From USASwimming.org, By Mike Gustafson:
As we wind down the year, we turn our attention toward others in the community who are bringing a positive and profound impact on our sport’s diversity and water safety efforts. There are a few in the swimming world who strive to bring the sport of swimming to all races and ethnicities across the country, and they need to be recognized.
If you’re a dedicated reader of this blog, you know I often link to Diversity In Aquatics. Shaun Anderson heads the effort, writes the blog, and frequently uploads videos. Recently, he stopped by a swimming pool at George Washington Carver Elementary School in Compton, California. He gave a passionate and energetic speech to the kids, telling them, “If you can conquer swimming, you can conquer anything.” You can see his passion and dedication, high-fiving kids, relating swimming to broader life obstacles.
I remember meeting another personality who originally came from Compton, ESPN’s Marcellus Wiley. A first-time swimmer himself as an adult, Wiley told me that no one really swims in Compton. No one really has a backyard pool, except for one or two friends. Swimming was not part of the culture in Compton, as is the case with many high-crime areas across the country. Wiley began his swimming journey last year, when he decided to learn to swim to raise awareness about water safety in African American communities. In this video I caught up with him in his third swimming lesson ever.
I’ve personally seen the effects limited pool access and high crime has on swimming culture here in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. There is just not a culture of swimming here.
Which is why it’s vitally important that guys like Shaun Anderson and Marcellus Wiley continue to preach a message of attracting a bigger culture of swimming in African American and Hispanic and Latino communities.
In another creative example of reaching out, Sabir Muhammad, a former superstar swimmer from Atlanta, recently wrote a children’s book about swimming. The book is autobiographical, and it features beautiful and stunning images of a young swimmer in the pool. Anderson from Diversity In Aquatics caught up with Sabir in Atlanta. “For a long time, I wanted to find a way to inspire kids who I may not have the opportunity to meet, but inspire them to enter the sport of swimming.”
He adds in this interview, “We put together a children’s book about swimming, and how I used my imagination to propel me into the sport.”
Writing a children’s book to advocate swimming safety isn’t a new idea. A few months ago, someone emailed me about this cute book featuring a cartoon lion learning to swim. It is written by Kerry Grier, who hails from Zimbabwe. The book helps kids discover the sport of swimming through a cartoon animal and all his friends.
The point is, there are people out there finding creative ways to raise awareness about swimming in high-crime areas, giving back to at-risk youth, and inventing means to teach others about water safety. Some visit schools, give speeches, high-five kids, and visit them face-to-face. Others attempt to inspire people by doing it themselves, like learning how to swim as an adult. Then others write books in the hopes that they can reach young people whom they might not otherwise have an opportunity to meet.
The New Year is approaching, and as we continue this diversity blog, I will continue to search for more stories, more people giving back to the community, more people teaching water safety, more people like Shaun Anderson, Marcellus Wiley, and Sabir Muhammad. There are creative ways we can all reach out and help others learn to swim safely. I sincerely hope we continue to discover more ways, more people, and more efforts.
Here’s to a fun and water-safe year in 2012.
If you know of some stories of people reaching out and encouraging diversity in swimming, don’t hesitate to email me at Trials.Tribulations.firstname.lastname@example.org.