Efforts to address the issue of minority drowning are expanding. It comes in the wake of a USA Swimming-sponsored University of Memphis study that found more than half of all African-American and Hispanic children are ?at risk? swimmers, and an earlier Aquatics International special report on the topic.
Hampton University, a historically black university in Hampton, Va., recently launched an aquatics concentration similar to a minor. Hampton is one of the only HBCU institutions with such a program, said assistant professor Jodi Jensen, director of aquatics.
The program requires 17 credit hours, and students can earn the National Swimming Pool Foundation?s CPO certification. It?s open to all, regardless of their majors or swimming ability.
Jensen hopes getting minorities involved in the aquatics profession will provide role models.
?There isn?t the [minority] representation in swimming like basketball or other sports,? she said. ?It?s important for kids to have that representation.?
Olympic gold medalist Cullen Jones, an African-American, is a potential role model. At the Beijing Games, he told media he hopes more minority parents will encourage their kids to learn to swim.
USA Swimming?s Make A Splash initiative is helping do that. It has introduced approximately 10,000 children to swimming and/or water safety, said program manager Kim O?Shea.
?I think we?ve been very successful so far, but we?ve only just begun,? O?Shea said.
The Nile Swim Club has launched minority swimmers for decades. Fifty years ago, a group of trailblazing African-Americans formed the Yeadon, Pa., club after being shut out of a local pool because of their race.
?African-Americans haven?t had the same access to swimming facilities. Every youth in our community [can] learn to swim and swim well,? said Thomas Gary, club president.