Situational awareness is knowing what is going on in your lane. You should know where you and your lanemates are in the pool and where you are relative to each other. You should know how fast you and your lanemates are swimming relative to each other. And you should know the strokes, intervals and distances that you and your lanemates are doing and will be doing in the near future. Situational awareness comes with experience, acting predictably and communicating with your lane mates.
You should start gaining situational awareness before you get in the pool. Look to see who the swimmers are in the lane and what they are doing. If you arrive after warm up is over, ask the coach what's going on. If the distances are short, get in the pool during a rest interval so the other swimmers can see you while they are resting on the wall. If the distances are long, stand in the water by the wall out of your new lanemates way so they may see that you are there. Start swimming at an appropriate time as to not disrupt the traffic flow.
It is every swimmer's responsibility to help his or her lanemates with situational awareness. Communication is the key. Verbally establish whether you want to swim circles or split the lane. Let your lanemates know when you want to change the order of swimmers. Make it clear to your lane mates any time you want to deviate from what is expected.
Rules of the Road
5 second rule - Unless you tell your lanemates otherwise, they will be expecting you to leave 5 seconds behind them. If you leave 5 seconds back you will be helping your lane- mates with their situational awareness.
Swim on the right side of the lane - The area above the black line should almost always be considered a restricted area. Unless you are exercising extra caution while passing someone you should keep all parts of your body on the right side of the black line. Turns should be done on the black cross in the middle. The time to merge to the black cross is after the last swimmer going the opposite direction has passed by. Backstrokers should of course swim on the left side of the lane.
The higher intensity swimmer has the right of way - If you are drilling and another swimmer in your lane is doing a set of 100s on a tight interval stay out of his/her way. This rule also applies to the swimmer who is resting. The resting swimmer should give way to those who are turning or finishing.
The faster swimmer has the right of way - Assuming two swimmers are in a set with equal intensity, the slower swimmer must give way to the faster swimmer in a passing situation or when deciding who goes ahead on the next send-off.
Dealing With Problems
If you feel that somebody is causing traffic problems in your lane, politely tell him or her exactly what you think is wrong. Everybody on SWAM wants to get along but sometimes people make mistakes. Tell the coach if the problem is not quickly resolved.
Some Other Considerations
While swimming butterfly it is difficult to stay completely on the right side of the lane. Going into a one arm butterfly may at times be prudent but people swimming butterfly should be allowed extra consideration.
A swimmer on a rest interval should shorten or lengthen that interval by a few seconds in order to reduce traffic problems with those who are coming toward the wall for a turn.
Some swimmers with more experience will deviate from these rules on occasion. Those occasions often involve one swimmer passing another without either swimmer stopping or sometimes even slowing down. This requires well developed situational awareness for all people in the lane.
Andrew Billings, Coach
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