In 2014, Robert Trotman was awarded the USA Swimming Diversity and Inclusion award for his extensive support and continual introduction of the sport of swimming to underrepresented groups.
Trotman has been involved with the sport of swimming for more than 50 years in every role, from swimmer and lifeguard, to becoming one of the most prominent minority-serving coaches in the history of swimming, inspiring and guiding thousands of young minority swimmers, coaches and parents to pursue swimming.
“I started with USA Swimming 50 years ago when they asked me to come work with minority kids,” Trotman said. “My thing has always been that I will give you what you need, and you work for what you want.”
The Martin Luther King Jr. Invitational Swim Meet, started byTrotman more than 30 years ago, has become a tradition that brings a positive light to the diversification of the sport of swimming.
Hosted by Nu-Finmen Swimming, the multicultural meet is the longest-running cultural swim meet to date, hosting nearly 1,000 swimmers every year to its Long Island, New York home.
Trotman continues to host the annual meet with the help of his two children, Todd and Jennifer, who both swam competitively at William Paterson University in New Jersey. Both of his children went on to coach and Todd is currently a swimming official.
“We continue the MLK Swim Meet because a lot of teams enjoy it – the kids, the parents. It’s a fun meet, and it’s multicultural,” said Todd.
The annual event aims to diversify the sport of swimming by inviting athletes of all walks of life to compete.
“We have swimmers of different ethnic backgrounds and from other countries like Trinidad, Barbados and Puerto Rico,” said Jennifer.
A few years ago, they developed the Martin Luther King Jr. essay contest, which prompts swimmers to convey what Dr. King symbolizes to them.
“It’s always interesting to hear what children from different socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds come up with,” says Jennifer on the responses she receives. “So many children are color blind and look at a person for who they are on the inside, and not for what they look like on the outside.”
Robert Trotman’s influence on the students in the many programs he has been a part of over the years has been rewarding for him.
“The impact was great – they didn’t have time to get in trouble. Swimming taught them discipline and they were respectful.”
Trotman’s focus is not only geared to success in the water, but victories in the classroom. He prides himself on the fact that his students are successful scholars as well as thriving athletes.
“What I really like is the fact that I’ve had more than 2,000 kids graduate from college. That’s a big deal, especially for minorities.”
Yohancey Kingston, a two-time Metro-Atlantic Athletic Conference medalist, conference champion and 200m freestyle record holder at St. Peters University in New Jersey, attributes much of his success to coach Trotman.
“He can be tough, but was able to instill so many core disciplines and values into my athletic abilities and my character,” said Kingston. “All of my swimming success is deeply rooted in coach Trotman’s coaching and advice.”
Kingston is the Head Men’s Swimming and Diving Coach at Queen’s College and has applied these disciplines to his coaching structure. This past season, the team posted 19 personal bests, claimed six school records, and improved significantly on the previous season with a second place finish at the Metropolitan Conference Championships.
“It has been an amazing experience transitioning from swimmer to coach,” said Kingston. “I love the smile of my athletes as they achieve their short and long-term goals in the pool.”
Growing up, Kingston found a deep passion for the sport, more importantly the diversification of swimming, a lot of which was formed from his experiences attending the Martin Luther King Jr. Invitational Swim Meet.
“This invitational has a strong impact on minority swimmers and tends to bring the best out of them when they compete. It restores a sense of pride in them to swim in the honor of not only a great American man but a great American man of color.”