Feature Article - November 2016
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Begin With the Basics & Build

Aquatic Programming 101

By Dave Ramont


Inclusion Matters

Through the years, some have held the notion that organized swimming was geared toward more affluent participants. These days, many in the swimming industry are working to dispel that perception. At USA Swimming, one of Truex' areas of responsibility is Diversity and Inclusion, with staff focused on trying to bring their membership numbers around to reflect more of that. "It's a pretty lofty goal," she admitted, "It'll probably take a couple of decades to actually see that."

Some of the ways USA Swimming is working to become more diverse include their Outreach Membership program, offering qualified individuals the chance to become athlete members at a greatly reduced fee, with the goal of providing opportunities in swimming to economically disadvantaged youth. In 2014 they partnered with the New York City Parks and Recreation Department and Metropolitan Swimming to create a multi-level swimming program to provide enhanced competitive opportunities and services to Outreach athletes, their coaches and teams. USA Swimming is looking to expand these programs to other cities as well, with their Community Swim Team Partnership Program.

Catch the Spirit Camps are a great way for swimmers to gain local camp experience, with Local Swim Committees running the events with support from USA Swimming. Athletes may be selected to move on to Zone Diversity Select Camps and finally the National Diversity Select Camp, which is USA Swimming's premier camp aimed at diverse athletes, with swimmers training at the U.S. Olympic Training Center with other top swimmers across the nation.

Recently, the Diversity and Inclusion team at USA Swimming released the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Queer (LGBTQ) Cultural Inclusion Resource Guide, to help coaches, parents and clubs provide a safe and inclusive environment for all athletes. It's the third in a series of Cultural Inclusion guides, with an African-American and Hispanic/Latino guide being previously released, and a guide for Asian-American and Native American communities coming soon, with the aim of improving representation at all levels of the sport.

Everyone agreed that after the Olympic Games, their aquatic programs enjoy a spike in interest, as evidenced by membership numbers, website statistics and social media. Scaletta from the YMCA sums it up this way: "I love the enthusiasm of a new swimmer as well as our returning swimmers who've just watched the Olympics. They walk right in with their new team suit, goggles and cap, and state in a very serious tone that they're ready, and they will be the next Michael Phelps!"