Swimmers Jump Into Social Media Challenges for Change

Photo Courtesy: Lola Gomez, Daytona Beach News Journal

By Ailish Dougherty, Swimming World College Intern.

Most people with a Facebook account are familiar with the slew of social media “challenges” that have taken over the internet in recent years. Swimmers have joined in on the fun and brought many of these challenges to the next level with creativity and unique aquatic abilities.

It all started back in February of 2013 with the Harlem Shake videos. Usually lasting about 30 seconds, the video features a single person dancing to the song “Harlem Shake” by Baauer, then at the bass drop, the video cuts to an entire crowd doing a crazy, convulsive, yet entertaining dance accompanied by silly costumes and props. This meme was made popular by the University of Georgia Men’s Swimming and Diving team – social media users were astonished not by the team’s dancing abilities, but by their breath-holding skills. The video prompted swim teams across the country to produce and post their own remakes, each one more outrageous than the last.

Another viral social media challenge made popular in the swimming community was snow diving and swimming. Swimmers hate to miss a practice, even when snowed in by a blizzard, and this led to the trend of putting on a suit, cap, and goggles, and performing a racing dive right into a pile of deep snow. Not only did athletes dive into the snow, some brave souls even pretended to swim, kicking and pulling through snow banks as if they were swimming through the water. Once again, people were impressed and inspired to share the videos and create their own renditions of the frosty freestyle.

The most recent social media trend appears in the form of the “Mannequin Challenge,” made popular by a single Twitter video posted in October, involving a group of people standing completely still while the camera pans around to the song “Black Beatles.” The meme traveled around the web, recreated by numerous sports teams (Cowboys, Cavs, Giants, Penn State Football, you name it). Even Beyoncé and Hillary Clinton‘s team joined in on the fun. Once the swimming world picked up the trend, however, it was game over. Teams went over the top to show off their creativity – the videos often included swimmers mid-lap, halfway off the diving block, falling into the pool, even underwater.

These challenges offer swim teams a real bonding experience and a chance for exciting creative expression, as well as providing exposure for the swimming community to non-swimmers all over social media. But these challenges have the potential for real meaning, as well.

Kayne Finley, a 17-year-old swimmer for Spruce Creek High and Daytona Beach Swimming, was recently diagnosed with DIPG, an inoperable, highly aggressive tumor in the brainstem. Kayne’s swim club, inspired by his mother’s plea, took to the water to show their support for their teammate during his time of need. Coach Steve Lochte arranged for all of his swimmers to execute a cannonball salute, and posted the video with the hashtag: #CannonballsForKayne. Other Central Florida sports programs sent their regards, and a handful of college teams – including Missouri, Cincinnati, Toledo, Southern Illinois, Florida Gulf Coast, Tufts, Maryland-Baltimore County and Florida Southern – posted videos with the hashtag in solidarity as well. The challenge’s purpose is to raise awareness for Kayne’s disease, to rally his spirits, and to garner prayers for the Florida native’s recovery.

Already, swim teams across the nation – youth teams and college programs alike – friends, and family members have made the plunge and posted videos in support. Kayne has posted that he is “greatly appreciative of all the love and support from [his] friends and family across the US.” This social media challenge has the power to raise money and prayers for a boy in dire need. This is the kind of social media challenge that we should be partaking in – one full of purpose and love.

Find out more about Kayne’s diagnosis and fundraising efforts here.

All commentaries are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Swimming World Magazine nor its staff.

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