In 2019, the Muhammad Ali Center (MAC), in partnership with the Trident Swim Foundation (Trident), launched an enrichment program for middle and high school youth. Taking place at Muhammad Ali’s alma mater, Central High School, the Ali Stingrays is an innovative afterschool, swimmer scholar program for underserved, students of color residing primarily in Louisville’s West End. These students enter the program will little to no swimming ability. Through a creative approach that combine athletics and academics, student participants receive daily swimming lessons and academic support, with the goal of every “Ali Stingray” leaving the program college and career ready. In its pilot year, the program is currently serving 10 students from Central High School and 15 students from the W.E.B. DuBois Academy. All programming is provided free of charge to students and families.
Our country’s legacy of institutional racism has created multi-generational barriers to swimming participation that reverberate even today. According to USA Swimming, over 64% of black American children self-identify as not being able to swim, a rate almost double that of white American children. Even more disturbing, black American children (ages 5-14) drown at nearly three times the overall rate of white American children. Additionally, although Louisville has a target goal of 100% college and career readiness, the Greater Louisville Project reports, “Since 2016, public school students in the four largest racial groups experienced a decrease in college and career readiness.” Specifically, white and Asian students continue to have much higher levels of college and career readiness than Hispanic students and African American students. Indeed, although 64.3% of white JCPS students graduate college and career ready, only 30.6% of Black students have achieved this critical benchmark.
The Ali Stingrays provides students participating in the program with the tools to achieve both athletic and academic success. Students participate in a daily academic session, where they have access to tutors, academic advisors, cultural experiences and college readiness through the Best College Match foundation. In addition to the academic support, students who participate in the Ali Stingrays swim program receive professional coaching from USA Swimming certified coach, all necessary swimming equipment, meet fees and insurance. This ensures that our program participants are on a level “playing field” with Louisville’s other USA swimming clubs.
Programs like the Ali Stingrays are made possible by the generosity of donors like you!
About Our Coach
Coach T.J. Lechner is certified USA Swimming coach. He was born and raised in Louisville, KY and has been involved in the swimming community for 25 years. Lechner has been coaching swimming on the club level for 12 years. He is also a High School Special Education teacher for JCPS. When it comes to coaching, Lechner believes that caring about the person is the first step to making that person a better athlete. He also believes that having fun is the key to longevity in anything, but you have to put in the necessary work to have the necessary fun. Coach Lechner looks forward to getting the Ali Stingrays off the ground and helping to build the program into something that this city, this state, and this country have never seen before.
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