When I started writing this column, I did so out of my love for aquatics, the growing need to increase awareness within our industry, and to inspire aquatics managers to improve minority participation.
Over the past year, I have been amazed by the positive feedback
I’ve received for Minority Report and honored by the
invitations to speak publicly on this topic.
My very first came from Dr. Ralph Charlton of Hampton
University. He told me about the Center for Aquatic
Research in Diversity at Hampton University that he and another
professor, Jodi Jensen, had co-founded. CARD was established to
create awareness and generate solutions to issues surrounding
minority swimming abilities; increase the number of minorities
swimming through advocacy and partnering with effective initiatives
and programs; and increase the number of practicing minority
Additionally, CARD will work to provide solutions to swimming and
drowning disparities among minorities through action-based research
and education that utilizes collaboration between researchers,
industry practitioners and the general public.
In April, I had the privilege of attending and speaking at Hampton
University’s first CARD Research Symposium. As I made the
four-hour drive to Hampton, Va., I remember thinking, “Wow,
what a phenomenal opportunity to collaborate with professionals in
the university setting and to discuss further research on this very
important issue.” I was also thinking, “THANK YOU!
THANK YOU! THANK YOU!” to Hampton University for bringing to
life such a proactive contribution to our industry.
Coming mainly from the parks and recreation perspective, I was
excited to learn how university professors and students viewed the
importance of this topic. I also was encouraged by the
enthusiasm demonstrated by Hampton University to develop CARD and
to further examine issues around minority swimming.
The symposium highlighted existing research regarding minority
swimming and encouraged discussion among attendees about which
areas are in need of further attention.
Attendees included aquatics managers from regional colleges and
universities, parks and recreation departments, Hampton University
professors, and students interested in working in the
Though the attending group was small (approximately 30 people), a
number of great perspectives and insights were shared regarding
personal success stories and challenges experienced while serving
minority communities, and many of the managers offered best
practices for reaching this market. The most obvious perspective
shared by all in attendance was the need for national support and
further investigation into drowning, as well as efforts to increase
minority swimming skills.
Not only has Hampton University established a dedicated Center for
Aquatic Research in Diversity, but it also offers an aquatics
management concentration and curriculum. Courses include topics
such as swimming instruction, lifeguarding, water safety, fitness,
scuba and pool operations.
Hampton University recognizes the need for increased presence of
minorities working in aquatics and has done an outstanding job of
creating a skill-building curriculum to prepare students for work
in this field.
But they can’t do it alone. As aquatics professionals, it is
our responsibility to partner with institutions such as Hampton
University to offer internships, funding, and support to its
students and CARD.
Speaking from my personal experience, the need for increased
minority attendance at industry conferences and events is evident.
Schools such as Hampton provide prime opportunities to recruit
well-trained students who have demonstrated an interest in the
Remember, showing support does not always have to come in the form
of monetary donations (though monetary support is always helpful
and appreciated). Offering student internships, jobs or
scholarships to annual professional conferences, or providing
research opportunities involving your aquatics programs can be just
I commend Hampton University for developing action-based programs
and initiatives to decrease drowning risk, and for increasing
support of further research on swimming abilities within minority
What will be your contribution to the cause? Are you ready to
“Step up to the Block” and get involved? If you
haven’t noticed, the issue of minority swimming has become a
major focus for our industry and a number of resources are
available to provide water safety information and learn-to-swim
opportunities for this market. At this point, there is really no
excuse to sit on the sidelines.
Improving minority participation in aquatics is not just an urban
issue. It is a national issue.
As aquatics professionals, we have the power and resources to
reduce these statistics ... one lap at a time!