Sunday, September 27, 2009

Lane Matters

Aristotle was onto something when he started categorizing the hoo-ha out of every living and non-living thing. It’s only human nature to assign ourselves categories and if you need proof of that, all you have to do is look at a swim practice. The urge to sort themselves out by lane is primal with swimmers. You have these nice little slots to put yourselves in, so naturally you put some effort into deciding who goes in what slot and why.

Now, granted, most of the time it’s the coaches who decide who goes where. But for warmups, warmdowns and less structured workouts where you can choose your own lanemates, this is serious stuff. It’s like picking a fraternity or a sorority, except the workouts make it seem like the hazing never ends.

Lane selection can be competitive, sometimes even judgmental, and a certain type of prejudice called “lane-ism” can develop. I know of some high-school teams in the area who get rather hoity-toity about who gets shunted to the outside, slower lanes. To be a “Lane Sixer,” in one team’s lexicon, is a terrible thing. I don’t know, but if I were them I’d be afraid of the kids in those outside lanes. I’ve usually found the outside-lane dwellers to be intelligent and sarcastic. Show me a bright smart aleck who has found a reason to work hard at a sport they never win at, and I’ll show you someone who’s going to be signing Lane Three’s paychecks some day.

But with Mr. Coach’s teams, I’ve noticed that the swimmers mostly sort themselves out by communication patterns. Gloomy whiners (the “Eeyores, ” we call them) like to whine to each other. Dumb-joke specialists flock together and are ignored by the lanes on either side. Chirpy Pollyanna types are happiest together and no-nonsense masochists (often your distance swimmers) are unhappiest together. And Mr. Coach has identified a subspecies he calls the “Meek Tweezlies” who go wherever the Alpha Males or Females in their lives tell them to go.

Many lanemates develop bonds outside the pool as well. One group of Lane Four swimmers, past and present, will go out to dinner at local restaurants together and apparently are quite strict about not letting non-Lane-Four types dine with them on these occasions. Another recent group dubbed themselves “Lane Fun” and they’ve been quite aggressive with the recruiting. But that’s OK because they help each other create a happy water home.

The only type of lane you don’t like to see form is a Loveboat Lane because that always ends up being more like a Titanic Lane. Nothing sinks an aquatic romance faster than sloppy kickboard skills and fart bubbles. So if your coach tells you that you can’t swim with your GF or BF, just say thank you and go find yourself another lane. You’ve got plenty of options.


  1. so true... my guys even go so far as to swim on the left side of the lane (reverse circle swim) when we warm up at meets just so anyone who might think of invading our lane gets the hell annoyed out of them and leaves. :)

  2. Holy toledo, this is the best line I have ever read in a blog:

    "Show me a bright smart aleck who has found a reason to work hard at a sport they never win at, and I’ll show you someone who’s going to be signing Lane Three’s paychecks some day."

    That is BRILLIANT.

    On topic, my daughter's age group team isn't driven as much by which lane but by order within the lane (ones, twos, threes). Some kids get so competitive that their goal is to run over the kid in front of them to prove they should be a higher number. Which, of course, is hilarious until someone puts an eye out.

  3. Yup, you gotta love those kids who have to lead the lane for everything or else they have a meltdown!

  4. Oh, and Viking, your guys would be fine in Australia. They swim "the other side" there and it definitely took my daughter a while to remember that (ouch!) when we were living there.

  5. hmmm... driving on wrong side, swimming on the wrong side, toilets flushing backwards...
    I don't know if I could handle it. I would probably wake up and put my suit and goggles on the wrong ends.
    hows that for an image?

  6. Nice. And thanks for the pimpage on Swimming World. I just looked at my Site Meter report and thought, "Uh oh, the Russian pornographers hacked their way in again." But it was just your fault.

  7. yeah... the google search for "topless" seems to be my number one referral. hmmm.....
    makes me want to think of pornish words to name all of the pictures I use just to be able to beef up my hit count.


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