BKS Summer Swim Scholarship Winners Reuben and Aaron Williams Commit to Division I Swim Teams
BKS Summer Swim Scholarship winners Reuben and Aaron Williams love the sport of competitive swimming.
Thanks to the Black Kids Swim Summer Swim Scholarship 2019 and support from their family, community and coaches, Reuben and Aaron Williams are on their way to swim for Division I collegiate swim teams.
Reuben committed to Rider University and Aaron will attend Lehigh University in 2022. The twins’ swimming excellence will be on a national stage as the beginning of their Division I swim journey takes full effect next fall. Aaron and Reuben rank in the top 50 of New Jersey swim recruits, placing 22nd and 47th, respectively.
The two BKS scholarship recipients are passionate about the world of competitive swimming and believe the sport can open doors to educational and professional opportunities. From learning valuable swim techniques to connecting with professional swim coaches, they’ve acknowledged their BKS scholarship prepared them to reach higher heights in pursuing their swimming goals.
The brothers joined the YMCAs swim team at 8 years old. Now, nine years later, they serve as mentors.
The brothers plan to pass their experiences on to the next generation of swimmers through their close-knit community at their local YMCA in Vineland, New Jersey.
My goal is to be that person that people look up to and go to. Me and Aaron are fostering change in our team by really connecting with the younger kids on our team and making them feel comfortable with the older kids.
The brothers continue to demonstrate excellence both in and out of the pool. Aaron is a two-time finalist at the 2020 USA Swimming 18 & Under Winter Championships placing fifth in the 100-yard butterfly and seventh in the 50-yard freestyle. Both records for the Greater South Jersey Swim League. Reuben has his share of victories as well. He placed within the top five of three events at the 2021 USA Swimming New Jersey OCY Summer Classic and placed second in the 50-yard freestyle, 100-yard breaststroke and third in the 100-yard butterfly.
“Minds sharpen minds” is a statement that constantly resonates with the brothers. The pair admit they wouldn’t be in the position they’re in without each other and the people who have helped them from the beginning.
How It All Started
The potential to become a top competitive swimmers didn’t cross Reuben and Aaron’s minds when they began swimming as kids in their New Jersey home.
My parents thought it was very important for us to learn how to swim since we were from New York, and we moved to a house that had a pool. My parents were very adamant and wanted us to be safe around the water. - Aaron
The water soon became a comfortable environment for the two, especially when they entered the competitive swimming space. Luck would be on their side when their mother, an occupational therapist, connected with their future YMCA coach while providing care for him after he experienced a stroke. While instructing the coach on exercise techniques, he noticed her arm length and asked if she had children who might be interested in swimming. The brothers tried out for the team and have been members ever since.
Since then, the mentorship they received from their peers on the team enabled them to achieve many milestones as they advanced through the sport. By the time they were 12 years old, they started gaining traction and quickly became recognized as reputable swimmers.
Two notable milestones of Aaron’s career include winning the New Jersey YMCA 13 & Over Championship beating swimmers across the state and setting a record in the 100-yard butterfly. He also became a part of the 2021 USA Swimming Scholastic All-American Team. The opportunity was demanding, having to maintain a high GPA while still practicing. It was worth it in the end because the difficult situation taught perseverance.
Reuben achieved his first major accomplishment by breaking a YMCA record in the 50-yard freestyle. Having not participated in competitive swimming the previous year because “I wasn’t enjoying the sport as much as I should have.” but competing in the event caused him to realize how beneficial swimming would be.
Support from Black Kids Swim Opened Doors
The Black Kids Swim Summer Swim Scholarship awarded to them in 2019, provided the brothers with the opportunity to enhance their swim techniques and connect with more coaches and swimmers.
That scholarship allowed us to train for an additional three months... It really helped us, and we really appreciated it. -Reuben
The funds afforded them the chance to practice at the Greenwood Park-Bells Lake Community Club, a swim club in Blackwood, New Jersey, where they formed a close connection with coaches Julie Pedersen and Nick Fondacaro. The twins explained how the two coaches helped them perfect their skills in the pool and led them to explore opportunities outside of swimming, such as work and training for long course certification.
Coach Nick and Coach Julie have gone above and beyond as coaches for me and Aaron. It's crazy that we've only known them for about two and a half years now, but the relationship that we've already built with them is something that I think is going to last a while. - Reubin
The BKS Summer Swim Scholarship opened another door the following year when they were selected to participate in the YMCA Swimming Emerging Leader Virtual Academy. The program works with 22 YMCA National level swimmers to develop their leadership expertise through communication skills, decision-making, and community service.
They befriended swimmers from across the country through the Academy in states such as Nebraska, Idaho, and California. They connected over their experiences in competitive swimming and got a deeper understanding about a coach’s role in the sport.
“Leadership is not about who’s the loudest, but understanding who you’re working with and trying to make the situation the best for everybody as you possibly can.” – Aaron Williams.
Still More Ahead
The Williams twins are ready to see where the future takes them as upcoming high school seniors in 2022. College is on the horizon, and both will swim at the collegiate level. The brothers have committed to colleges and will swim on Division I swim teams.
Their achievements are especially unique as the NCAA has only a few Black swimmers. The NCAA has 22,501 swimmers across all divisions and conferences with only 1.6% African-American.
“I just feel grateful that I’ve had the option to swim with people from New Jersey and the YMCA, and I’ve accomplished a lot so far,” Aaron assured. “I’m still not where I want to be, and wherever I go to college, I still want to make my presence there. The job’s not done yet.”
The brothers want to instill the values they cherish into the next group of upcoming Black swimmers. To succeed in competitive swimming, they insist the key is to be consistent and have people in your corner who see the best in you.
“My advice would be to say persistent [and] have determination,” Reuben said. “There’s a lot of outside [pressures] that can get into your mind and make you feel like you’re not good enough. Find that good group of people that can give you that push to be the best that you are.”