• 54°

Swimming is for everyone

By Tonya S. Swindell

Swimming is for everyone. Despite historical narratives that suggested swimming was an activity in which only a few people could excel, I was pleased to interact with young people in Hampton Roads who dispelled that myth. In light of my own journey to become a better swimmer, I felt inspired to continue growing and developing while encouraging others to do the same.

When I challenged myself to learn the skill of swimming, my potential to acquire it became much clearer. Meeting young African Americans who swim and demonstrate leadership within our community provided additional inspiration. At Taylor Bend YMCA, it was refreshing to have Natharie, a polite and professional young lady, and Avery, a conscientious yet soft-spoken young man, serve as lifeguards for my family and others.

While people of various ages, ethnicities and physical abilities swam laps, performed exercises in the therapy pool, or relaxed in the hot tub, Natharie administered the swim test to my second-oldest son. He was required to swim from the shallow end of the indoor pool to the deep end, then tread water for 30 seconds. After successful completion, he received an orange neckband alerting staff he is allowed to swim without a parent or guardian within arm’s reach.

My younger children and I cheered after my son passed the same test they completed a few weeks earlier. For further motivation, I encouraged my kids to observe how Natharie and Avery demonstrated swimming is for everyone. Motivation continued at Suffolk Family YMCA when we observed fraternal twin lifeguards, Alijah and Gabriel or “Gabe.” It was another opportunity to acknowledge the significance of exemplary role models to which my family and others could relate.

Limited access to formal swimming lessons, disparate allocation of resources and lingering effects of segregation in America’s community pools have contributed to many blacks not learning to swim. To help bridge some of those gaps, YMCA and other organizations offer lessons for various age groups at reasonable prices. During spring break, Suffolk Family YMCA also provided free classes for kindergarten through fifth-grade students.

In honor of educator and community leader, Dr. Clarence V. Cuffee, a state of the art library and recreation center was dedicated in 2007 at Campostella Square of Chesapeake. The proposed redevelopment plan included a swimming pool with water safety classes. Fulfillment of the original mission could boost morale, increase safety awareness and alter the trajectory of an entire generation of residents who previously lacked access to sufficient swimming facilities and aquatics instruction.

Seeing another person advance in the skill of swimming is motivational. It especially helps if we relate on a personal level. True role models affirm that aspirations are attainable.

As I wrote in a previous column, “Overcoming fear in the pool,” my journey to become a better swimmer is continual. Young role models confirm the goal is achievable. Their example acknowledges a learner’s potential and that swimming can be accomplished by many people.

Tonya Swindell writes a blog for www.inspirenewlife.org and is a teacher for Kingdom Building Equipping School (KBES.com). She can be reached at 1brightot@gmail.com.