A self-described “lifer” in the sport of swimming, Kim O'Shea is a woman on a mission with “oodles of potential.” As program manager of USA Swimming’s Make a Splash, perhaps the largest-ever aquatics, learn-to-swim and water safety promotional campaign, O’Shea is directly responsible for bringing aquatics to many kids and communities that would not otherwise have access.
“To date, we’ve been able to give scholarships to more
than 10,000 kids — in Atlanta, Houston, Chicago and a few
other cities — thanks to generous private donations to the
USA Swimming Foundation,” she notes.
O’Shea herself started swimming around age 7 and competed all
the way through college. She coached for more than a decade,
ultimately serving as the women's assistant coach at the University of
Tennessee. She joined USA Swimming in 2001.
Today O’Shea is responsible for coordinating partnerships
between local learn-to-swim programs and the USA Swimming
Foundation. Initially, that involved providing a promotional kit to
help the local agencies with marketing their aquatics programs, but
recently that changed. Last autumn, she helped oversee the
distribution of $50,000 in grant money to a pool of 51 applicant
The earlier funds that went to provide swim lessons in Atlanta and
Houston (and the other cities) were donated privately, so this
marks the first time Make A Splash will act as a granting
But, according to O’Shea, there’s still a long way to
go. The ultimate goal is “to get every kid in the United
States to learn to swim,” she says. While Make A Splash is
starting with the learn-to-swim branch of aquatics, the ultimate
plan is to bring new partners and perspectives into the mix.
“There are so many other groups we can reach out to,”
she observes. Some of the issues O’Shea hopes to address
going forward include developing parent education and finding
solutions for transportation issues — the logistics of
physically getting underprivileged kids to the pool.