RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- In a 2017 report from the USA Swimming Foundation, 64 percent of Black children have little or no swimming ability compared to 40 percent of White children.
One Saint Augustine's University football player is trying to change that.
"Most of the time when you see African Americans in the sports world you think basketball, football, maybe track," Zachary Barco, a redshirt sophomore said. "You don't think about swimming, golf, even tennis most of the time and that's really a stigma I wanted to change as well."
Barco began swimming when he was about 5 years old and became a lifeguard at 15 in hopes of encouraging African Americans to learn how to swim.
"People don't really realize that there's a stigma that Black people don't know how to swim," he sid. "It's a joke that you hear when you're kids and go to the pool and you hear 'are you sure you're going to be able to swim? because Black people don't know how to swim' and that's just really a stigma that I wanted to change because I grew up knowing how to swim."
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"It was one of those things where the things that he's working to break is one of the things that I always tell people that I had to deal with," said David Bowser, Saint Augustine's University football coach. "When I was really young I had a cousin that drowned and that always stuck in the back of my head for a long time ... I do look back on it on that I do wish I had someone like Zach to encourage me to kind overcome that complex."
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Whether it's at his neighborhood pool or at the Knightdale community pool where he lifeguards, Barco is teaching people of all ages and races how to swim for free.
"I feel like it's a basic necessity for life," he said. "I'm not going to charge somebody to teach them how to walk. I feel like swimming is just like that. You should know how to swim. Not something that is nice to know, something you need to know because it could possibly, potentially save their life."
His coach said those qualities are commendable.
"He's a very conscious person of everybody," Bowser said. "He's not built to be selfish; he's selfless, and he should be commended for that. He's a great example of what we need in 2020 and moving forward from our athletes and on their platforms now."
If you're interested in taking lessons, you can contact Zach at email@example.com.
Saint Augustine's University football player encouraging African Americans to learn to swim with free lessons
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