Spotlight on Aquatics & Black Health

January/February 2019: Aquatics & Black Health



Content courtesy of the National Swimming Pool Foundation

In part because it levels the playing field for therapy and exercise, today’s aquatic professionals tend to think of the pool as the great equalizer. But too many people still miss out on the chance to take full advantage of the health benefits of swimming, aquatic fitness, and aquatic sports. In 2017, the USA Swimming Foundation published a study reporting that 64.2% of black adults claimed little to no swimming skills, compared to fewer than 40% of white adults. Because a lack of water competence perpetuates itself from one generation to the next, confronting these figures is vital to the health of our communities. Since the factors contributing to this troubling disparity vary tremendously, this month’s spotlight attempts to survey some recent work in, around, and beyond this issue. The studies in the Spotlight section below serve as an admittedly partial introduction to important concerns for black lives in aquatics.

SPOTLIGHT REFERENCES: Aquatics & Black Health

Anderson, S. (2017). A health disparity: Perceived ecological system factors of African American aquatic professionals that impact African American participation in water safety awareness, education and aquatic programing. University of Maryland Eastern Shore. Retrieved from

Anne, M., & Franklin, R. C. (2015). Exploring the Delivery of Swimming and Water Safety Teacher Training to Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Communities. International Journal of Aquatic Research and Education, 9(3), 3.

Banks, T. L. (2014). Still Drowning in Segregation: Limits of Law in Post-Civil Rights America. Law and Inequality: A Journal of Theory and Practice32.

Beale-Tawfeeq, A., Anderson, A., & Ramos, W. (2018). A Cause to Action: Learning to Develop a Culturally Responsive/Relevant Approach to 21st Century Water Safety Messaging through Collaborative Partnerships. International Journal of Aquatic Research and Education11(1).

Berg, B. K., Irwin, C. C., Wright, P. M., Irwin, R. L., & Hutchinson, M. (2016). An unacceptable status quo: A sport development case study of swimming and drownings. Sport Management Review19(4), 454–465.

Berukoff, K. D., & Hill, G. M. (2010). A Study of Factors That Influence the Swimming Performance of Hispanic High School Students. International Journal of Aquatic Research and Education4(4).

Dawson, K. (2018). Parting the Waters of Bondage: African Americans’ Aquatic Heritage. International Journal of Aquatic Research and Education11(1).

Felton, H., Myers, J., Liu, G., open, D. D.-B., & 2015, undefined. (n.d.). Unintentional, non-fatal drowning of children: US trends and racial/ethnic disparities. Bmjopen.Bmj.Com. Retrieved from

Felton, H., Myers, J., Liu, G., & Davis, D. W. (2015). Unintentional, non-fatal drowning of children: US trends and racial/ethnic disparities. BMJ Open5(12), e008444.

Fogan, D. (2014). An assessment of barriers that impact the swimming abilities of young African Americans attending a southeastern Historically Black College and University (HBCU). Howard University.

Gilchrist, J., Parker, E. M., & Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (2014). Racial/ethnic disparities in fatal unintentional drowning among persons aged ≤ 29 years – United States, 1999-2010. MMWR. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report63(19), 421–6. Retrieved from

Glassman, T. J., Castor, T., Karmakar, M., Blavos, A., Dagenhard, P., Domigan, J., … Kucharewski, R. (2018). A Social Marketing Intervention to Prevent Drowning Among Inner-City Youth. Health Promotion Practice19(2), 175–183.

Golob, M. I., Giles, A. R., & Rich, K. M. (2013). Enhancing the Relevance and Effectiveness of Water Safety Education for Ethnic and Racial Minorities. International Journal of Aquatic Research and Education7(1).

Gorsuch, M. M., Jr., S. L. M., Lai, Y., Steward, D., & Motachwa, R. (2018). Vanishing racial disparities in drowning in Florida. Injury Prevention, injuryprev-2018-042872.

Hastings, D. W., Zahran, S., & Cable, S. (2006). Drowning in Inequalities. Journal of Black Studies36(6), 894–917.

Higgerson, J., Halliday, E., Ortiz-Nunez, A., & Barr, B. (2018). The impact of free access to swimming pools on children’s participation in swimming. A comparative regression discontinuity study. Journal of Public Health

Irwin, C. C., Irwin, R. L., Ryan, T. D., & Drayer, J. (2009). Urban minority youth swimming (in)ability in the United States and associated demographic characteristics: toward a drowning prevention plan. Injury Prevention : Journal of the International Society for Child and Adolescent Injury Prevention15(4), 234–9.

Irwin, C. C., Layne, T. E., Irwin, R. L., & Pharr, J. (2018). Factors Impacting Swimming Participation and Competence. RESEARCH QUARTERLY FOR EXERCISE AND SPORT89, A130-131.

Irwin, C. C., Irwin, R. L., Ryan, T. D., & Drayer, J. (2011). The Legacy of Fear: Is Fear Impacting Fatal and Non-Fatal Drowning of African American Children? Journal of Black Studies42(4), 561–576.

Irwin, C. C., Pharr, J. R., Irwin, R. L., & Layne, T. E. (2018). Youth Swimming Ability and Associated Factors in the United States, 2010-17. American Journal of Health Behavior42(5), 32–42.

Irwin, C., Irwin, R., Ryan, T., & Drayer, J. (2009). The Mythology of Swimming: Are Myths Impacting Minority Youth Participation? International Journal of Aquatic Research and Education3, 10–23. Retrieved from

Irwin, J., O’Callaghan, F., & Glendon, A. I. (2018). Predicting Parental Intentions to Enrol Their Children in Swimming Lessons Using an Extended Theory of Planned Behaviour. Australian Psychologist53(3), 263–270.

Ito, G. H. (2014). Barriers to Swimming and Water Safety Education for African Americans. International Journal of Aquatic Research and Education8(3), 240–257.

Jensen, J. R. (2018). Assessing College Student Student Perceptions of Participation in Swimmin as a Physical Activity. Graduate College of Hampton University. Retrieved from

Langendorfer, S. (2019). Revised Scientific Review: Minimum Age for Swim Lessons. International Journal of Aquatic Research and Education10(4).

Lawson, K. A., Duzinski, S. V., Wheeler, T., Yuma-Guerrero, P. J., Johnson, K. M. K., Maxson, R. T., & Schlechter, R. (2012). Teaching Safety at a Summer Camp: Evaluation of a Water Safety Curriculum in an Urban Community Setting. Health Promotion Practice13(6), 835–841.

Long, J., Dashper, K., Fletcher, T., & Ormerod, N. (2015). Understanding participation and non-participation in sport amongst Black and minority ethnic groups in Wales. Retrieved from

Myers, S. L., Cuesta, A., & Lai, Y. (2017). Competitive Swimming and Racial Disparities in Drowning. The Review of Black Political Economy44(1–2), 77–97.

Norwood, D. (2018). Conflicted: An Autoethnography on Researching the Minority Swimming Gap. International Journal of Aquatic Research and Education11(1).

Olaisen, R. H., Flocke, S., & Love, T. (2018). Learning to swim: role of gender, age and practice in Latino children, ages 3-14. Injury Prevention : Journal of the International Society for Child and Adolescent Injury Prevention24(2), 129–134.

Pharr, J. R., Irwin, C. ;, & Irwin, R. (2014). Parental Factors That Influence Swimming in Children and Adolescents. International Journal of Aquatic Research and Education8(4), 11–12.

Pharr, J., Irwin, C., Layne, T., Irwin, R., Pharr, J., Irwin, C., … Irwin, R. (2018). Predictors of Swimming Ability among Children and Adolescents in the United States. Sports6(1), 17.

Pitts, L. (2007). History lessons: A look back at the history of Blacks and swimming reveals the roots of a persistent minority drowning issue that’s sometimes perpetuated by Blacks themselves. Aquatics International, 42–49.

Quan, L. (2014). Risk Factors for Drowning: Culture and Ethnicity. In Drowning (pp. 127–130). Berlin, Heidelberg: Springer Berlin Heidelberg.

Quan, L., Ramos, W., Harvey, C., Kublick, L., & Langendorfer, S. (2015). Toward Defining Water Competency: An American Red Cross Definition. International Journal of Aquatic Research and Education9(1), 2–3.

Ramos, W. D., & Anderson, A. R. (2017). A Reasoned Action Approach Assessment of Instructional Youth Swim Safety Messaging. International Journal of Aquatic Research and Education10(2).

Ries, A. V., Gittelsohn, J., Voorhees, C. C., Roche, K. M., Clifton, K. J., & Astone, N. M. (2008). The Environment and Urban Adolescents’ Use of Recreational Facilities for Physical Activity: A Qualitative Study. American Journal of Health Promotion23(1), 43–50.

Russell, W. D. (2014). The relationship between youth sport specialization, reasons for participation, and youth sport participation motivations: A retrospective study. Journal of Sport Behavior37(3), 286–305.

Sabo, D., & Veliz, P. (2016). Inequalities in Athletic Participation During Adolescence: A Nationwide Study of Attrition Rates in Organized Sports in the United States. Health Behavior and Policy Review3(2), 88–98.

Sally, R., Irwin, C. C., Irwin, R. L., Martin, N. T., & Ryan, T. D. (2014). The Development of Swimming Skills for African American Youth: Parent and Caregiver Perceptions of Barriers and Motivations. International Journal of Aquatic Research and Education8(3), 3.

Sato, T., Ellison, D. W., & Eckert, K. (2018). African American pre-service physical education teachers’ learning about aquatic courses. European Physical Education Review, 1356336X1877476.

Shenoi, R. P., Levine, N., Jones, J. L., Frost, M. H., Koerner, C. E., & Fraser, J. J. (2015). Spatial analysis of paediatric swimming pool submersions by housing type. Injury Prevention : Journal of the International Society for Child and Adolescent Injury Prevention21(4), 245–53.

Stallman, R. K., Moran, K., Quan, L., & Langendorfer, S. (2017). From Swimming Skill to Water Competence: Towards a More Inclusive Drowning Prevention Future. International Journal of Aquatic Research and Education10(2).

Stodolska, M., Sharaievska, I., Tainsky, S., & Ryan, A. (2014). Minority Youth Participation in an Organized Sport Program. Journal of Leisure Research46(5), 612–634.

Storm, M. K., Williams, K. N., Shetter, E. M., Kaminsky, J., Lowery, C. M., Caldas, S. V., … Winch, P. J. (2017). Sink or Swim: Promoting Youth Development Through Aquatics Programs in Baltimore, Maryland. Journal of Park and Recreation Administration35(1), 66–79.

USA Swimming (2017). 2017 Membership Demographic Report. Colorado Springs, CO.

Waller, S., & Bemiller, J. (2018). Navigating Rough Waters: Public Swimming Pools, Discrimination, and the Law. International Journal of Aquatic Research and Education11(1).

Waller, S., & Norwood, D. M. (2011). What African Americans Can Do to Bridge the Swimming Gap: A Call to Action. International Journal of Aquatic Research and Education5(4), 10.

Wallis, B. A., Watt, K., Franklin, R. C., Taylor, M., Nixon, J. W., & Kimble, R. M. (2015). Interventions associated with drowning prevention in children and adolescents: systematic literature review. Injury Prevention21(3), 195–204.

Wiltse, J. (2014). The Black–White Swimming Disparity in America. Journal of Sport and Social Issues38(4), 366–389.

Wiltse, J. (2007). Contested Waters: a Social History of Swimming Pools in America. University of North Carolina Press.

Wolfrom, D., Murray, E., & Dominguez, A. (2018). Modeling Initial Participation of Diverse Communities in Competitive Swimming. International Journal of Aquatic Research and Education, 11(1).