Please introduce yourself. What do you do? Why? What do you want people to know about you?
Jamal Hill is a man on a mission. He’s dedicated his life to helping others learn how to swim and ultimately win the War On Drowning, which claims millions of innocent lives around the globe every year. As a Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Swimming Medalist for The United States of America, Jamal uses his international notoriety and platform to provide swim education resources, opportunities, and inspiration to millions of families around the world.
He’s also the Founder and President of the Swim UP Hill Foundation, a U.S. Based 501c3 organization that has a mission to teach 1,000,000 people across the globe how to swim every year through the Swim UP Hill Method TM by the 2028 Olympic and Paralympic Games. The work of the foundation focuses on reaching low and middle communities of color both nationally and internationally that are at the greatest risk of drowning.
To date, the organization has established partnerships across the western, central, and eastern United States, as well as international programs in Colombia and new international programs launching in Portugal, France, Northern Africa, and Brasil in the coming two years.
Jamal is even the Managing Director of the 2022 Aquatics Media Company of the Year, Aquatics Today. Aquatics Today provides the latest updates, best practices, and leadership development programs to help aquatics professionals build safe and effective swim programs in their local districts.
As a lifeguard for nearly a decade, Jamal, witnessed firsthand the needs of aquatics directors, instructors, and lifesavers that just weren’t able to be met by existing organizations… which begged the question of “who protects the people who protect the community.” Through a podcast network, bi-monthly summits, and an international team of experienced council chairs, Aquatics Today has created a warm and friendly environment where the entire aquatics community can feel like they belong.
He says his primary specialty is “Unlocking the world of opportunity that becomes available once you know how to swim and removing any elitist barriers that would prevent further assistance from being given or received ”
In addition to his leadership experience, he has years of experience in Business Marketing and Professional Development in various sectors. He has been a sought-after expert in aquatic professional development, coaching, and team building.
What qualities make you different and unique from everyone else in the industry?
My greatest quality is the ability to surrender. To me, that means to listen and trust my intuition, my heart, my mind, and my trusted advisors. I think too often great action is impeded by great uncertainty. I’ve surrendered to the fact that I have no clue what I am capable of and that I have no clue what’s impossible. At this point, my greatest motivation is to amaze myself with what I am able to accomplish.
Describe THAT moment when you realized you’re doing what you were born to do.
The moment I realized I was doing what I was born to do was when I won my first national championship and made the Team USA roster in 2018. That solidified that I had what it took to be a professional swimmer, and even though it would be understandable to just focus on my own swimming pursuits, I knew swimming was really only ever a means to an end. I wanted more than to change records in history books.
I wanted to create something that might rewrite history. Swimming changed my life. I wanted to share that with others—many others. After learning that a quarter of a million people globally drown each year, I knew what I wanted to do. I set the goal of teaching 1 million people how to swim.
The number one thing keeping people from learning how to swim is a generational trauma, whether that person had a near drowning experience himself or knows of someone who either had a near drowning or actually did drown. That’s an extremely traumatic experience and hard to overcome.
Overcoming this barrier is often compounded by a lack of resources. Here in the United States, black kids are the most susceptible to drowning than any other demographic. Around the world, it’s low-income communities and families that are suffering the most. When a parent is struggling to meet basic needs, they don’t have the time to send their kids to swim lessons for three months or chauffeur their kids all over town. This is particularly true in areas where swimming pools are not in abundance, which is true for many low-income areas.
There isn’t a good enough system, so I designed an organization and program to address and remove those barriers to let people access free, developmentally-appropriate swim lessons that can be implemented in areas most at risk of drowning.
What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve had to go through and how did you grow through it?
When I was 10 years old, I felt my arm go limp. Not thinking too much of it, that younger me continued Thanksgiving celebrations with my family. I soon realized something was wrong when I began struggling to lift both arms.
After being unable to stand, I was rushed to a hospital and was subsequently diagnosed with Charcot-Marie-Tooth Syndrome, where the brain doesn’t communicate well with peripheral limbs.
I didn’t want to be seen as different. Even just five years ago it was a different world – most people have a belief and stigma of disability in their minds.
I’m one of those people who are dealing with an invisible disability where I don’t have any limb amputations or anything like that, so there was a point of me that just thought people wouldn’t believe me. I felt a sense of shame in his disability, not wanting anyone to think there was anything wrong with me or not wanting to believe there was myself. But it was a shift in mindset, with the help of my parents, that helped me come to terms with my diagnosis and embrace who I am.
It wasn’t really an option for me not to have a positive mindset or to be in a depressive state. My parents were of the volition that, disability or not, when you set your mind to something you want to be something or do something, there is no good reason other than the reason that you tell yourself why you can’t go and achieve that.
And so just constantly having a belief system like that drilled that into me and, ultimately, I think what carried me through and brought me to this point in my life.
Who are the TOP 3 people you’d want to meet that could elevate your career or business? Why these specific individuals?
Lebron James. He is based in Los Angels and runs a school of underprivileged youth that I’m sure all need to learn how to swim.
Malala Yousafzi. Nobel Peace Prize winner and connections to global leaders. My goal is to win a noble peace prize and continue to expand my program internationally.
Oprah Winfrey. Strong influence across the continent of Africa which is one of the most dangerous parts of the world for accidental drowning.