What a Weird Summer it Was….
Back here in the East, the summer of 2009 was one of the coldest and wettest on record.
All over the country, way too many drownings occurred, particularly to young children.
Then, after electing our first African-American President and thinking racism must certainly be receding, along comes this country club in suburban Philly
(in my home state), kicking a African-American children’s camp out of their pool. Right out of the 60’s!!!
I began my aquatic career back in those racist days. I first worked as a beach boy at a “whites only” lake in Northern, NJ. Later I worked as a lifeguard and swim coach at a club that didn’t allow Arthur Ashe, the Wimbledon Champion to warm up on our clay tennis courts prior to a match. Fortunately for me, I attended a private school in the Bronx, NYC that was very diverse. During the 60’s and 70’s, I read and was told that blacks could not swim for a variety of reasons: physiology, psychology, sociology, etc. Actually, African-Americans as it turned out just were not given the opportunity.
What saved the summer of 2009 for me was a recent trip to Prince Georges County, MD to visit 10 aquatic facilities maintained by the Maryland-Capital Park and Planning Commission. Tara Eggleston was the Aquatic Director who served as my hostess. I spent two full days observing and auditing her pools and was very pleasantly surprised and enlightened. I watched hundreds of African Americans truly enjoying all aspects of aquatics with no whites in sight. Beautiful little black children taking swimming lessons from black instructors, black women taking Aquacize from black instructors, professional black lifeguards watching all water activities and being supervised by black managers. The administrators by the way were African-American as well. And every one I met greeted me with open-arms, a smiling face and welcoming words. For the record, African-Americans CAN swim, DO swim and really enjoy the water. The lifeguards were extremely vigilant and professional as well. TheMaryland trip was one of the most refreshing and enlightening aquatic experiences I have ever had and came just at the right moment. Thanks Tara, I needed that!
On another note, we need to teach EVERY child to swim before they reach middle-school.
If children are under the age of seven and cannot swim, we need to Note and Float them in a type III PFD in all our facilities.
This is the best 1-2 punch to prevent drownings.