I did some people-watching during a recent swim meet. After a few heats, it dawned on me that spectators may not always know what type of behavior is expected of them. Maybe, with one post, I can help make long, hot, crowded swim meets just a bit more bearable for everyone.
Standing at the railing to watch your child swim is…well, rude. Doing this blocks everyone’s view. Let me point out that your child is not the only person in the race—there are seven other families who are just as excited to be there–but they are demonstrating common courtesy. We have all been sitting for hours waiting to see a race that may take 30 seconds or less from start to finish. You don’t want to miss a second and neither does anyone else. Please sit down.
If you want to stand up and get a better view, ask the people behind you if that’s okay. Chances are, they will say go ahead. Otherwise, you may hear people yelling, “Down in front!” Let me clear up any uncertainty you may have at that time. Yes, they are shouting at you. This also includes holding up an iPad to film your swimmer. Seriously, are you really going to watch all of those races you are taping?
If you need to leave the stands, do so quickly. Of course you will leave the bleachers at some point during meet, but when you do it, remember to move with purpose. Don’t stand up, stretch, talk to the people around you, and then stop in front of the railing to lean over and talk to your swimmer. Races move quickly, especially when there are fly-over starts, so keep that in mind.
Don’t yell instruction to your swimmer while they are racing. First of all, they can’t hear you. I asked my kids and they agree, they don’t hear much, and they certainly can’t discern your voice over the roar of the crowd. I know it’s hard to contain your excitement, but stating the obvious (i.e. “Go faster!”) or giving detailed, technical instructions are pointless at that time. All you are doing is annoying the people around you. As a friend once said, “Act like you’ve been somewhere before.”
Don’t take up more room than you need in the bleachers. Many aquatic facilities have a hard time accommodating all of the spectators, so don’t put your towel/blanket/cooler/or other items across more seats than you actually need. If you do, and you are clearly not using that space, people will push it aside to make room. As a result, tempers flare and things can get ugly. I’ve seen it.
No flash photography. This rule is enforced because a strobe light and buzzer are used to signal the start of a race so deaf and hearing swimmers begin at the same time. A camera flash may confuse a swimmer standing on the blocks and result in a false start and subsequent disqualification from a race. Grandparents in particular are prone to pulling out their cameras and trying to take photos. It is best to tell them ahead of time or leave the camera at home altogether.
Pick up your garbage. I’m always disappointed that people leave garbage on the bleachers at the end of the day. How can you walk away from your banana peel, a half empty bottle of Gatorade, or other miscellaneous trash after gathering up your personal belongings? There is no excuse for this. You know better.
Swimming is an exciting sport to watch and it is always great to see the stands packed with supporters. Just be sure you are modeling good sportsmanship and manners for those around you. Are there any other etiquette tips I forgot to cover?