“We are still at a listening and understanding phase in Wales,” says Steph, who took up her new role two months ago after previously working at Welsh Triathlon.
“We are trying to find out what’s happening here as regards aquatic activity and where as an organisation we might sit in that.
“We want to work with other organisations and governing bodies. We don’t want to come in and try to take over.”
For the moment, then, that means crunching the numbers in the ongoing research and then shaping a programme of delivery that can make a difference when it comes to ensuring that swimming – and the valuable life skills that come with it – is an activity that’s open and accessible to all communities.
The research that has been undertaken by the BSA in England, as well as previously by Sport England, suggests that swimming is not an activity that could be described as diverse.
While overall figures for schoolchildren have shown that 50 per cent of them don’t swim, that figure rises to 80 per cent for black and Asian heritage schoolchildren.
It’s a similar discrepancy among adults where the number of black and Asian heritage non-swimmers is as high as 95 per cent.
That can have real life consequences for people who live near water or visit the coastline.
“We see a lot of young people from black and Asian backgrounds who end up drowning,” adds Steph.
“One of our aims is to reduce drowning by 20 per cent by 2024. We have identified there is a clearly an issue and we want to change the landscape.
“We want to take people through a journey of water safety education, helping build water confidence and overcoming aquaphobia where that might exist. These are real issues as well as the cultural, social and economic barriers that might already exist to put people off swimming.”
One of the groups the BSA have already linked with in England and will soon seek to do so in Wales, is the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI).
The RNLI’s FLOAT to Live safety campaign, which teaches anyone in trouble in the water to relax and lean back to regain control of their breathing, has already proved highly successful.
Now, the BSA hope further collaboration with the RNLI in specific community programmes can reduce the number of drownings in a campaign called ‘Together We Can’.
“One of our key drivers is to make sure that everyone in Wales knows the water safety code,” adds Steph, who grew up in Zimbabwe and was taught to swim at a very young age at her parents’ insistence. “Swimming is the only sport that can save your life.”
The BSA also point to a distinct lack of diverse figures when it comes to swim teachers, coaches, lifeguards and governing body staff. Their aim is improve that diversity by at least 25 per cent.
As a competitive sport, there have been few occasions when black swimmers have come to the fore, but it’s hoped the emergence of Great Britain’s Olympic swimmer Alice Dearing – a co-founder of the BSA – will provide a focus for change.
“There are not many role models, so we want more people to be there to inspire,” says Steph.
“At the end of the day, we have the same goal and the same mission as the governing bodies, which is to get more people active, through swimming, and keep more people safe in water.”
The National Lottery Project of the Year award is decided by a public vote. Please visit the National Lottery Awards web page www.lotterygoodcauses.org.uk/awards to find out more or use the Twitter hashtag #NLABlackSwimmingAssociation to vote for the Black Swimming Association. Voting closes at 5pm on October 12th.