By Doug Lennox
MLB Spring Training. MLS Regular Season. NBA Playoffs. NHL Playoffs. March Madness. College World Series. There is a lot to look forward to in the world of sports right now. One event that should be on everyone’s radar is the NCAA Swim Championships, which takes place on back-to-back weekends: Women compete March 16-19 and Men compete March 23-26. Yes, these two meets are fast. Yes, they are exciting. And, now they are setting a good example for other sports entities, too!
As part of the new Adopt-A-Team Program, ten generous NCAA Division I programs have volunteered their time and energy to get to know and work with a local Atlanta classroom. Throughout the year they have written letters, sent cool gear and video chatted to develop a relationship. As part of their NCAA experience, these ten college teams will actually visit their “adopted” classroom to meet their pen pals! And, with your help, we aim to bring as many classrooms of students to the Georgia Tech Natatorium to watch some of the fastest swimming in the world, and witness how the top teams function as one unit.
- Centennial Academy – Local Atlanta Grade School
- University of Alabama
- University of Georgia
- Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech)
- Louisiana State University
- Penn State University
- Purdue University
- University of Southern California
- University of Texas
- Tulane University
- West Virginia University
For more inspiration to support this program, listen to what some of the coaches and grade school teachers had to say about the project:
What motivated you and your team to participate in this pilot program?
Dave Salo, USC: We are always eager to participate in programs that we think can positively impact young kids. The Swim-Mersion Project was presented as a way to get local Atlanta kids interested in swimming, and to have the experience for our student-athletes at NCAA’s be more than just about competing. This is a chance to give back to the local Atlanta community for hosting such a great event.
Dennis Pursley, Alabama: As we all know, swimming offers a character building experience for the participants that is second to none. Still, swimming has a relatively low public profile outside of the Olympic year. We feel obligated to do everything we can to help spread the good news about what swimming offers young people, as well as celebrate the remarkable achievements of our athletes.
Katie Robinson, Tulane: Our team looks out for meaningful ways to serve and make a difference in the lives of others. The Swim-Mersion project seems like a good way for us to inspire young students through our sport, and be inspired ourselves through a genuine connection.
What goals do you hope to accomplish with the students of Atlanta through this project?
Katie Robinson, Tulane: Swimming and diving teams are not always given the attention they deserve given the amount of time and effort they give day in and day out. The Swim-Mersion Project helps recognize our team, university and our entire sport. In the process, we hope to accomplish a sense of excitement around our sport and university as we explore and new connections with the youth in Atlanta.
Catherine Vogt, USC: We hope to educate elementary students about all the opportunities across the country – it is proven that kids need positive role models and by showing these students that our swimmers and divers go to school, live across the country, are from all over the world but come together to study and swim at the highest level..it can be fun too!
Coach Ryan Mohamed, Centennial Academy: I would like to expose my students to a sport that they may not realize is an NCAA sport. Sure they know swimming is a sport, but they may not know they can get a scholarship for swimming. I also want to expose our kids to what a college student-athlete might endure in college.
Why is this project important to your team and the students of Atlanta?
Tim Murphy, Penn State: The project is important to our team because we are always looking for ways to give back and make connections. I think that this program not only gives us the opportunity to introduce Penn State Swimming to kids, but it also gives us the opportunity to create a positive experience for the kids of the Swim-Mersion Project that could impact them on a greater scale.
Dave Salo, USC: Our team is involved in several community projects that impact disadvantaged youth, most of whom are students of color. This is a program that I think our athletes will see as valuable to the local kids participating. We have seen first hand how our learn-to-swim program in a disadvantaged community in Los Angeles has such a huge impact on young kids and their families. We think this can have a positive impact on the kids in Atlanta as well as their extended family as they see their kids engaged and interested in their adopted college team.
Carol Capitani, Texas: We are very fortunate to be a part of a Division I collegiate program that puts excellence in academics and athletics at the forefront of everything we do. With this in mind, it is always important to give back, whether to our local community, the communities in our home states, or to the communities in which we compete.
Why is college swimming important to the larger community, beyond college campuses?
Dennis Pursley, Alabama: Our athletes are exceptionally positive role models. Society could benefit from seeing the example set by our student-athletes, and how swimming fosters the development of traditional values and attributes that are essential to productivity and prosperity in our culture.
Carol Capitani, Texas: College swimming imparts many lessons that will last a lifetime, like hard work, dedication, resilience, etc., and the people who learn how to thrive while competing in a collegiate setting will prepare themselves to find success in their future endeavors.
Coach Ryan Mohamed, Centennial Academy: It is important to the community because it exposes our children to something new. Competitive swimming is not just going to the local pool and racing a friend from one end to the other. There is technique. It’s an art. There’s a strategy.