USA Swimming, Sigma Gamma Rho encourage more participation in sport
USA Swimming is partnering with Sigma Gamma Rho, a historically black national sorority, as it continues its campaign to increase participation in the sport and help counter staggering drowning statistics in minority communities.
The new partnership was announced Saturday as the sorority gathered in New Orleans for its biennial conference.
Joann Loveless, the sorority’s international president, said the project is a perfect fit.
“It falls right in line with our signature project, Project Reassurance, which helps and supports pregnant youth and encourages them to make healthy choices, lead healthy lives so there can be healthy generations,” said Loveless.
She was excited about the groups’ new alliance that she described as a win-win for African-Americans.
“We sometimes are not given as much of a push to be involved,” she said, “but this is an open door in terms of what swimming can do for us competitively and learning how to safeguard life, and through this tool as an exercise, it can help reduce obesity.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in the African-American and Hispanic communities 60 to 70 percent of children can’t swim, and black children drown at a rate nearly three times higher than whites, said Talia Mark, USA Swimming’s multicultural marketing manager.
About 10 people drown in the U.S. and more than one in five victims are children younger than 14, she said.
“An easy cure for turning around those statistics is to get more people involved with swimming,” she said.
Both Mark and Loveless said they believed the partnership would help boost interest in the sport within minority communities as would the spotlight on this year’s Olympic team which includes Cullen Jonesand Anthony Ervin, African-Americans who are returning gold medalists from 2008 and 2000, respectively, and Lia Neal who, at 17, is the second black woman to ever make a U.S. Olympic Swim Team.
“With all eyes on the pool in London, we hope to inspire kids of all backgrounds to get involved, this is where we believe Sigma Gamma Rho’s expertise in community outreach can play an integral role,” Mark said.
When asked why she believed black families shied away from the sport, Loveless said, “I think it’s more of us not having as much of an opportunity to take advantage of swimming programs,” she said. “Sometimes there’s no access to facilities and, if a price tag is attached to access, our families aren’t always able to participate.
“It’s a matter of changing the mindset,” she said.
USA Swimming officials said the goal is to make water safety education and learn-to-swim programs a part of the sorority’s mandatory member curriculum and community service outreach and provide its more than 100,000 members and 500 chapters across the U.S. with an easy entry into the sport.
USA Swimming: http://www.SwimToday.org
Sigma Gamma Rho: http://www.sgrho1922.org