Wednesday, March 1, 2017

USA Swimming expands outreach to Asian/American swimmers

SWIMMERS of Asian/American descent have a long history of competing in the sport but it was not until this year that USA Swimming has tried to expand its outreach to that population.

The national swimming organization has released the first-ever Asian-American Cultural Inclusion Resource Guide. The guide was created to provide information about resources and tools available to members and to help engage new audiences.

With Asian/American swimmers notching up Olympic medals, it is difficult to not acknowledge that there might be a larger pool (pun intended) from which to draw future competitors.

Resource guide features of Asian/American athletes include Nathan Adrian (three-time Olympian and eight-time Olympic medalist), Natalie Coughlin, (12-time Olympic Medalist and 20-time World Championships medalist) and Margaret Guo (2016 NCAA Woman of the Year) as well as Asian/American coaches like Tony Batis (Head Coach at Palo Alto Stanford Aquatics), Naya Higashijima (Assistant Coach at University of California Los Angeles) and Russell Mark (National Team High Performance Manager at USA Swimming).
RELATED: AAPI athletes wrap up Rio Olympics
This is one of many projects the organization’s Diversity & Inclusion team uses to create a culture of inclusion and opportunity for people of diverse backgrounds, including but not limited to race, age, income, ethnicity, religion, gender expression and sexual orientation. By providing educational tools at all levels for staff, LSCs, coaches and athletes, USA Swimming is creating deeper relationships with and providing meaningful resources to underrepresented communities.

Asian and mixed ethnicities are the fastest growing population within USA Swimming membership. According to the 2010 Census, Asian/Americans make up 5.7 percent of the U.S. population, while the 2015 USA Swimming membership numbers exceeded that rate at 6.2 percent of membership. Adrian and Lia Neal, both of whom medaled in the Rio Olympics, are of mixed Asian heritages.

USA Swimming graphic

It’s important for coaches, administrators and athletes to be informed and equipped to make swimmers and coaches from all backgrounds feel comfortable as a USA Swimming team member, stated a USA Swimming press release.

“It’s important to intentionally create environments where swimmers from all backgrounds feel included and important,” said Mariejo “MJ” Truex, USA Swimming Director of Programs and Services. “Through these guides, the goal is to welcome and encourage diverse communities to our sport.”

The guide offers information on programs including the National Diversity Select Camp, a Diversity Coach Mentorship Program, and links to the USA Swimming Diversity and Inclusion Resource webpage which has articles, videos, resource guides and other materials to help LSCs and clubs develop multi-cultural programming at the grassroots level. It will illustrate a diverse array within the demographic, including backgrounds of Korean, Japanese, Filipino, Indian, Chinese and others.

With the creation of the Cultural Inclusion Resource Guides, the Diversity and Inclusion Team is providing tools that will foster an inclusive environment and improve representation at all levels of the sport. The Asian/American guide is the fourth in a series of ‘Cultural Inclusion’ guides – an African-American and Hispanic/Latino guide in both English and Spanish were released earlier last year, as well as a guide for LGBTQ cultural inclusion; a guide for Native American communities will be released later this month.
"Having role models is a paramount for success," Truex told NBC. "When they can identify with people that look like them or come from the same background as them or maybe have the same family upbringing, it kind of creates that long-term goal setting, like, 'wow, I can do that, too. That person or that coach can be me.'"