Black Girls Swim! Part 1
Meet the Ladies of the Theresa Banks Swim Club!
The Theresa Banks Swim Club (TBSC) is a co-ed summer swim team located in Prince George’s County Maryland. The TBSC Tiger Sharks compete in Prince-Mont Swim League’s most competitive “A” division and they never lose. At least, not since 2011 when they began a 5 year streak of undefeated seasons. The team is well respected, professional and, in 1995, received a written proclamation for “Outstanding achievements in the representation of Prince George’s County in the sport of swimming” from the Maryland State Senate. The owner is Black, the coaches are Black and the team is 98% Black. And these Black girls swim!
Dayja Jenkins is 15 and swims with TBSC. When asked why her team is so special she responded “TBSC is a predominantly Black team and swimming is a predominantly white sport, so being a top Black team shows that we are equal to all and also shows other black people that swimming is fun and you can do it” Her team mate Leah Ross, age 12, said as a team they are “always there for each other. If someone fails we all fail. TBSC is like family, and we never give up. We push ourselves and others on our team. We welcome anyone that’s new and there is no way you can’t fit in.”
The program is an essential pipeline for children to progress from Learn to Swim instruction, to competitive swimming and lifeguarding, to coaching.
A CDC study found that 70% of African Americans cannot swim, and Black children are 3 – 5 times more likely to drown than their counterparts. Black swimmers are hard to spot in USA Swimming’s elite meets, on NCAA swim teams and very rarely go to the Olympics. Negative stereotypes, such as those found in the Red Cross’ ‘Be Cool Follow the Rules’ campaign, lead many to believe that Black people don’t or can’t swim. The Theresa Banks Tiger Sharks stand as a public service announcement that the stereotypes are untrue and quite simply ridiculous. This team of stellar students and athletes prove that with access to quality swimming instruction and a supportive community – there is nothing Black children cannot achieve in the water.
Many team families drive their children over 1 hour one-way to swim with TBSC five days a week. Although there are other swim team options closer to their homes, parents feel the camaraderie and welcoming nature of the team is crucial to maintaining their child’s interest in the sport. When asked why she chose the team, swim mom Louise Ross said “the level of coaching, integrity, and commitment to teaching children in the community how to swim.”
Michelle Jordan, the team owner and one of the teams 5 founders, says she started the club to bring a swim team to the community and to help her children continue swimming. “My daughter was 5 and had already completed all of the swim classes available through Maryland Nations Capital Park and Planning curriculum. She already knew all 4 strokes and wanted to continue to develop as a swimmer.” Jordan’s daughter, Tisha, is now a coach for Theresa Banks Swim Club.
Jordan’s children swam at the Theresa Banks Memorial Aquatic Center in the city of Glenarden, Maryland. Glenarden, located in Prince George’s County, Maryland is a predominantly African American town. While the town had a football and track team, it did not have a swim team. Additionally, the Theresa Banks Memorial Aquatic Center’s pool, at 25 yards long and 2.5 feet deep in the shallow end, cannot be used for long course training or swim meets. An ideal pool for competitive swimming is 50 yards long and 4.5 feet deep at the shallowest end.
Despite less than ideal facilities and no swim team – Jordan and other swim parents created the Theresa Banks Swim Club – and the rest is history. The team has a noncompetitive swim program during the school year and a competitive summer league team. The program is an essential pipeline for children to progress from Learn to Swim instruction, to competitive swimming and lifeguarding, to coaching. It is this pipeline that Black Kids Swim is committed to seeing replicated across the nation because it is this type of effort that can change the face of swimming in the United States.
Black Kids Swim is SO PROUD of the swimmers, coaches, and parents of the Theresa Banks Swim Club! Proving every day that Black Girls Swim! Together, we can Change the Tide.
Would you like for your child’s swim team to be featured in the Black Girls Swim series? Would you like for your child to join a swim team? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will help you find a welcoming team for your child!
**Black Kids Swim thanks Fabulocs Natural Hair Care Products and Services for helping to make the girls look amazing. Hair care is especially important for girls who swim and Fabulocs is the best choice for ensuring our girls’ hair stays healthy and beautiful. Thank you Fabulocs!!**