Trojan Swimmer Creates a Wave of Change|
March 6, 2015
USC swimmers earn a break each Wednesday from their grueling practice schedule, but these athletes refuse to retire their Trojan work ethic. Many spend hump day taking an extra class, studying or getting involved in campus life.
Sophomore breaststroker Jamie Christy stays around the pool on her day off. Not USC's pool, however. And not in the water, either.
Instead, she teaches students at nearby Bethune Middle School how to swim.
Every week since September, Jamie makes the trip to South Los Angeles from 2:45pm - 5:45pm to teach middle schoolers lessons in swimming fundamentals and self-confidence.
"These kids used to be scared," Jamie said. "They wanted to learn, but they didn't understand the different strokes."
In the early stages of the program, which formed with the support of Tony Grutman and the Trojan Swim Club, Jamie would dive in to demonstrate a stroke, step by step, until the majority of the group grasped the concept.
The students then experimented with the new techniques. First freestyle, then backstroke, which Jamie describes as the easiest strokes to learn.
Since Valentine's Day, Jamie has them working harder. She's no longer in the water, now guiding from the deck. Instead of stopping to explain each technique, she's more focused on correcting mistakes while they execute the drills on their own.
"It's starting to click for them I think," Jamie said. "If you look at September compared to now, they've definitely improved."
When Jamie first started, she could see the hesitancy in the children's eyes.
"The girls in the program, especially," Jamie remembers. "They weren't confident enough in themselves to wear a swim suit."
An afternoon at USC's Uytengsu Aquatics Center would change that.
Jamie invited her Bethune mentees to soak up a Trojan practice one day in February. The young girls witnessed female swimmers all dressed in one-piece suits. They saw college students of different body types, and they noticed the athletes didn't judge each other or exhibit embarrassment.
Since that day, Jamie's seen major psychological changes in the girls.
"A lot of them, if you saw them in September, were very unsure," Jamie said. "They would look at the ground, didn't talk much. Now they're looking up, they're excited to come swim. They're so much more confident."
Along the way, Jamie has recruited teammates to join her at Bethune on Wednesdays. She now realizes her most significant lessons have been personal, not athletic.
"There are so many things that can make young kids feel insecure and doubt themselves," Jamie said. "I just want to be able to show them these basic swim techniques, show them how to be comfortable wearing a swim suit."
One day after practice, as Jamie walked to her car, a student's mother stopped her.
"Thank you so much," the parent said. "You've really helped my daughter's confidence. I'm so glad you're here."
That moment will always stick with Jamie.
"Hearing a parent say that to me, I was floored," Jamie reflected. "I'm just trying to make them better in one little aspect of their lives."
From 2:45pm - 5:45pm every Wednesday, Jamie is a stable figure in a fortunate group of Bethune Middle School kids' lives. She helps them float on their backs, kick harder and swim in straight lines.
Most importantly, however, Jamie supports their growth as adolescents.
"I'm just Jamie, but to these kids I'm something special, and that means a lot to me."