| Tuesday, February 17, 2015We are living examples of diversity…
Those in sports, from coaches, athletes, officials, and families, put their passions on the line to achieve competitive success. Those seeking to change cultures, minds and hearts utilize that same tool to effect change. For the cause of diversifying and creating a more inclusive swim culture, the torch has been taken up by a growing group of aquatic professionals who seek to share their love and passion for their sports with minorities around the world. Diversity in Aquatics, Inc., a non-profit established in April of 2008, has the sole mission of decreasing the rate of drowning worldwide by helping to create, promote and support diversity and inclusion programs in the United States and abroad.
The USA Swimming Foundation’s 2011 study shared the startling statistics that 70% of African American and 60% of Hispanic children don’t know how to swim. A recent Red Cross study found that African-American children are three times more likely to drown than their Caucasian counter parts. These drowning disparities and the lack of minority participation in swimming are what prompted USA Swimming Diversity Consultant Shaun Anderson and his fellow Penn State alumnus Jayson Jackson to co-found Diversity and Aquatics.
“I’m passionate about helping others and once I heard about worldwide drowning rates and disparities in swimming ability, I decided I wanted to help do something about it,” said Diversity in Aquatics Co-founder Jayson Jackson during a USA Swimming Q&A. “I believe competitive swimming is one of the avenues we can use to help do that.”
DAP, standing for Diversity in Aquatics Program, includes a website forum with social networking capabilities to act as a environment where aquatic leaders from around the world can come together to work on tools and solutions for the prevention of drowning, and increase awareness and participation of all aquatic sports.
“DAP is a safe place. What I mean by that is that our network is a program where learning is key and you can feel like you’re not being judged as you ask questions and go through the trial and error necessary in diversity and inclusion work,” says Miriam Lynch, Director of Operations for DAP. “Other individuals are going through the same things you are and this system connects so many people that it’s an automatic family. We’re all working to change things and we have the ability to focus on that goal through this connection.”
Lynch has been a leader in swimming and diversity and inclusion for many years, serving as a coach for USA Swimming Club Excellence gold level club Nations Capital in Washington D.C., and is currently the eastern zone diversity coordinator for USA Swimming. She has been working with DAP since 2009 and has utilized the connection in other sports to strengthen her own diversity and inclusion programs.
“Before DAP there was no way for people interested in diversity and inclusion to network. We had our individuals programs but there was no comprehensive opportunity available to find the best practices and share the good ideas with those people in swimming and other aquatic sports,” said Lynch. “I was searching for a way to learn from other people’s programs and DAP provided that avenue to directly link us together.”
Since its inception, DAP has grown to include officers, advisory boards and aquatic activity councils that further its mission and vision of a diverse and inclusive aquatics community. DAP is the only organization in the world that has provided learn to swim and aquatics services on every inhabited continent and is the only non-profit to have support of three major national governing bodies; USA Swimming, USA Triathlon and US Rowing. With leaders such as Lynch, and aquatic sports virtuoso Thaddeus Gamory, DAP continues to connect those with programming and diversity and inclusion interests with professionals around the globe.
“The great thing about DAP is that we’re designing our councils as we go since we’re a relatively new organization,” said Gamory, Council Chair Coordinator for DAP. “We’re laying the foundation for people to come in the future and we learn more about providing operational, programming, and logistical education to each of our sports councils. Many of our advisory board members and those who chair our councils have made deep historical contributions to their respective sports. It’s through DAP that our aquatic legacy’s become known and can inspire.”
DAP programming currently includes aquatic sports councils for triathlon, scuba, competitive swimming and rowing. Among the non-sports specific councils are the veterans’ council, the HBCU (historically black college and university) council, and the Caribbean council. Each one provides direction for each council to espouse the visions of DAP’s three pillars, education, promotion and support.
With approximately 3500 members worldwide, DAP is a small yet nimble organization that has the ultimate advantage of connectedness.
“I think USA Swimming does a great job on the public facing side of the sport, but I do believe there is a disconnect between many NGB’s and the communities they’re trying to reach,” said Gamory. “We are living examples of diversity in our sports and I believe that is the reason why DAP can and does bridge that gap between NGB’s and minority communities. Dap is the living breathing example of aquatic athletes and professionals from all levels that becomes the bridge and fills in what’s missing; an understanding of the minority aquatic experience.”
Gamory, along with Lynch, Anderson, Jackson and the several others involved in DAP continue to not only share their experience in aquatics and bridge that cultural gap, but find, preserve, and share the unknown history of minority accomplishments in all aquatic sports. Of which there are many that even the leaders of DAP discover on a daily basis.
“Being part of DAP has motivated me to bolster my aquatic experiences and knowledge because we’re up to something bigger than ourselves,” said Gamory. “It’s about transforming a culture, not just in sports, but in health, wellness and safety.”
“I want people to join but I want them to be part of the movement,” said Lynch. “We’re all very passionate and we are movers, shakers and innovators.”
For this group of multicultural heroes one thing is certain; passion fuels change.
To learn more about Diversity in Aquatics, visit: www.diversityinaquatics.com.