A for Athlete


Excerpt: Tough Swim Through Stereotypes[]

Orlando, FL , June 2nd, 2008
By Richard Lapchickm, Excerpted from ESPN.com

Blair Cross was the only black female swimmer in the ACC last year. Brielle White graduated from Virginia in 2006; for four years, she, too, was the only black female swimmer in the ACC*. Cross and White share a distinction the organizers of the National Black Heritage Championship Swim Meet want to erase.

[*Note Martha Marino swam for NC State from 2005-07.]

In the 2005-06 academic year, the last year the NCAA published the data, 107 African-American male and female swimmers competed in Division I, compared with 7,121 whites, 207 Asians and 213 Latinos. African-Americans represented .012 percent, then, of the 8,515 Division I swimmers (which also includes Native Americans, international students and people categorized as 'other.'). In other words, Asians and Latinos were twice as likely as African-Americans to be on a Division I swim team, and whites were nearly 70 times as likely. The percentages were similar in Divisions II and III.

Cross says people regularly are surprised when she is identified as a swimmer. A common comment, she said: I thought you would sink in water. At Maryland, where she goes to school, she is referred to by other students and competitors as "the black swimmer." When she tells people she goes to Maryland but doesn't identify the College Park campus, she said people often assume she goes to the less academically rigorous University of Maryland, Eastern Shore, where the student body is heavily minority.

Brielle White was a seven-time All-American at Virginia and now hopes to land a spot on the U.S. Olympic team. The first African-American college champion was Chicago State's Fred Evans, who won the 100-yard breaststroke at the 1975 NAIA swimming championships. It took another 15 years for Anthony Nesty to become the first male swimmer of African descent (he is Afro-Caribbean) to win an NCAA championship.

Though many obstacles are left to be overcome, these programs and events appear to be the foundation blocks. I look forward to attending next year's National Black Heritage Championship Swim Meet and following the careers of Cross and others ready to take the national stage in a sport that is changing to look more like America.

This 269-word excerpt is sampled from a 1,606 word essay by Dr. Richard Lapchickon ESPN.com.

Lapchick is chairman of the DeVos Sport Business Management graduate program in the College of Business Administration at the University of Central Florida. The author of 13 books, Lapchick also directs UCF's Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport, is the author of the annual Racial and Gender Report Card in sports, and is the director of the National Consortium for Academics and Sport.