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Engaging black and ethnic minority communities in physical activity: a view from the Black Swimming Association

Engaging black and ethnic minority communities in physical activity: a view from the Black Swimming Association

Engaging in sport and physical activity is beneficial for your mental health and well-being. Regular engagement can also help reduce and improve your ability to do everyday activities. London remains one of the highest performing cities in the area of sports and physical activities. Whilst this is all seemingly positive, the ultimate question lies as to how London can better engage with Black and other ethnic minority groups to encourage inclusivity within the sporting sector?

The Black Swimming Association is working towards a future with ethnic diversity in the aquatic sector. Our mission is to ensure people of African, Caribbean and Asian heritage have equal access, feel included and have a SAFE and quality experience in, on and around the water. One of the ways the BSA has achieved this is through our Together We Can campaign, which sees deliverance of educating our participants on the importance of water safety.

Having initiatives and programmes in place like this is a great way to encourage Black and other ethnic minority groups into the world of sport and physical activity. At the BSA, we understand that whilst reach is important, ultimately we must drive our focus on engaging with our community and having a long-lasting effect. We take care in forming relationships as well as supporting our participants along their swimming journey, these are all key traits which resonate and encourage our participants to return.

Statistics show that 95% of Black adults and 80% of Black children in England do not swim. 93% of Asian adults and 78% of Asian children in England do not swim. (Sports England Active Lives Survey) We want to relay the message that swimming is for everyone. At the BSA, we believe it is important to demonstrate our key values when encouraging engagement within the aquatic sector. This includes leadership, inclusion, collaboration and innovation, ultimately working in our favour to encourage more diversity within the aquatic sector.

Representation is key when encouraging more diversity within the sporting industry. Having role models and influential figures plays a massive driving factor when engaging with our community. Take a look at Alice Dearing, one of our Co-founders of the BSA. Being the first black female to compete for Team GB in the Olympics, Alice has been able to create a platform and encourage many people that regardless of your race or background, swimming is for everyone. With this being said, media coverage also plays a vital role. It is important to not only have positive role models, but for our stories to be reflected in a positive light within the media. It’s about seeing the success stories as well as being educated on them, this will ultimately encourage Black and ethnic minorities to want to be a part of the changes taking place.

Creating a safe space also plays a vital role when encouraging diversity in sport and physical activity. When working with our participants, we have found that a lot of misconstrued stigmas that have been formed around swimming have most likely started from childhood traumas or negative experiences which have affected their swimming journey. At the BSA we take the time to form trusted relationships with our cohorts, understanding their needs/capabilities in order to progress to the next level. Whether battling fears such as aquaphobia or general lack of water safety knowledge, we ensure to treat each person with care. By doing this, it’s our way of delivering a tailor-made swimming experience which encourages inclusivity in the aquatics sector.

We are constantly looking at new ways to appeal to our community, working closely alongside our cohorts and developing new avenues to appeal to a wider audience. As we continue to impact the swimming sector through our work at the BSA, we take pride in being a part of the change, helping to diversify and engage Black and ethnic minorities in sport and physical activity.

Written by Rhiann O’Connor, Marketing Communications Lead for The Black Swimming Association

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