Former student-athlete swimmer alleges racism at a private Georgia high school​

Published by Fiifi Frimpong on

Former student-athlete swimmer alleges racism at a private Georgia high school

Editor’s Note: In an effort to protect both the swimmer’s reputation as well as the collegiate scholarship tied to said reputation, we have changed her name but have verified her identity, association and titles thereof.

A Northeast Conference upperclassmen swimmer Callie Wilson began swimming competitively at the age of nine. Wilson, who is Black, dreamed about being an accomplished swimmer since that age and has experienced obstacles along the way. 

For now, checking goals off her bucket list are put on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic stopping fall sports competitions. But three years ago, Wilson’s experiences at Woodward Academy almost led her to walk away from the sport altogether. 

“Junior year [Woodward] brought in a new coach,” Wilson said. “She would not put me in events I excelled at. With other White swimmers, they put them in their best events.” 

Wilson spent four years swimming at Woodward Academy before committing to a Northeast Conference school. Woodward is a private, pre-k-12 school located in Atlanta’s metropolitan area. 

Black Woodward students have voiced their displeasures against the racism experienced at the school. The blackatwoodward Instagram account features more than 300 posts about Black students and other students of color. Several made posts on the account claiming their complaints about racism were reported to the school’s administration, but discipline was not handed out. 

Wilson’s father’s complaints to Woodward’s administration were also ignored after her daughter expressed mistreatment from head coach Danielle LeFevers.

Wilson said LeFevers refused to allow her to compete in events she excelled at. Wilson preferred and excelled in the backstroke and freestyle races during her time at Woodward. 

Wilson placed top five in nine different races when she swam backstroke and freestyle for her club team from Nov. 2016 to Oct. 2017. Lefevers opted to place Wilson in other events at Woodward despite the solid number in club events.    

“There were 14 meets that year,” Wilson said. “I was only in 100 backs twice.”

Wilson said her high school coach’s decisions affected her rankings and placements on her club swimming team. Recorded times and performances in high school meets can dictate which club events swimmers can participate in.  

Wilson was able to commit with an athletic scholarship despite her coach’s actions affecting recruiting. 

Wilson remembers creating her profile on a recruiting website to attract interests from schools across the country. She had interests from Division I programs in Alabama, Tennessee, Indiana and South Carolina.

Wilson said the process was stressful but decided to attend after liking the school more than her other options. 

Swimming at her Northeast Conference is a totally different experience for Wilson. Her coaches are supportive and allow her to participate in preferred events. 

She described her assistant coach as her best friend and someone she could talk to about anything. 

Wilson also said her head coach regularly checks up with her during the offseason. He would call to ensure Wilson was doing well after Black Live Matter protests in her hometown.   

Wilson was slated to begin her next campaign in the pool. The Northeast Conference reaffirmed their decision announced on July 29 to postpone fall sports athletics competitions and championships due to the coronavirus pandemic. The NEC said any competition will begin no earlier than Nov. 25. 

A high school swim meet in 2010. Few things have seemed to change since then. Judith Y. Kim | Avant-Youth
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Fiifi Frimpong

Fiifi Frimpong

Fiifi Frimpong is a 23-year-old graduate student at the Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY in New York City. He is a multimedia journalist and hopes to specialize his work covering sports teams in America. He is usually searching for food recipes to prepare a meal, but always ends up ordering takeout from his favorite Mexican restaurant. In his free time, Frimpong enjoys attending New York Yankee games and hip-hop concerts.

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