Sept. 8, 2017

The best teenage swimmers from across the globe gathered to compete at the FINA World Junior Swimming Championships on August 24 and 25 at the IUPUI Natatorium, and several hundred IPS elementary school students were in attendance to enjoy the competition.

The IPS District Athletics Department teamed up with USA Swimming to bring this opportunity to our students.

FINA Swim Meet

With sports such as basketball and football often taking precedence with inner-city youth, it is important for the district to expose IPS students to sports they may otherwise never experience. According to a study conducted by USA Swimming, nearly 75 percent of African-American youth and adolescents are unable to swim proficiently, which is clearly reflected in the lack of African-American participants in competitive swimming.

“We’re so excited to bring our young students to an event like this. Our goal here is to expose them to some outside-the-box opportunities that they’ve never had before,” said IPS District Athletics Director Jamal Smith. “Hopefully, some of them will pick up the sport along the way, and in the next five or 10 years, we could see some of the students that are up in the stands now down here in the pool competing.”

Prior to attending the meet, many of the students — as an added educational tie-in — researched different countries to learn about the places some of the competing swimmers came from. This newfound knowledge gave students a reason to root for the swimmers who represented those countries in the international swimming competition.

With the stands full of IPS students, their enthusiasm could be felt throughout the entire facility as they cheered and chanted down the final stretches of several meets, emphatically rooting for swimmers they had never heard of before.

“The energy they bring is just absolutely amazing,” said Olympic gold medalist Missy Franklin, after seeing all of the students in attendance. … “It’s so incredible, because everything is so intertwined. The hard work that we learn in the pool directly translates to the hard work that we can learn how to do in the classroom. When you have people who are helping you with that, it can make the biggest difference in the world.”

To top it all off, the students were greeted by former Olympian and world champion, Ariana Kukors, who spoke with them and gave out numerous autographs.

This event marked the first in what should prove to be a fruitful partnership between IPS Athletics and USA Swimming, as both look to continue to provide students in the district with opportunities to become more involved with the sport of swimming.