Study Shows Swimming Skills Disparity Among Minorities

By Tracy Clemons

SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA)- That none of the six victims in the Red River drowning could swim shines a light on a problem among minorities---that most can't swim.

A study done by researchers at the University of Memphis says most minorities either can't swim well, or can't swim at all.

In a study conducted by researchers at the University of Memphis, 69 percent of the African American participants self-reported low swimming skills, and 58 percent of the Hispanic participants said the same.  That's to just 42 percent for whites.

"It's just not something we do.  We go to the water and we look at it...don't necessarily get in," says Jacqueline Winn.  She's in Shreveport for the summer, and getting her two sons swimming lessons at The Swim School.  She says she's heard reports that many minorities can't swim, and that it's important that her kids are not in that number.

"I'm very comfortable with what they've learned here since we've been here this summer.  My oldest couldn't swim.  My five year old is much more comfortable in the water," Winn says.

Paul Oberle Sr. runs The Swim School.  He says a lack of swimming skills contributes to tragedies that can often be avoided-"I think every parent, black or white, has a moral obligation to make sure their child can swim."

But that is much easier said than done.

"What we're finding is there is a fear of the water.  So some people don't come for that reason.  There's also financial means, which is another reason why people don't come," says Shelley McMillian.  She's the CEO of Rock Solid, the non-profit that runs Shreveport city pools.

"We're going to have to take the next step to help people not fear learning how to swim...instead fearing in a way that makes you respect water," McMillian says.

Paul Oberle Sr. adds that it would be simple for The Swim School to bring allow a church group, or any other group, to swim at the school during off hours at a discount.

Here is a link to the Diversity Research Study

Here is link to resources for swimming lessons in the Shreveport-Bossier metro area