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 aquatics professionals.

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 field. 

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 aquatics field. 

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 as valuable. 

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 communities.

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!