We know that engaging minority groups in aquatics programs is a
national issue, but how can we help reduce the drowning and
water-related injury statistics among these groups?
I’ll bet some managers wonder if smaller-scale efforts such
as program open houses, community meetings or water safety classes
and events really make a difference in capturing this challenging
audience. Well, we will never know if we don’t try.
Recently, our department secured the approval and commitment from
our local public school system to implement a pilot learn-to-swim
and water safety program with second graders from five elementary
schools in minority-based neighborhoods within Prince
George’s County. Though we are unable to reach every
second-grade student in the county, we recognize that we are
“swimming in the right direction” to incorporate
necessary water safety information into the regular school day of
the more than 300 participating students.
The goal of this smaller pilot program is to set the stage for a
larger initiative to incorporate swimming and water-safety
information into the regular education curriculum throughout the
That’s an example of a smaller, local initiative, but
let’s talk about our international Web-based leaders in the
“diversity movement”: Shaun Anderson and Jayson
Jackson, co-founders of the Diversity in
Aquatics Program. DAP is a nonprofit organization with the goal
of decreasing the rate of drowning worldwide by helping to create,
promote and support aquatics programs domestically and
In speaking with Shaun and Jayson, I was really impressed with
their acknowledgement of the significant impact politics play in
defeating, in their words, the “pandemic” facing
minorities, and their lack of skill and experience in and around
water. This is a significant issue in minority communities, and one
way to ensure proper support, funding and resources to combat it is
to keep this issue in the forefront of our nation’s policy
and decision-making agendas. And they are doing just that.
In March 2011, Shaun Anderson was recognized in the House of
Representatives by Congressman Chaka Fattah of Pennsylvania for his
work with the Diversity in Aquatics Program as well as his work as
a USA Swimming diversity consultant. DAP is truly
setting a wonderful example for how we, as aquatics professionals,
also can serve as advocates for this mission to promote swimming
among minority groups.
One of DAP’s upcoming initiatives includes the promotion of
International Water Safety Day on May 15, 2012. This inaugural
event will serve as the launching pad for an international water
safety call to action.
The initiative simply asks industry professionals, community
leaders and groups, schools and the like to host a water safety
event or to teach a classroom water safety class on that day in
2012. These examples are easy ways to become involved in this
international event — all while promoting the overarching
theme of safer aquatic experiences for the community, especially
minorities. For more information on the International Water Safety
Day program, visit internationalwatersafetyday.org.
So, what will be your community’s call to action? And if it
is not your own community where there is a need for minority
outreach in aquatics, then what will be the call to action to reach
out to your neighboring communities in need? Even the smallest of
efforts to combat this issue can go a long way. Remember this as
you enjoy your next swim. Improving minority participation in
aquatics is not just an urban issue — it’s a national
As aquatics professionals, we have the power and resources to
reduce these statistics. One lap at a time!