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Do Black People Swim? Here's My Story

There’s always been a “rumor” that black people can’t swim. I’m here to tell you, this is not true and day by day we are changing that.

According to the CDC, between 1999-2010, the fatal unintentional drowning rate for African Americans was significantly higher than that of whites across all ages. African American children between the ages of 5-19 drown in swimming pools at rates 5.5 times higher than those of whites.

Due to the limited access to pools, swim education, and more, African-Americans have a very high drowning rate. I personally almost ended up being a statistic but instead of putting fear into my life about swimming my mother took my incident as a lesson. From that day on, she vowed to make sure that I understood the importance of learning how to swim. I was immediately enrolled in swim lessons and later on joined a Black-Owned swim team.

Back then there weren’t a lot of black swimmers to look up to. How are people supposed to feel comfortable learning how to swim when they don’t see someone that looks like them? But in 1988, Anthony Nesty changed the world as he won a gold medal at the 1988 Seoul Olympics. Nesty showed the black community that we can do it too! With such a big influence, Maritza Correia, Cullen Jones, Simone Manuel, Alia Atkinson, and more were set to follow in his footsteps.

I’ve had the great joy to be apart of a competitive minority swim team since the age of ten. The feeling of being apart of such a big accomplishment in history is amazing. I was trained by people who looked like me. They taught me everything I know about the sport and also lifeguarding. I swam for the Nu-Finmen swim team from ten years old until I graduated high school. Nu-Finmen is more than just a swim team, it’s a family. We teach each other, we hold each other up during hard times, we show each other the way, but most of all we support one another.

Owner of the Nu-Finmen Swim Team Coach Robert Trotman has had his foot in the swim game well over 50 years. He has trained children from a variety of backgrounds and neighborhoods and in doing so, has provided opportunities for children who might not otherwise have the opportunity to swim. Coach Trotman founded the Nu-Finmen Swim Team in 1964 and never looked back. He treats every child like his own and only wants to see them do their best. Though Coach Trotman is the man behind the plan this is a family-run swim team. With his wife, daughter, son, and close family friends this legacy is bound to live on forever. The Nu-Finmen Swim Team has been an elite member of USA Swimming, the national governing body of swimming after breaking a number of swim records and receiving recognition by the elite divisions of county, regional and national conferences and organizations. I give all thanks to Coach Trotman for always showing unconditional love and helping me understand that hard work and dedication will take you higher than you think.

As a black/minority swim team we are often looked down upon until it's our time to get in the water. Nine times out to ten we are beating the predominantly white teams and I am proud of that. Some teams were even scared to visit our home pool due to the surrounding area. With a number of swim records, Nu-Finmen took a stereotype and showed everyone that we can and we will put that stereotype to rest.

Once I became a lifeguard at the age of sixteen, I vowed to always give back to those who want to learn about swimming. Whether that is a family member or someone within the community, I will not allow them to become a statistic.

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