#30MostSwimfluential: Coach Jim Ellis

Photo Courtesy: USA Swimming

Who is Jim Ellis?

  • Started as a water safety instructor with what is now Sayre-Morris Recreation Center in West Philadelphia. He’d work with the kids who didn’t get picked for basketball.
  • Founded the Philadelphia Department of Recreation Swim Team in 1972. This was the first African American swim team.
  • At the 1990 Junior Nationals- three of Ellis’ swimmers had times among the top six nationally; eight others ranked regionally in the top 10. Became the New York Times Magazine cover story for bringing what the article stated as “the largest contingent of black swimmers ever to appear at a national swim meet.”
  • Received the President’s Award from the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 2007.
  • His story was the basis of the 2007 film Pride.

How did he influence the swimming community?

Ellis has made competitive swimming an option for inner city youth and advocated for more pool access for minority swimmers. His determined efforts have fought stereotypes and diversified the sport. His program has become a model for other urban swim teams around the country and his work has been an inspiration for other swim coaches. Despite fewer resources than the competition, his swimmers have achieved success at the national level. He has worked tirelessly to empower young swimmers and give them a future via the sport of swimming.

*USA Swimming and Speedo invited the swimming community to help celebrate their 30 years of partnership by voting for the “30 Most Influential People in Swimming Over the Past 30 Years.” Votes were cast through social media with the hashtag #30MostSwimfluential and the final vote came from a panel of 10 judges selected by USA Swimming and Speedo. All 30 nominees have had a powerful impact on the swimming community. Many are recognizable names, but some have remained unsung heroes of the sport. Swimming World will profile each swimfluential person over the course of the week.

4 Comments

4 comments

  1. Chung Kwan Pong

    Respect this guy and watch the movie “Pride”.

  2. Nikki Whitlock

    The Pride of Philadelphia! Awesome for the sport of swimming!

    • Fred Evans

      Thank you Bess Swanson!

Author: Cathleen Pruden

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Cathleen Pruden is a 2016 graduate of Mount Holyoke College and was a four time All-American and a three time Academic All-American for the Lyons. She grew up swimming in and has also coached in Raleigh, North Carolina. Currently she is the Assistant Coach at Bowdoin College.

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