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Krystal Lara is one of very few Latinas in her class at Stuyvesant High School, and in the pool. She’s backstroking her way toward the Olympics.

From The New York Times:

Her Parents Thought Swimming Lessons Were a Good Idea

Krystal Lara is one of very few Latinas in her class at Stuyvesant High School, and in the pool. She’s backstroking her way toward the Olympics.…

Former Yale swimmer Siphiwe Baleka

Good video about former Yale swimmer Siphiwe Baleka


It makes sense that black swim teachers are good for black children. The question I have is do black swim teachers have a harder time with non-black students? We know all about how racism affects access in the pool. Does it also affect employment in the pool? What are your experiences with this?

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Racism is part of the American culture. Period. Having said that, I had some experiences that helped to grow me into the person that I am. But the question really is: "If you are truly about the business of teaching swimming, does it really matter what the 'other tribe' is thinking?" I really do not care what other people think of me. I would be more concerned about what is done than what is said. After graduation from college, I wanted to work as a swim teacher and eventual aquatics director at a swimming pool. I had just moved to New York City. I applied for jobs with the Recreation Department as a playground director and as a pool director - I got the playground (that was in March 1963). It turned out to be a great job while attending grad school. Fast forward to 1979, I met a man who hired me to work as the swimming director for a day camp program at a country day school in Wellesley, MA. There were three of us in that camp program - myself and our two children. It was a great experience, and he allowed me the freedom to develop a swimming program for all to enjoy and benefit from. After that experience, he gave me his job to caoch an age group swim team for the Wellesley community. We won their first ever swimming championship. The parents bought into the program, and the rest was history; that was in 1980. Fast forward to 1987, I was asked to coach the Kecoughtan high school swim team by a group of parents in Hampton, VA. There were two black kids on the team, my son (who was an excellent sprinter), and another kid, plus one Asian kid. It was a very large team. Hampton University gave me permission to coach this team so long as it did not interfere with my primary duties. Well, after the first team meeting at the high school, most of the parents pulled their girls off the team, and we were left with 5 or 6 girls. After the first meet, when we creamed the top team favored to win districts, some of the girls came back. They had attitudes, and after meeting with the boys, half the boys wanted to kick these girls off the team, and the other half did not care. We had a very strong boys team that beat everybody, and I could count the number of races the boys lost on one hand after four years. Racism? Perhaps! Did it affect my employment? No! This is a good question you raise, Angela. It will be interesting to read about the experiences of others and how they responded to racism. Good job!
Speaking as one who has only been a student, I do harbor the dream of coaching open water marathon swimmers. At the moment - to my knowledge - most marathon swim coaches are not people of color. I'm hoping to change this by getting children and even adults interested in considering long distance open water swimming. I recently had a conversation with a man who swam the English Channel and told him about my scheduled attempt of The Cook Strait in 2013, "If I'm successful," I said to him, "I'll be the first African American to do it." "That's great." He replied. I looked on at him and told him that although it would be a marvelous achievement I'd rather have been the 22nd one to do it, or the 300th. My point is that when someone whose White swims that Channel, The Cook, Gibraltar, Santa Barbara Channel etc they know many that have gone before them and have people that can inspire them. Who do we have other than Charles Chapman the fist African American to swim the Channel back in 1981? I'd love to swim The Cook and go on to coach others to swim there and other long distance swims. I want to inspire kids and adults to swim some of the great bodies of water. When I think about coaching someone I think about them doing something that so few have done that they can look back on it for years to come and know they are in very rare company. I am planning to hold open water clinics geared towards people of color but open to all that want to try it out and see how it might change their lives. Maybe this will be my start into the coaching profession.
That's a great idea, Naji! I hope you are very successful.

 Excellent point you raise Angela!!!!!!

As a teacher of children with mixed races in my classes, I did not incur any difficulties in teaching black students than I did white ones.  Children that truly want to learn, and those whose parents see the value of doing so, were not concerned with my race, as a teacher.  All they wanted was their children learn to swim and see progress in the process.  I guess I was fortunate that I didn't experience this, but that's not to say this wasn't the case for some other black swim instructors.  However, I did find that the higher maturity level of the individual, the lessor chance a black swim instructor will experience friction from those of non black ethnicity that truly were interest in learning how to swim.  Another factor, I believe was an asset to me not experiencing such sad occurrences, is the fact that I had such a personality, that refused to be defeated in achieving the objective of "each one, reach one, teach one", no matter the obstacle that needed hurdling.

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