Monday, June 30, 2008

Bayview swims with the big fish

Six years ago, when staff at MLK Swimming Pool on Third Street started a youth swim team, fifty kids signed up. Today, many of the same kids are still swimming with the team: Bayview Hunters Point's own Blue Dolphin Youth Swim Team.

As if keeping the attention of young folks for years on end wasn't proof enough that the Blue Dolphin organization was doing something very right, organizers have just announced that the team has become part of a national organization called USA Swimming, and is joining with other teams on the West Coast as part of the regional association known as Pacific Swim.

The Blue Dolphin team has been making history since the start as a largely African American team in a world where unequal access to the sport and unique cultural barriers mean that black swimmers are all too rare. (See more about this in Footprints News.) Joining USA Swimming and Pacific Swim will open even more doors for the young people.

James Ross, Chair of the parents' committee, explains that "Many swimmers have met USA Swimming standards in various strokes, and are required to register with USA in order to compete in their swim meets."

That means more options even for the team members who have participated in national swim meets in Florida, North Carolina, and Washington DC in the past two years. The young swimmers, according to Ross, are ready.

"The team practices five afternoons a week, year round, from 4:30 pm to 6:30 pm. The varsity team members regularly compete in state-wide competitive events and are consistently improving their race times."

The Blue Dolphin organization embraces newer swimmers, too, and those whose times may never qualify them for a national competition. That's the spirit behind the program.

"Competitive swim programs for youth have historically been restricted to those children who manifest extraordinary talent or who have substantial parental support and financial resources available to them," Ross says.

Ross and other Blue Dolphin organizers work tireless to ensure that anyone can swim, whether or not they're fast or have family or economic support. They protect the inclusive nature of the program through fundraising, sponsorships, and volunteerism.

The Bayview Hunter's Point District can be proud to have a home swim team that knows how to compete while keeping an eye on the real prize: the health of swimmers and their pride in their own accomplishment.

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