Swim Meet Aims to Bolster African-American Participation

Elton Hayes | 2/25/2013, 10:37 a.m.

"The main thing is to get other people my age to [be active in sports]," he said. "If what I do inspires somebody else, then that is what is important... Seniors need to know that you can accept your age, be proud and still be active."

Carmen Holassie, 44, lives in the District and spent most of the weekend cheering on her nine-year-old son Richard who participated in the butterfly, freestyle and backstroke events. Richard is a member of the DPR's D.C. Wave; the city's lone national competitive public youth swim team. Founded in 1983 with just eight swimmers, the team now boasts a roster of more than 120.

"All of the kids we have in the club are my kids," said D.C. Wave swim coach Rodger McCoy, a Northwest resident, who's been with the club since its inception.

Holassie said that while swimming has kept her young son physically active and healthy, the sport has had an even bigger impact on his life outside of the pool.

"Swimming has also helped him a lot in school. It's increased his mental focus," she said. "I've noticed that if he stops swimming for a period of time for whatever reason, I can see the difference. He'll get into trouble or will act very irritable. When he's swimming, there's less confusion. He's more focused and he gets his homework done on time."

Tatum said he hopes last weekend's events will help to bolster interest in the sport and ultimately produce future Olympians.

"Out of all of the kids who are out here swimming today, we have to have some future stars," he said with a laugh. "We make up 13 percent of the population; we should make up at least 13 percent of the swimmers who represent the country in the Olympics."