Wow!!! This is awesome.
I appreciate the conversations that I have read and have found a new place to visit regularly.
The topics you are discussing informs others and brings what is hidden to light, as well documenting it through articles can help to inform folks while giving thought and ideas to remedy these situations. The references below are some readings that may provide some food for thought. (See reading material below – If it is duplicated, I do apologize as I did not go through and read through all the previous posts).
One thought for me to add in the conversation relates to finding opportunities in the community to work toward developing swimming skills with folks of color.
In the community in which I live, a local YMCA and Headstart preschool program are partnering to provide 6 weeks of swimming instruction for the preschool children. This is the second year for the program (I helped instruct as a volunteer last year) and what was remarkable about the program is that it was COMPLETELY funded from transportation to swimming equipment. It takes the excuse "I don’t have the money, suit, or stuff to swim to allow my child to swim" and it is makes it pretty hard for the parents to say NO. The preschoolers were provided a bag, towel, water shoes, swimsuit, swim caps, transportation (provided by a local Wal-Mart), and access to the pool for a three hour session at the YMCA (Group of 30 split in two, physical activity session and pool session). The cool part is that eliminating all the barriers gave parents to only option to allow their child to participate – there was 98% participation among the preschool children which is outstanding. The YMCA provided three instructors, while the preschool encouraged volunteers and teachers to get in the water.
Thankfully, my wife (a preschool teacher at the facility) told me about their opportunity and about some of the concerns of her TEACHING colleagues. “Oh, I can’t get in the water, I am afraid”; “Should these kids get in the water they may drown!”
The teachers own fears were depressing and when my wife asked me to help, I jumped at the chance to volunteer my time for the program. It was a success last year and I am looking forward to helping again this year. The class, helped many of the teachers who were there overcome some fears of the water and getting in as well as encouraged the children to learn that “They won’t drown in the pool” which was a common phrase among the kids on the first few sessions.
I would encourage those of you in your local areas to investigate and see what opportunities are available. When I asked about the program and how it was funded, I understand it was funded through a grant from the local YMCA (a predominate African American Y). There may be opportunities in your area to help or even organize something similar for a specific location or if you have resources and know of people in your area, approach a facility and ask them if they would be interested in hosting a learn to swim class for children of color in your area.
Educating children at younger ages will encourage them to be less fearful, more comfortable and confident in the water. The difficulty is access to pools in communities where folks of color live and continued development of swimming skills beyond their initial learning sessions.
There are many other things I could write about relative to the posts I have read, however, from my background as Physical Education and training in the area of Teacher Education (PhD) focuses on promotion of lifelong physical activity (PA). To me one of the easiest ways to teach PA is through water activities, i.e. swimming and movement activities. Water activities are the perfect conduit to improving the physical health and other parts of self (concept, confidence). This is especially true in communities of color where the prevalence of hypertension, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, etc…. is extremely high and can be relieved if not eliminated through regular exercise. The promotion of learning to swim and developing confidence in the water among all people, but especially folks of color, is a passion that I wholeheartedly embrace and something that I support others to do as well.
I hope to get more chances to visit and share some thoughts on the topic as I work to finish my degree within the next few months.
To all who have shared responses on this topic, Thanks.
To Mr. Duplessis for starting this important discussion and to those who initiated the diversity in aquatics site – Many, many thanks.
This is a blessing to me to know there are others out there with the zeal to be a role model, mentor, teacher, promoter, and advocate for swimming among people of color.
The Mythology of Swimming: Are Myths Impacting Minority Youth Participation?
Carol C. Irwin, Richard L. Irwin, Timothy D. Ryan, and Joris Drayer
International Journal of Aquatic Research and Education, 2009, 3, 10-23
I Am Not My Hair...Or Am I?: Exploring the
Minority Swimming Gap, Dawn M. Norwood (PhD)
August 2010 -- University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Trace: Tennessee Research and Creative Exchange
You have already made a most significant contribution to eliminating swimming ignorance in your community. Your YMCA and community is definitely light years ahead of most communities that I know of, and I was truly impressed with your innovative approach to go after the funding necessary to make it happen. Teaching children to swim at an early age is most important, but reaching the parents early is really the key. I taught college students how to swim for 20+ years at Hampton University, and the stories some of the students shared was amazing. Some students were forbidden by their parents to take a swimming class out of fear of drowning. So educating these folks is part of the equation. It can be done several ways, I am sure.
Can the model program your community designed work in other communities? I believe it can. I may want to visit your location sometime in the near future. Share your information, do not keep it a secret. With your permission, I will share your program information with "My Friends" on DAP, to include Shaun and Jayson who started this magnificent program for folks like you and I to exchange ideas. How did you hear about us? Take care, you are doing an outstanding job. My email address is Errol@LakeRawlings.com - please stay in touch!
Your experience with the preschool teachers underscores one of the barriers to our children learning to swim. Adults who can't swim pass on the fear, and reject even free swim lessons in the name of protecting their children. Thank goodness you were there to counter that mentality. More black adults who can swim may be the only answer to solving the black drowning rate.
Angela commented on your comment to this discussion, and I commented on her comment, so review the thread. She was on point in observing that parents too often act out of ignorance in denying their child the opportunity to take swimming lessons. The assumption is the belief that this is the way to prevent their child from drowning. These assumptions are not valid, and are often played out in real time. Teaching fear becomes a result of that ill fated process. Stay tuned.
yes, with opportunity. I started working with several communities that did not have an aquatics program; last time they had aquatics in their community was in 92. I started lesson three years ago and now have an age group swim team, Jr. Lifeguard club, and plans to start a diving team this summer. I am hoping that in the up coming year we will also have a water polo team and syncro team. We have scholarship several of our swimmers giving them the opportunity they would not have had. One of our families we have on our team and in our jr. lifeguard is from the highest crime rate area in town, the son started out in my swim lessons then I scholarship him into our swim team. I had noticed his sister 17 would come every night with their mom. I talked to her about our jr. lifeguard but she stated she was terrified of the water. I eventually did get her to try and in two months I was able to place her on the swim team and in our jr. lifeguard club; I am looking forward to her taking the life guard test so I can employee her. It was not that she was afraid; she never had the opportunity to be in water before. I am finding that it is not skin color that is keeping these kids from aquatics it is opportunity
Thank you so much for the email and the invite. I have moved into that direction a few years ago, our level cards and training DVD's have photos of African American, Hispanic, Asian, and Caucasians. We have a foundation that supports and help fund all aquatic programs along my own company giving free swim lessons. We have developed a year round Jr. Lifeguard program (i.e. girl scouts, boy scout, sea cadets, etc.). We have introduced new aquatic programs and sports into each community and will have several more in the next couple of years. (Too many at once is to over whelming start out slow). My staff of multiple races are training and have educational requirements with daily & monthly training to keep up their certifications. If you need some help in anyway I will be willing to share my experience of 25years of professional coaching and owning my own business.One of the things that was mentioned in your latest comments was I suspect the REAL reason is that girls discover boys earlier then boys do. If this was true we would have that same ratio across the board of races. With my many years of experience of interacting with families of swimmer and swimmers themselves along with my own staff it is the hair not the boys!
You are a go-getter, for sure. We need more people like you serving as role models for swimmers in the communities around the country. Maybe we can bring a program like yours to national prominence.
I see you like to talk about hair - well, so do I. You ever hear discussions about "good hair" vs. "bad hair" or "blow hair" vs. "kinky hair"? The myth is that "blow hair" is "good hair", and that "kinky hair" is "bad hair". Of course, these terms are put-downs, when in fact all hair is good hair when clean and appropriately styled (don't ask me to define "appropriately styled", whatever that may be). But I will say this about hair as a swim teacher and swim coach. Most of my students at Hampton University were women, at least 2-1 and sometimes 3-1. These women (mostly African-American) did not complain about their hair, they dealt wit it. Many cut their hair short when they enrolled in my swim classes. A very high percentage of these students took two swimming classes at HU, at the beginner and intermediate levels. My lecture remarks at their first class session about hair was simple: we covered safety (no metal objects in hair, i.e., bobby pins, etc.); appropriate swim cap (competitive swim cap preferred, not required); and shampoo all relaxers from hair before coming into the pool. HAIR WAS NEVER AN ISSUE WHEN ENROLLED IN MY SWIM CLASSES, regardless of hair texture. The same was true when I coached age-group swimming. And participation was pretty much even between boys & girls in my experience coaching age-group swimmers.
The following remarks are related to participation in age-group development and competition swimming programs. I did notice that participation began to wane with girls in age-group swimming when they reached the age of 13-14 and high school age. Their social agenda grew, and swimming became less important. It is about that time in the life-cycle of girls that girls discover boys faster than boys discover girls (my opinion). Was it hair? Probably not. Was it boys? Well, in my daughter's experience and within her circle of friends, it was a definite "yes". But you can also characterize their choice as expanding social interests beyond swimming, and certainly not hair. Our daughter was the fastest backstroker for the Wellesley Swimming Association for almost two years, or at least until she stopped swimming competitively. For informational purpose, the WSA had 80-90 swimmers when I coached the team; there were 5 African-American swimmers on the team, and two were my children. Our son stuck with it and became a very productive competitive swimmer in high school after we moved to Virginia. His interests were the competition and the glory, and he enjoyed the sport much more so than our daughter. Our daughter had a social agenda that went beyond the training requirements of competition swimming, and the two agendas of training and social activity are many times in conflict with each other. One must choose. But she learned to swim well, and for that reason alone, she met my parental objective and goal.
African-American women who choose competition swimming will not complain about hair. They will learn to deal with it. The problem is probably less with the children than the parents (my assumption).
Another point I want to make about swimming and hair is this: When I arrived at Hampton University in July 1982 (HU is one of many HBCU's around the country; most are located in the South), there was a program called Kiddie Kollege and an afternoon swimming program for the children of the faculty and some neighborhood children. My family had not arrived until late August, so we were not involved with this program. The Kiddie Kollege program was sponsored by the Laboratory School, which was under the egis of the School of Education at HU. I was able to convince the school director and the Dean of the School of Education about the benefits of extending the Kiddie Kollege program to include a recreation program in the afternoon. We talked about developing a learn-to-swim program being the anchor of the program. We renamed the program Kiddie Kollege/Kiddie Kamp. The children swam twice a day in the afternoon, instructional swimming and recreational swimming. I was the co-director of the program for six wonderful years. I made my contribution and moved on to doing something else at HU. Hair was a factor; however, parents learned that the value of learning to swim was more important than swimming illiteracy. Hair should never be a reason to not learn a valued skill.
But let me stop here. I am sure there are more stories out there. And I want to hear them all. Take care, and I expect to meet you one day.
I am more then as you put it “go getter” I believe and live for reducing the accidental drowning rate. It is already an importance around the world and will continue as long as there is even one accidental drowning. Errol to your comment “I see you like to talk about hair - well, so do I” I was merely responding to your comment boys are the factor. I seem we have different experiences, could it be the generation gap or the community and age we worked with. Which ever it be does not matter we all learn from experience and when we take others experience digest it and use what we feel will help us makes us it makes us better. AS for good hair, bad hair, natural, straighten etc it is a matter of personal preference it is not up to you or me to state. AS for your remarks about when children started to lose interested I think it falls into different reason as the years go by and life changes, we will always tackle one issue and another will form, in all races or “tribes”. In your opinion and raising a daughter you have come to the conclusion it is social. Ashellee Sue Osborn believes it is due to lack of swim coaches and mentoring. (I do agree with her- especially on the mentoring we should adopt the Australian mentoring system)And I believe it is opportunity. We all come from different back rounds, race, economics, education, and geographic areas the obstacles we face will sometimes be the same others and some will not but as advocators of preventing drowning we need to work together to achieve our goal not dismiss each others opinions and stick to the facts and number. With raising children there come hard aches and victories. I myself have raised three daughters (one still in high school(competitive swimmer), one in senior year of collage(runs marathons), and the other out of collage(swim coach) which have all swam competitively the middle one took on competitive cross country running in high school. My experience is different then yours with their circle of friends ---- .Errol, just for informational purposes my swim team is 95% African American, put 500 African Americans children threw a six week swim lessons last year on scholarships with the help of USA Make a Splash foundation, conducted 600 swim lessons with two local park districts for the summer 96% African American, and addition held over 4000 paying lessons for the year with a mixture of Caucasians, Hispanics, and Asian. I also have an adult masters program and aqua aerobics along with a Jr. Lifeguard Club. I thank you for your opinions and have taken some good hints from you and your experience. Maybe one day our paths will cross, if you are ever in the Chicago land please feel free to stop by.