Cullen Jones Gives Back
It’s not often that we see professional athletes giving back to the community, especially the one they came from. Well, two-time Olympic gold medalist, Cullen Jones is proving us wrong. Jones partnered with the USA swimming foundation to teach kids how to swim and show that swimming is a positive experience.
Just Keep Swimming
The USA Swimming Foundation’s Make a Splash program is sending 1 million kids to the pool to learn how to swim. “Yeah, but can’t they get a regular lesson at home?” That’s what most people said when they initially heard about this program. The 1 million kids that Make a Splash are sending to the pool come from families that don’t have the access to lessons.
Most of the swimmers that go to the pool every summer have little or no ability to actually swim which leads to an increase in drownings. A top cause of unintentional death for children under 14, drowning is dangerous.
The Make a Splash initiative partners with swimming instructors every summer to offer lessons at a low cost or for free.
Cullen Jones wanted to partner with Make a Splash because, for him, this program was personal. A lot of Olympic athletes will say that their talent was natural from a young age. For Cullen, that was not the case. Even though he loved being in the water as a kid, he couldn’t swim.
One summer, Jones went to a waterpark and flipped over in his inner tube. He was fine, but the experience made his mom sign him up for lessons immediately. Jones loves helping kids learn to swim and see them go from only being able to blow bubbles to a full-on swimmer. He is especially devoted to Make a Splash because of the help they provide for those who are historically underrepresented at pools.
Changing the Stigma
Research conducted in 2010 showed that 70% of black kids and 60% of Latino kids didn’t have any swimming ability. This compared their white peers where only 42% of them lacked that ability. Since 2010, those numbers have greatly improved and we have Jones to thank for that.
Jones thinks in order to change the numbers, it’s important to change the narrative around different racial groups being able to swim. “There’s always been a stigma that black people don’t swim. It’s something that we have accepted as a culture. I think these lessons are so important because you are changing the perception of a culture,” Jones says.