A not-for profit swimming club, is encouraging more of Leicester’s Black (Asian, African and Caribbean) community to swim regularly in order to maintain their physical and mental well being.
Afro Aquatics weekly women’s swim tuition at Winstanley School Pool, Braunstone, was launched in July 2022 by Katrice Rodrigues.
Due to its success, demand has increased leading the founder to launch a weekly class for Adult Swim Tuition at the end of March, which is to be held every Friday at Leicester Grammar School pool.
Ms Rodrigues decision to set up ‘Afro Aquatics’ stems from experiences as a young swimmer, when she joined a local swimming club, aged eight.
“Me and my brother were the only Afro-Caribbean people in the club. There were a few Asian families, but there was just me and my brother from our background,” said the swimmer, who has been teaching since the late 80s.
“I was in the West Midlands league so I swam at different pools all over the country except for London. I remember going to Sheffield, Wolverhampton and all over the East and West Midlands.
“I honestly can’t remember seeing any other black Afro-Caribbean faces there. When I was younger it was kind of the normal thing. I did notice, but it’s only really now as an adult that when I look back and into it more that there weren’t those faces within the clubs.”
Katrice is from a mixed ethnic background, her dad is from Jamaica and her mum is with English, but she was adopted at a young age and grew up with a white English family.
This month, Katrice is involved in a campaign by Swim England, which aims to encourage more swim teachers from ethnic backgrounds, something which she feels is lacking.
“From my experience tutoring, I have tutored as far as Tunbridge Wells and all across the South and East Midlands area and again, there’s not many Back swim teachers,” she revealed.
“But I think it’s a generational thing. There’s a lot of different factors to why Afro-Caribbean people don’t tend to swim but it’s not a thing that grandparents and parents really did, but it is becoming something their children are doing.
“Although a lot of the Afro-Caribbean families obviously come from islands where they may well have swum around the island and in the seas, there’s never really been that transition in the pools in the UK.
“There’s also a lot of issues with the afro hair. The chlorine dries your hair out and and dries your skin out, but there’s products around that can stop that.
“I’ve just actually bought myself a swim scarf where you can fit all your hair in it, so there’s those things, but if you’re not into swimming you’re probably not aware of that.
“Particularly Afro-Caribbean women but men as well, they spend a lot of time and money on their hair with different hair styles and a lot of the time, if you get it wet, the hair style is ruined.
“That can be enough of a reason for them to not get into the water full stop.”
As well as offering swim sessions, Afro Aquatics also educates members about hair care, what to wear, and has created a strong support network amongst members. It has a link with SwimScalf to be able to offer members an exclusive discount to purchase swim hats that are suitable for people with long and big hair.
To find out more and read Katrice’s and Afro Aquatics story, visit: https://www.afroaquatics.com/