Do you have a mission you want to share with the world? Have you ever wondered how you could turn your misfortune into a success story? How do you start a movement? Meet Noelle Singleton – a Swim Coach on a mission – who did just that.
Watch this Exclusive behind-the-business look at how Noelle is turning a debilitating illness into a life-saving empire. She shines a spotlight on an industry that largely ignores and often excludes people of color. Her boldness in using her voice has led to partnerships with large aquatic and sports brands.
She’s diversifying the landscape of the swimming industry with one war cry:
S W I M M O R E.
Listen to her journey from the hospital room to the swimming pool. Listen to the passion and the drive that fuels her mission. And listen to her voice her dreams for the future.
Learn how she overcame degenerative disc disease, anxiety, & negative stereotypes to build her business and start the AfroSwimmers movement.
Christiana: Hey guys! So we’re here at Windy Hill Athletic Club. We’re waiting on Noelle Singleton a Swim Coach extraordinaire and leader of the AfroSwimmers movement.
We’re gonna talk to her a little bit about how she got started as a swim coach, how she started her swim coaching business.
Then we’re gonna talk a little bit about how she used social media as a tool to grow a movement. Y’all she has a whole community rallied around her, rooting for her, and watching her grow.
So we’re gonna learn a little bit about that and maybe learn a few tips and tricks about how to use social media to grow our business.
She’s around here somewhere, so I’m just gonna sit here and wait for her beautiful self to show up.
Noelle: Hi Chris!
Noelle: How are you?
Christiana: So good to see you.
Noelle: I’m so happy to see you, too.
C: I’m excited about today. You ready?
N: I am so ready.
C: Awesome. Let’s go.
N: Let’s do it!
So you ready? Let’s go.
N: Teaching people how to swim as a very intimate thing. So it’s important that I create the energy and the atmosphere that I want them to experience before I even get to the pool.
And I show up around 10 a.m. – that’s normally when I take my first client. I coach back to back. So as soon as I get in, as soon as I walk into that door, it’s showtime.
The second they see me, the lesson starts when I walk in. It doesn’t happen when I’m in the pool. I’m smiling, the kids are normally running to me, or my clients – I can see the anxiety on their face because they don’t know what to expect.
And then once we get into the water, I can feel their energy change, I can feel them relax, I can feel the joy come in. And I literally have to remind myself to eat because I’m so in tune to what I’m doing.
I’m so passionate about being in the water with them, I have to set alerts to drink water, go to the bathroom, eat. And I’ve never experienced that until I started doing my passion work. I’ll see anywhere between an average of five to maybe eight lessons a day.
After that, I eat and then I go to my computer and I respond to emails from the day. I’m returning phone calls. There are some days where I’m here from 10 a.m. to 9:30/10:00 p.m. at night.
And of course I’m practicing self-care, I’m taking care of myself in between that time, but there’s just there’s so much to be done.
I have to remind myself that tomorrow’s another day and I don’t have to do it all today and it’s okay to table things.
C: Take us back a little bit. Where did all of this start?
N: Well, it started with a diagnosis. When I was 26, I was diagnosed with degenerative disc disease and it rocked my world.
I had a pain in my neck that would radiate completely down my arms and I went from being in the best shape of my life to not being able to carry a gallon of milk.
So I lost my lifestyle, I lost my self-care, I lost my coping mechanisms. And so I went, for three years, I went and tried every Western form medicine I could find – any traditional and non-traditional.
So I decided to have surgery in 2015 and I made a full recovery.
So in that transition I was going to work. I was working a regular nine-to-five in health care and I’d just come back off of my medical leave from my surgery and I knew that I didn’t belong there.
I was miserable. I didn’t have a plan, I didn’t know what I was gonna do, I just knew I didn’t belong there. So I went to work one day and left with a two-week notice.
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And so, once I quit my job, I took that opportunity to just kind of brainstorm and think what am I good at? What could I do to strengthen my health? And I still wasn’t even – I didn’t know I was going to become a swim coach at this point in time.
But I’ve always been a swimmer. Swimming has always been a part of my life.
And part of my rehabilitation was trying to take the pressure off the joints, so I went and got in the pool. For myself. Nobody told me to, I just knew that that was a place for my healing.
So I started going to the pool, and I started taking my goddaughter with me. And I was teaching her how to swim and I — if there was a kid at the pool and I was there, they got a free lesson. And I would just teach you for free, because I was there.
And, next thing I knew, I was running a swim lesson business. I was booking clients, I was taking payments, I was scheduling. I was doing it. Without even realizing that I was participating in entrepreneurship.
And it started off small and it started to get bigger and bigger and bigger. Well, when I went to go create an Instagram account for Love Swim Coaching, I noticed that there wasn’t an active community of black swimmers available through social media.
I don’t want to be identified as the black swimmer. I’m a swimmer who happens to be black. And so I wanted something that was going to bring people together not further separate us and push us apart.
And so that’s where Love Swim Coaching transitioned into AfroSwimmers. I wanted people to know that we come in all different shades, colors, sizes, countries, nationalities. And your race or your nationality is not why you can’t or don’t swim.
Next thing I know I’m starting – people I don’t even know when other countries are DMing me their stories and the videos of their children swimming, just wanting to share their experience with me. And my mind was blown.
C: What do you – what would you attribute that almost instantaneous… I know it wasn’t instantaneous,
N: At all.
C: — but it seemed like it snowballed into this movement. What would you attribute that snowballing to?
N: I’m really good at social media. But when I say I’m really good at social media, it’s because of the vulnerability that I create in my post. I’m very honest I have no problem talking about the issues I face with my hair.
I have no problems talking about the issues that I face as a black woman in a predominantly white sport. I have no problems talking about how it makes me feel, you know, when I walk into a pool and there’s that one black kid on entire swim team and he does – he’s never even seen a black coach.
C: What has it been like for you? What’s that ride been like?
N: They say that if your dreams don’t scare you, they’re not big enough. My dreams petrify me. To the point that sometimes I wake up with anxiety, because I’m trying to figure out how — God, how do I get from here to there?
C: So you mentioned friends getting you through it. How else did you kind of get past that fear
and that uncertainty of either delegating or just doing what it takes every day to make your vision come to life?
N: Having a strong support system. My friends wouldn’t have let me quit even if I wanted to and I actually tried a couple of times. And they literally like would schedule a group call and just get on me: “No, Noey. this is what we’re gonna do. This is where you started. You didn’t come this far to let go. There are people who are depending on you.”
And so that is really important – having that source of encouragement for when you have a bad day. I’ve been working on AfroSwimmers for the past three years, including the year that I created Love Swim Coaching.
Seeing the things that I’ve accomplished and then seeing the things that I’ve now stepped outside of my own box to say I can go bigger.
Saying this out loud is making it real, but it also means now I have to hold myself accountable and I have to surround myself with people who hold me accountable.
C: What kind of advice would you give to people who were looking at using social media as a medium to spread their message or to get the word out there about what they’re trying to accomplish?
N: The most important thing is create partnerships. If your vision is that fragile that you can’t
support someone else in achieving the same goal, then you might want to re-evaluate the vision.
You can’t be a leader until you know how to serve.
Everything that I do for AfroSwimmers is about building a community.
The second thing is finding your niche. Some people have no idea who their demographic is. Who are you talking to? You need to specify your community. Who is your target audience? And that way you’ll know how to talk to them.
And then the last thing I would say is be honest.
We are living in an age of superficial models, superficial posts, of Photoshop. But, ultimately, I think that this generation is looking for something real.
C: What would you say to Noelle who was sitting in her nine-to-five job and thinking this is not for me? What words of wisdom would you have to say to her?
N: The thing that I was looking for my entire life — the passion that I was praying for, was something I had access to the entire time. And if you would’ve told me that after everything I was going to end up back in the pool, I would’ve laughed at you in your face.
I was supposed to be an attorney. That was the plan. And I’m a Swim Coach and I couldn’t be more proud.
Don’t swim scared. If you’re going to do it, do it. You’re still going to feel the fear, but you have to swim through it. You can’t stop. And it’s okay not to have all the answers. It’s okay to take things one day at a time and to stay present and to stay mindful. It’s okay.
And in the end, it’s all gonna be worth it.
That’s what I would tell her.
C: So, we just got done talking to Noelle Singleton of AfroSwimmers. And I hope you loved this episode, because I found it so inspirational. The thing that I loved Noelle does for her business,
Is that passion and the drive that she has behind her mission. And how she used social media to really drive that action.
So if you have a mission, if you have a passion, if you have some projects that you have in your head, I hope you found this episode helpful.
So I’ll see you next time? Bye!
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