How Soul Swimmers are prioritising inclusivity

How Soul Swimmers are prioritising inclusivity

Soul Swimmers was founded by Debbie Croydon and Audrey Livingston in 2020 after years of deliberation about how to offer additional sporting provision to Black women. Alongside challenging pool closures and other pandemic implications, Debbie overcame a lack of confidence around the practicalities of starting her own club and any associated stigma with engaging ethnically diverse communities in aquatic activity to get Soul Swimmers up and running. The Club Matters team caught up with Soul Swimmers to learn more about the club’s progression and how inclusion can be prioritised in the same way across other organisations.

The purpose

As an avid triathlete and open-water swimmer, Debbie identified a lack of representation of ethnically diverse swimmers at triathlon events over the years. More recently, and during the pandemic, the heightened interest in the Black Lives Matters movement acted as a catalyst for the creation of Soul Swimmers. Upon the reopening of swimming pools, after the pandemic, the group began to provide opportunities for Black women to swim, who otherwise may not have engaged.

Part of this offer revolved around creating safe and sheltered spaces for sessions, such as exclusive hire of the pool during these times– enabling women to feel comfortable to participate and provided enough space for beginners to learn how to swim. The short-term aim for Soul Swimmers was to provide that space and generate positivity around engagement with swimming for women from ethnically diverse backgrounds. Longer term aims are two-fold: coaches, Debbie and Audrey, want to see more diversity participating competitively at triathlons or at open water events, and as a result, creating more black role models to encourage children to engage with the sport.

The organisation

Once a week the small group meet, with two sessions (‘beginners’ and ‘improvers’) held at a local pool. The sessions cost £10 and run indoors with 10 participants in each group until the weather is warmer, at which point they take to open water. The sessions currently have 19–66-year-olds involved, some from the same families after recommendation, and there is a waiting list to join the club.

Whilst the club is at capacity, Debbie and Audrey are the only volunteers involved in its running. As with many swimming clubs, the demand for pool space and increasing facility hire costs are challenging for Soul Swimmers. Despite this, some support has been received from kit suppliers and security of facilities will continue to be sought to ensure the clubs ongoing success.