yoga was a nightmare. I don’t think I’ve ever walked away from something “athletic” and felt as incompetent and insecure as I did that day. It was December 26th, the day after Christmas and I was in the mood to try something new. The class schedule said the session was beginning to intermediate. I tried to pick a discreet location to place my mat but there was no place I could hide. I remember being excited but also extremely nervous. I had heard so many positive things about yoga; how peaceful it is and how relaxed you feel when you leave. I wanted to feel that way.
It was the longest hour and a half of my life. Halfway through the class the instructor came by and condescendingly pushed a block under my leg and handed me a resistance band. He said nothing. As I watched him walk away I remember thinking how passive aggressive he had become. Wasn’t this yoga? Where was my Zen teacher who embodied this trend that became a way of living? He wasn’t serene and most certainly wasn’t patient.

That was the last time I did yoga. I decided to go back to what I know, swimming. At least I would feel good about myself during and after the workout. Nowadays I’m reintroduced to sports etiquette every time I get in the pool. Half of the swimmers I train with, grew up swimming competitively and understand the laws of the land. The other half are clueless. While I have empathy for my fellow competitors who did not grow up swimming competitively and do not know any better, I find their behavior to be bothersome when they ignore the rules. There’s a scale of leeway we give beginners. As they creep toward and eventually surpass the allotted amount of time we give them to assimilate, we feel our empathy start to disintegrate.

Just the other day I had to remind someone to make space on the wall for the other swimmers in our lane. One would think that this notion would be obvious, but to him, it was not. I’ll admit I was slightly annoyed, but I didn’t let my irritation cloud my judgment or make my request come across in a negative tone. Yes, leaving room for the other swimmers to be able to complete their set and rest is a no brainer, but maybe this guy wasn’t paying attention. Maybe it was too early for him to think clearly? It was 5:45 am. When he refused to scoot over and make room, his actions showed a blatant disregard for me and the other swimmers in our lane. I officially became annoyed. This guy now knew better and he still did not care.

I am aware that some people have absolutely no concept of personal space. They’re the people who cut right in front of you on the sidewalk and insist on walking slowly while you have to dodge to get past them because you actually have some place you have to be. It’s the driver on the freeway who refuses to go the speed limit or pull into a slower lane. I know that I cannot control these people, so I tell myself their behavior is the result of them not knowing any better.

While I’m doing a better job of not letting people’s lack of etiquette get under my skin, there are times when I find this to be not only irritating but rude. At some point one must learn to modify their behavior and comply with their surroundings. But must I be the one who has to tell them? Is it my job to train these novice swimmers and make them aware of how to behave during workout?

I began to think back on all of the sports I’ve played throughout my life. Not once did a coach ever take the time to explain to me the rules of the game as it relates to etiquette. A simple concept but perhaps we’re too busy concerned with the rules of the game that we neglect to remember the down time we have in between sets that remind us there’s more to swimming than just completing a workout. There’s a culture, an etiquette we’ve been neglecting to acknowledge.


2 thoughts on “Sports Etiquette”

  1. Yeah, I Bike Like a Girl

    Biking with men often puts my stomach in knots. Do I need to blow through a stop sign like everyone else to keep up? Will this pace leader ever give up the throne or will he keep slowing us down until he gets dusted? Why is this ride always a race with no break? This fast pace seems dangerous for a multi-use family bike path. Why does the group get so belligerent toward drivers? Why do I feel like everyone has something to prove?

    I prefer to bike with women because it makes me feel motivated to cooperate, rather than to dominate. Women are more likely than men to obey traffic rules, and when they do violate them in front of me, they are more likely to apologize if I reprimand them. Men are more likely to get stridently defensive, which makes it uncomfortable for me to speak up. There are exceptions: When I reprimanded one woman in my group for splitting lanes between cars to thread her way to the front at a stoplight, she yelled “I will do whatever the f*** I want!” I know I am speaking in generalities.

    Dominance is an innate feeling that happens when men compete, such as sprinting for the top of a hill, pulling a peleton, or descending at speed. Dominance is a visceral feeling of superiority and submission. For me, it takes the joy out of cycling, and I hate it. I like to compete, but I prefer to feel an introspective drive to push my limits. It helps to have someone else near me to gauge my effort, but I do not like being pushed into a dilemma of dominance Vs failure.

    In contrast, when I compete with a woman, I feel a sense of cooperation of effort. We are both trying to do our best, and regardless of who is first, I feel a sense of joint accomplishment when we finish a strong effort. Maybe I am being sexist. Sometimes I get this same feeling of cooperation with men, but only if there is some sort of communication after a challenging effort. I interpret silence in others as a feeling of win or lose: either gloating or lamenting. So, talk to your companion when you finish a sprint, and give them an “atta-boy!” I like to get out of my athletic comfort zone, but not out of my comrade comfort zone.

  2. Totally think someone needs to speak up. It’s the way we learn. As an adult one should be able to take a hint and especially a blunt direction. To disregard such is just plan disrespectful and rude. As a fellow swimmer and coach I do feel it is our responsibility to engage with team mates that don’t know the lay of the land but find most are greatful for the tips. We all have ran into the ones who disregard helpful way and yes its very annoying. Those same people, I find to be annoying in life outside the pool/ or gym as well..

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