I never learned how to swim. It wasn’t high on my parent’s list of priorities, and when I became an adult, it wasn’t that high on mine, either. There was a point in my life where I owned about 20 different bikinis. I would go to the pool or the beach, but sit my skinny little tail on a chair somewhere, dry as a bone the entire time. I look back now and shake my head.
Now that I’m grown and have my own daughter, I have a completely different view on why learning to swim is so necessary. Not only is it a safety issue (a HUGE safety issue), it’s great for self-esteem and fun. Also, when my child does it, it’s an effective way to kill the stereotype that Black girls don’t swim. I know I didn’t do much personally to prove folks wrong about that stereotype, but I’m probably the only one of my close friends who can’t swim.
That’s not going to be Ayva’s story. She started swimming lessons this week, and I wish we would have started sooner. Even though she’s played in the pool a lot, technique is tough for her. My girl is working hard every day to learn, though, nd she’s excited to become a real swimmer soon. I reached out to my friend, Bianca, a Documentary Filmmaker and Educator who has talked about her love of swimming since I met her about 10 years ago. I asked her to tell me what swimming means to her and why she thinks its important for kids to learn.
Knowing how to swim is a life saving skill that every parent should help their children achieve. It’s a lifelong recreational and competitive sport that is also the foundation for all other aquatic sports (rowing, sailing, scuba, jet skiing etc). Being in the water can be therapeutic for mind and body. Lessons by strong instructors early on can prevent unwarranted fear later on… Drowning is a global epidemic. The Diversity in Aquatics Program is a good place to start in search of aquatic resources. DAP also created International Water Safety Day.
Personally, swimming changed my life. I was able to swim competitively, be a college athlete, and work as a lifeguard through high school and college. For more aquatic resources, check out The Diversity in Aquatics Program. – Bianca White
Bianca didn’t mention it, but she also recently completed an IronMan Triathlon where she swam, biked and ran a marathon. In the same event. So, yeah, about those stereotypes…
Oh, and (sadly) I can’t talk about Black girls swimming and not talk about hair. It’s simple. If you drown, no one is going to care what your hair looks like. Rinse it out. Wash it. Condition it. Whatever. Just get in and get wet! Alright, off to go find a swimming class for me. It’s never too late to teach an old lady new tricks!