I just got back from Atlanta, GA and what a wonderful weekend!
I had the opportunity to attend the Urban Classic Invitational hosted by the City of Atlanta Dolphins swim team. The long course invite (formerly known as the Chris Silva African American National Championships) was a bit of reunion for me as I got to see one of my old college team mates coaching and working with some up and coming swimmers from the metro Atlanta area. I enjoyed watching the meet and speaking with parents and fellow Rattler alumni about the “good old days”.
The meet was named after Chris Silva, the first African-American swimmer to be named to the USA National Team in 1982. He was a UCLA grad and standout swimmer for their collegiate program. The meet served as a great history lesson for me, as well as the opportunity to compete.
When I attended my first Chris Silva meet back in the summer of 2001, I was just a collegiate swimmer training and staying in shape for the next college season. Like me, some of my teammates stayed in Tallahassee, FL for the summer school. We decided to train together and swim in some meets for fun. For us, heading to this meet in Atlanta was a great way to get in some competition experience in and also we had a free place to sleep for the weekend (LOL)!
I had not witnessed a swimming meet where the teams, the coaches, and even the officials were all African-American in my days growing up. Also add to the mix that most of the college swimmers at the meet represented the three historically black colleges and universities still sponsoring the sport( Florida A&M, Howard, North Carolina A&T), the meet fueled healthy college rivalries as well as brought back together guys as teammates on their respective club teams to swim with the rising stars and win relays.
As each year went by and we keep attending this meet, it began to mean more to me. I felt that as a college swimmer, we were contributing to the longevity of the sport for young African-American swimmers. Our presence at those meets back then played a role in providing visible examples to the youngsters the fun, camaraderie, and enjoyment we had for the sport. Here we were as some young twenty-something’s swimming competitively, staying in great physical shape, and most importantly, getting our education all at the same time.
Now as a young coach, I am thankful for the "good old days” at the Chris Silva meet. I became aware of the greats that came before me such as Chris and how they achieve so much during their time. It is these experiences that manifest themselves in the work we do in and out of the pool today that can continue to drive more of our young swimmers to reach the highest of levels in the sport.