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Pride, Determination, Resilience (PDR) – The Amazing Swim Team of Jim Ellis

Pride, determination, and resilience – combine these three qualities, and you’ve got a solid foundation for excellence. To Jim Ellis, these qualities were important ones to teach kids, especially underserved kids who might not have many examples of them. Jim chose to teach kids these qualities by sharing with them something he loved – swimming.

In 1972, Jim decided to start a swim team for inner city kids under the Philadelphia Department of Recreation. The PDR swim team, as it was called, consisted mainly of African-American kids, which was unusual for the time – very few African-Americans were swimmers. But Jim persisted in teaching the kids on his team, and they began to succeed. Along the way, they faced many obstacles, but Jim pushed them to overcome these obstacles with pride, determination, and resilience. And now, almost 40 years later, the results have been simply amazing – he has helped hundreds of kids achieve not only phenomenal success in swimming, but outstanding success in life as well!

In this video, Jim Ellis talks about how he was inspired to establish his exceptional swim team.

Additional Resources:

  • Here is an article that tells all about Jim and the great success of his PDR team.
  • Here is another article about Jim and his inspirational team.

Topics for Discussion:

  • How do you think Jim and his team felt when they faced obstacles like prejudice despite their hard work?
  • Why do you think Jim emphasized pride, determination, and resilience? What do these things mean to you?

Take Action:

  • Visit the PDR Swimming website to learn more about this great team and how you can help support it!
  • Visit the Beyond Sports Foundation website to learn how you can help other underprivileged kids succeed in sports and in life!

Teacher Features:

  • Here is a link to a Critical Reading Skills worksheet that you can use for elementary school students.
  • Here is a link to a Critical Reading Skills worksheet that you can use for middle school students.


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