When Manny Banks came to USA Swimming five years ago he had no experience with aquatics.
“The only thing I knew about swimming was the Olympics,” the 35-year-old says.
What he did have was experience as a marketing professional. Today, as the organization’s diversity membership specialist, he is using that background to help promote swimming and water safety among minority communities.
Banks started working in sports more than a decade ago and has held various marketing positions for organizations such as the Memphis Grizzlies NBA basketball team, Bowling Green State University and the Autozone Liberty Bowl Stadium in Memphis, Tenn.
He holds an M.S. in sports and leisure commerce from the University of Memphis (Tennessee) and received his undergraduate degree in broadcast journalism from Louisiana State University in 1999.
It was in college that he first learned to swim, and that gives him a unique perspective among his colleagues.
“I see it differently than most people involved in swimming because I didn't grow up as a swimmer,” he says.
When he first joined USA Swimming, Banks was consumer marketing director. Part of his job was to develop new relationships with marketing and promotional partners. He became diversity membership specialist two years ago and now he is showing local clubs how to develop those relationships on their own, in an effort to reach out to minority communities.
“I take the experience I’ve gained in marketing and community relations and bring that knowledge to clubs so they can increase diversity on the local level,” Banks says.
Raised in a military family, he grew up overseas, which taught him that while cultural differences must be respected and understood, people can be united by common bonds.
That’s a perspective he will carry with him as he undertakes new goals and initiatives to continue USA Swimming’s efforts to reduce the documented disparities in drowning rates among white individuals and minorities.
“I’ve truly found what I want to do in life,” Banks says. “In 10 years, I’d say I’m still [going to be] at USA Swimming. What we do impacts people on so many levels.”