By Tim Sullivan

The name Mike Norment should ring a bell with swimming enthusiasts.  The former UGA All-American and US National Team Member lives in the Lake Claire neighborhood with his wife Toeanzar (“Nay”), whom he met while in college, his daughter Assata Rose, 10, and his son Moziah, 6. He has an incredible past but his mark on the swimming world has only just begun.

When did you get into swimming?

It was1980 and I was five years old in Hempstead, NY.  My mother simply wanted us to be safe in the water.  So, she entered us in Village of Hempstead’s “Learn to Swim” program.

Apparently, you learned well…

My brother and I were recruited to swim for Robert Trotman (“Trot’s Finmen”) from1980 to 1989. I attended many meets throughout the tri-state area.

What was it like to be an African-American swimmer 25 years ago?

I rarely saw any African-American swimmers and when I did they would always compete in the same event – 50 yard freestyle. No one believed that African-Americans could swim anything longer than 50 yards.

When you were 13 you made a huge decision to move to Philadelphia from Long Island to train under a pretty special coach named Jim Ellis.

At age 12 I made the Metro Zone Team and I competed with other regions. I met Coach Ellis of the Philadelphia Department of Recreation (PDR). His swimmers were competing in 200 yard backstroke, 400IM. I had never seen African-Americans swimming anything more than a 50 free! Later that summer, our family made a decision to train with him for one summer.

So was it Trotman’s loss and Ellis’ gain?

I dropped a ton of time and I wanted to train in Philly year-round, but my parents were reluctant to send me away.  At the same time they didn’t want to stifle my dream of one day swimming in the Olympics. I told Coach Trotman that I wanted to make Jr. Nationals and he laughed at me.  So we decided I would permanently train in Philly. Soon after, I qualified for Jr. Nationals in the 100 and 200-meter breaststroke.

There was a movie called Pride made about Coach Ellis in 2007 starring Terrence Howard and Bernie Mac. How accurate was it?

It speaks to the magnitude of Jim’s and PDR’s accomplishments, but I wish they would have told the actual story. Some of his first swimmer’s were gang members and he actually saw some of the gang battles from outside of the Rec center.  The movie could have shown how dominant a team PDR was and covered our national titles. And they could have done more to portray the racism in the sport.  Still, it’s amazing that a movie was even made.

I read an editorial comment that said if Mike Norment had made the Olympics in 1996 or 2000 the movie would have been made about you. Was there a great deal of disappointment in coming so close and falling just short?

It was extremely difficult and after 2000 I left the sport for five years. I defined myself through my career, so it was as if someone close to me had died. I would have been fine if I had swam my best time, but I did not. That was the most disappointing thing.  My parents and wife encouraged me to get back into the sport in some way.

I think I need to point out that you could certainly do a little bragging because you don’t seem the type…

You’re right, I don’t brag much and all my awards are packed away.  But I’ll brag a little for you. ‘94 SEC Champion, 8-time All-American, US Men’s National Team in 1997 and1999, Ranked fourth in the world in the 100-meter breaststroke in 1998,12th in the world 200-meter breaststroke.

You are a big guy.  Did the football staff at UGA ever try to persuade you to get out of the pool and put on some pads?

On my recruiting trip to Georgia, I met head Coach Ray Goff.  He whispered to me that if I ever got tired of swimming I could always try playing safety.

Do you have any eligibility left?  They could use you right now!  You and Nathan Jones (All-American at University of Miami) now teach swimming (swimwithapurpose-atlanta.com). How gratifying is it to pass along your skills and knowledge to youngsters?

I love teaching people of all ages how to swim.  We bring out the confidence our swimmers have within themselves. It amazes me to see what people, especially children, are capable of.

My son Elliott has what some might politely term a ‘healthy fear’ of the water (I’d have claw marks on my neck), but then he worked with you and now it’s “Watch this, Daddy!”

We are successful because we are compassionate. Going underwater in a huge pool with a stranger can be scary.  So we always tell the truth to our swimmers – no tricks. We’re calm, gentle and patient. We have to be the rock. We challenge and support them.

Do you and Coach Nate ever line up for a race between the two of you to see who still has it?

Yes, we do. I normally destroy him. Occasionally, I let him win to make him feel good.

Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.

16 replies on “Intown Runaround: Swimming with a Purpose”

  1. Great article, I know both of these men through my children who have taken lessons from them. They are two outstanding men besides being great coaches and motivators. “Swim With A Purpose” keep up the outstanding work.

    H. B Jackson

  2. Great article, I know both of these men through my children who have taken lessons from them. They are two outstanding men besides being great coaches and motivators. “Swim With A Purpose” keep up the outstanding work.

    H. B Jackson

  3. Michael’s recollection of the events as they transpired 22 years ago could be a bit hazy, as I know Coach Trotman very well, and he would never discourage a swimmer from achieving a goal. I had what is considered a very late start in swimming; Coach Trotman taught me how to swim at the age of 11, near the end of my 6th grade year, and by the time I was 13, at the end of my 8th grade year, I was a highly competitive swimmer in multiple events, undefeated in my division, in my respective events, the 100 breaststroke and 200 individual medley, for consecutive years, I led my high school team to 3 consecutive Division Championships. By my senior year in high school, I had multiple scholarship offers to attend college, and I was by no stretch of the imagination the best swimmer on my team, there were many far better swimmers than I on Trot’s Finmen. I am very proud of Michael for all of his swimming accomplishments, and although, I never attained the same level of swimming success as Michael, I am eternally grateful to Coach Trotman for all that he instilled in me and my teammates over the years; his voice, mannerisms and lessons still resonate in my mind to this day. I have a BS, a MS and a Post Graduate Degree, and I give a great many thanks to God, my parents and Coach Trotman for all of my success; swimming saved my life! Coach Trotman never discouraged me or told me that I couldn’t do ANYTHING, so I am disappointed in Michael for attempting to sully the reputation of a GREAT man in coach Robert “Bobby” Trotman. One another note, it is completely FALSE that we only swam 50 yard freestyle. Coach Trotman always challenged us to swim outside of our comfort zone, and I cannot think of any event that I did not swim while a member of Trot’s Finmen, to include the 1650 freestyle, 500 freestyle, 400 IM, 200 backstroke etcetera. I take nothing away from Coach Jim Ellis, he too is a great coach, and I am happy that he was able to assist Michael in progressing to the next level. I met coach Ellis and his PDR Team at a swim meet at Temple University (Philadelphia) in the early 80s, and we were so happy just to see another team of color, just like us, kicking butt, just like us! Coach Trotman and Coach Ellis both helped to save the lives of countless individuals (minorities and people of all colors) through the sport of swimming. The need to trash either one of these great men over the other is disappointing and unnecessary in my opinion.

  4. Michael’s recollection of the events as they transpired 22 years ago could be a bit hazy, as I know Coach Trotman very well, and he would never discourage a swimmer from achieving a goal. I had what is considered a very late start in swimming; Coach Trotman taught me how to swim at the age of 11, near the end of my 6th grade year, and by the time I was 13, at the end of my 8th grade year, I was a highly competitive swimmer in multiple events, undefeated in my division, in my respective events, the 100 breaststroke and 200 individual medley, for consecutive years, I led my high school team to 3 consecutive Division Championships. By my senior year in high school, I had multiple scholarship offers to attend college, and I was by no stretch of the imagination the best swimmer on my team, there were many far better swimmers than I on Trot’s Finmen. I am very proud of Michael for all of his swimming accomplishments, and although, I never attained the same level of swimming success as Michael, I am eternally grateful to Coach Trotman for all that he instilled in me and my teammates over the years; his voice, mannerisms and lessons still resonate in my mind to this day. I have a BS, a MS and a Post Graduate Degree, and I give a great many thanks to God, my parents and Coach Trotman for all of my success; swimming saved my life! Coach Trotman never discouraged me or told me that I couldn’t do ANYTHING, so I am disappointed in Michael for attempting to sully the reputation of a GREAT man in coach Robert “Bobby” Trotman. One another note, it is completely FALSE that we only swam 50 yard freestyle. Coach Trotman always challenged us to swim outside of our comfort zone, and I cannot think of any event that I did not swim while a member of Trot’s Finmen, to include the 1650 freestyle, 500 freestyle, 400 IM, 200 backstroke etcetera. I take nothing away from Coach Jim Ellis, he too is a great coach, and I am happy that he was able to assist Michael in progressing to the next level. I met coach Ellis and his PDR Team at a swim meet at Temple University (Philadelphia) in the early 80s, and we were so happy just to see another team of color, just like us, kicking butt, just like us! Coach Trotman and Coach Ellis both helped to save the lives of countless individuals (minorities and people of all colors) through the sport of swimming. The need to trash either one of these great men over the other is disappointing and unnecessary in my opinion.

  5. Greetings…I’m not sure who you are, but I think you misread and are misrepresenting what Michael noted about Coach Trotman. You really don’t know about the deep friendship/relationship (since 1975) between the Norment and Trotman families outside of the swim team. I’m sure if you talk to coach he would inform you that in all of Michael statements(and mine) about his experience with the Trots Finmen’s family…we has always spoke positively about Coach Trotman’s important role in training/teaching Michael to swim and in developing him into a nationally ranked swimmer. What Michael learned from Coach Trotman provided him with the skills, dedication, confidence, competiveness and tenacity to enable him to become a world class swimmer. I’m not sure what you read and inferred from the article that lead you to write that you thought Michael was “trashing/dissing” Coach Trotman.
    Additionally, surely you understand that a coach has a special relationship with each swimmer and none of those relationships are identical in any way, so what you experienced with Coach Trotman was not exactly what Michael experienced with him. Though both of you gained immeasurably, your views are completely different. Michael related a conversation HE experienced, but he did not trash the coach nor was “trashing” indicated in anything he said in the article. Did you perhaps read the article with a tone of animosity… that’s apparent in your refusal to identify yourself. Please, who are you?
    Peace, Love and Blessings…
    Dr. Nathaniel Norment, Jr.
    Michael’s Father

  6. Greetings…I’m not sure who you are, but I think you misread and are misrepresenting what Michael noted about Coach Trotman. You really don’t know about the deep friendship/relationship (since 1975) between the Norment and Trotman families outside of the swim team. I’m sure if you talk to coach he would inform you that in all of Michael statements(and mine) about his experience with the Trots Finmen’s family…we has always spoke positively about Coach Trotman’s important role in training/teaching Michael to swim and in developing him into a nationally ranked swimmer. What Michael learned from Coach Trotman provided him with the skills, dedication, confidence, competiveness and tenacity to enable him to become a world class swimmer. I’m not sure what you read and inferred from the article that lead you to write that you thought Michael was “trashing/dissing” Coach Trotman.
    Additionally, surely you understand that a coach has a special relationship with each swimmer and none of those relationships are identical in any way, so what you experienced with Coach Trotman was not exactly what Michael experienced with him. Though both of you gained immeasurably, your views are completely different. Michael related a conversation HE experienced, but he did not trash the coach nor was “trashing” indicated in anything he said in the article. Did you perhaps read the article with a tone of animosity… that’s apparent in your refusal to identify yourself. Please, who are you?
    Peace, Love and Blessings…
    Dr. Nathaniel Norment, Jr.
    Michael’s Father

  7. Greetings Dr. Norment: We all have the right to our opinion, and our perception is very much our reality, however, in saying all of that, its a fact that we feel, but our feelings aren’t always fact. My perception and feeling is that in this article, Coach Trotmon was not portrayed in a positive light, but that is merely my opinion/perception/feeling. You are 100% correct, I was not there for that conversation between Coach and Michael, so I cannot state with all certainty that coach did or did not laugh at Michael’s dream to qualify for the Junior Nationals. I find it hard to believe, but I cannot say for sure that it did or did not occur, only Coach and Michael know that for sure. However, I know for a fact that Trot’ Finmen swam more than 50 yard freestyle, that is fact, not a feeling, opinion or perception. Again, I am extremely proud of all that Michael has accomplished, and I wish him nothing but the best in all his endeavors. He has proved to be a tenacious warrior who will settle for nothing less than the very best. My opinion of a few words in this article takes nothing away from Michael or his many great accomplishments or what the future bolds for him. It is not refusal to identify, it is discretion on this public forum which I am exercising for personal and professional reasons. However, if it is important for you to know who I am, I’m sure its not that serious to you, you can give me a way to contact you “offline” and I will. I have nothing but respect for you, and your family Dr. Norment. I see that you are still a great dad, I always admired that about you. Take care, God bless and be well.

  8. Greetings Dr. Norment: We all have the right to our opinion, and our perception is very much our reality, however, in saying all of that, its a fact that we feel, but our feelings aren’t always fact. My perception and feeling is that in this article, Coach Trotmon was not portrayed in a positive light, but that is merely my opinion/perception/feeling. You are 100% correct, I was not there for that conversation between Coach and Michael, so I cannot state with all certainty that coach did or did not laugh at Michael’s dream to qualify for the Junior Nationals. I find it hard to believe, but I cannot say for sure that it did or did not occur, only Coach and Michael know that for sure. However, I know for a fact that Trot’ Finmen swam more than 50 yard freestyle, that is fact, not a feeling, opinion or perception. Again, I am extremely proud of all that Michael has accomplished, and I wish him nothing but the best in all his endeavors. He has proved to be a tenacious warrior who will settle for nothing less than the very best. My opinion of a few words in this article takes nothing away from Michael or his many great accomplishments or what the future bolds for him. It is not refusal to identify, it is discretion on this public forum which I am exercising for personal and professional reasons. However, if it is important for you to know who I am, I’m sure its not that serious to you, you can give me a way to contact you “offline” and I will. I have nothing but respect for you, and your family Dr. Norment. I see that you are still a great dad, I always admired that about you. Take care, God bless and be well.

  9. I Don’t know Michael or his father, so I will not be on this “love fest” that the so-called “Original Trot’s Finmen” is on with the Norment family. What I do know that Trot’s Finmen NEVER ONLY swam 50 yard freestyle, that is a flat out LIE! Not only is Michael not being truthful in this article, I found a blurb which I posted below in the DeKalb Aquatics Coaches Directory at – http://www.daqswim.com/Contact.jsp?team=gada – where Michael is again inferring that Trot’s Finmen only trained African American swimmers for the 50 yard freestyle, so this isn’t a misquote, this is obviously the standard rhetoric coming from Michael, and it is a LIE! See below….

    “Michael Norment is originally from Long Island, NY. His swimming career began thirty years ago in 1980 in Long Island, New York in the Town of Hempstead with the Hempstead Department of Recreation’s “Learn to Swim” program. Later that same year, he began an eight year relationship with the Trot’s Finmen Swim Team based in Brooklyn, NY. In New York swimming in the 1980s African American swimmers were often trained as 50 yd freestyle sprinters, even if they showed promise in other swimming events. After meeting James Ellis, Head Coach of the Philadelphia Department of Recreation (PDR) Swim Team at 1988 Eastern Zone All-Star Meet in Buffalo NY, his family decided to give Michael the opportunity to train with PDR in Philadelphia, PA for one summer. The training he received over the course of that summer in1988, Michael improved dramatically in all events. Consequently, Michael moved to Philadelphia in 1989 to train with PDR under Jim Ellis, whose mission was to give every athlete on his culturally and racially diverse swim team the opportunity to reach their full potential in all swimming events. After recognizing the same values, qualities and shared vision at Dekalb Aquatics, he joined the DAQ family as a coach in 2006.”

  10. I Don’t know Michael or his father, so I will not be on this “love fest” that the so-called “Original Trot’s Finmen” is on with the Norment family. What I do know that Trot’s Finmen NEVER ONLY swam 50 yard freestyle, that is a flat out LIE! Not only is Michael not being truthful in this article, I found a blurb which I posted below in the DeKalb Aquatics Coaches Directory at – http://www.daqswim.com/Contact.jsp?team=gada – where Michael is again inferring that Trot’s Finmen only trained African American swimmers for the 50 yard freestyle, so this isn’t a misquote, this is obviously the standard rhetoric coming from Michael, and it is a LIE! See below….

    “Michael Norment is originally from Long Island, NY. His swimming career began thirty years ago in 1980 in Long Island, New York in the Town of Hempstead with the Hempstead Department of Recreation’s “Learn to Swim” program. Later that same year, he began an eight year relationship with the Trot’s Finmen Swim Team based in Brooklyn, NY. In New York swimming in the 1980s African American swimmers were often trained as 50 yd freestyle sprinters, even if they showed promise in other swimming events. After meeting James Ellis, Head Coach of the Philadelphia Department of Recreation (PDR) Swim Team at 1988 Eastern Zone All-Star Meet in Buffalo NY, his family decided to give Michael the opportunity to train with PDR in Philadelphia, PA for one summer. The training he received over the course of that summer in1988, Michael improved dramatically in all events. Consequently, Michael moved to Philadelphia in 1989 to train with PDR under Jim Ellis, whose mission was to give every athlete on his culturally and racially diverse swim team the opportunity to reach their full potential in all swimming events. After recognizing the same values, qualities and shared vision at Dekalb Aquatics, he joined the DAQ family as a coach in 2006.”

  11. Greetings Everyone…First, I would like to thank Tim Sullivan, the author of this article, for trusting us to work with his son. Tim, thank you for writing such an outstanding article!! So many people have stopped my business partner, Nathan Jones, and I to congratulate us and tell us how much they loved the article. Thank you! I was compelled to post a comment on this site regarding the article after a phone conversation I had with my father today. He called to congratulate me on the article and mentioned the comments that had been posted about the article. I have finally read the comments left by Original Finmen and David Johnson. As I read the comments it became very clear that these two individuals were under the impression that my intent was to “sully” the reputation of Robert Trotman. Also, these two individuals assumed that I stated that Robert Trotman only trained African-Americans to swim 50 freestyle. Never, in this article or in my bio on the DAQ website, did I make such a statement. I never stated that Robert Trotman only trained swimmers for the 50 free. Please go and re-read the section you copied and pasted from my bio. There is no misquote. You simply misread the information. I stated the African American swimmers in New York were mainly trained to be 50 freestyle sprinters. Unfortunately, the bio and the article do not provide enough space to share every single detail. So, I will clarify for the two of you, David Johnson and “Original Finmen,” the reasons why I left Trot’s Finmen. I left Trot’s Finmen because I did not believe that Coach Trotman would be able to take me to the next level. After making the zone team when I was twelve years old, I met Jim Ellis. Jim was the head coach for the Mid Atlantic Zone Team and had a couple of swimmers at the meet. Atiba Wade, whom he coach to a National Age Group Record, and, Jason Webb, who at thirteen was a few tenths away from a Junior National qualifying time. His swimmers’ performances caught our attention. Later that year, my parents allowed me to train with PDR for one summer. I had an awesome experience. They were training at a much higher level than Trot’s. They were faster and everyone on the team was talking about making Juniors Nationals. My first meet with PDR Greensboro, North Carolina, I swam my first 200m long course breaststroke. I think I went 3:00 in the morning and 2:55 at finals. After my race, Jim Ellis pulled me aside and made me watch the final heat. The winner of the heat went 2:22 and made Olympic Trials. I remember saying out loud, “There is no way I can go that fast.” Jim turned to me and said, “No Michael, you will go faster then that guy”. I had a great summer and at the end of the summer, he told me that I had the talent to swim at Olympic Trials and possibly make the Olympic Team. I did not want to move to Philly because I loved NY, Robert Trotman, and Trots. When I returned to NY for fall training, no mention was made of Junior Nationals, Senior Nationals, Olympic Trials or making the Olympics. I don’t remember seeing anyone from our team ever making Junior, Senior Nationals, or Olympic Trials. Todd, Coach Trotman’s son, might have made it but, I don’t know if he did. I did well that year and attributed much of my success to the training I received in Philadelphia the previous summer. Later that year I made the zone team again and went 1:02 for the 100yd breaststroke. I remember going to Coach and telling him that I wanted to make Juniors in the 100yd breaststroke, which was 1:00.49, and he chuckled and said, “Maybe in a couple of years.” I took offense to his response to my aspirations of making Junior Nationals. I also knew at that moment that he would never be able to provide the necessary inspiration or training to help me swim at the level I knew I was capable of. “Original Finmen” and “David Johnson,” as you may or may not know, African American swimmers were viewed differently by many but, not all coaches in the 1980s. There were very few African American swimmers that were making Jr. and Sr. Nationals, making zone teams, or winning high school state meets in events like the 500 free, 200IM, 200BR, 200Fly, 200Free, 400IM. This is what I mean by swimming. My statements about my experiences as a young swimmer were in regard to the success of African-American swimmers at the State, Regional, National, and International levels. It was about the state of African-American swimming at that time-the 1980s. Fortunately, coaches’ mindsets have changed with regard to how African American swimmers are recruited to join the sport, how African American swimmers are trained, and what we are capable of. I was leaving Trot’s. That was inevitable. I did not stay in New York to train with any other coach because I did not believe that I would get the exposure to the training that I wanted and needed to swim at the next level because of the prevailing mindsets held by coaches regarding the training of African American swimmers. I did not leave Trot’s Finmen because I was afraid of him training me only for the 50 free. I never said he did that. He had us swimming everything. He just did not have the experience, knowledge, and ability to take swimmers to the national level then. There may very well have been other coaches in the New York area who may not have had a mindset which pigeonholed African-American swimmers into 50 freestyle training. However, I knew that Jim Ellis believed in me and had a vision of competing on an international level. Coach Trotman did not share this vision and ability. As you can see, all that has been written could not be added to the bio on DAQ’s website, nor would it fit in this article. I hope this very long winded explanation clears things up for the two of you. If you have any further questions and need further clarification, please email me at mike@swimwithapurpose-atlanta.com.

    Kindest Regards,

    Mike Norment

  12. Greetings Everyone…First, I would like to thank Tim Sullivan, the author of this article, for trusting us to work with his son. Tim, thank you for writing such an outstanding article!! So many people have stopped my business partner, Nathan Jones, and I to congratulate us and tell us how much they loved the article. Thank you! I was compelled to post a comment on this site regarding the article after a phone conversation I had with my father today. He called to congratulate me on the article and mentioned the comments that had been posted about the article. I have finally read the comments left by Original Finmen and David Johnson. As I read the comments it became very clear that these two individuals were under the impression that my intent was to “sully” the reputation of Robert Trotman. Also, these two individuals assumed that I stated that Robert Trotman only trained African-Americans to swim 50 freestyle. Never, in this article or in my bio on the DAQ website, did I make such a statement. I never stated that Robert Trotman only trained swimmers for the 50 free. Please go and re-read the section you copied and pasted from my bio. There is no misquote. You simply misread the information. I stated the African American swimmers in New York were mainly trained to be 50 freestyle sprinters. Unfortunately, the bio and the article do not provide enough space to share every single detail. So, I will clarify for the two of you, David Johnson and “Original Finmen,” the reasons why I left Trot’s Finmen. I left Trot’s Finmen because I did not believe that Coach Trotman would be able to take me to the next level. After making the zone team when I was twelve years old, I met Jim Ellis. Jim was the head coach for the Mid Atlantic Zone Team and had a couple of swimmers at the meet. Atiba Wade, whom he coach to a National Age Group Record, and, Jason Webb, who at thirteen was a few tenths away from a Junior National qualifying time. His swimmers’ performances caught our attention. Later that year, my parents allowed me to train with PDR for one summer. I had an awesome experience. They were training at a much higher level than Trot’s. They were faster and everyone on the team was talking about making Juniors Nationals. My first meet with PDR Greensboro, North Carolina, I swam my first 200m long course breaststroke. I think I went 3:00 in the morning and 2:55 at finals. After my race, Jim Ellis pulled me aside and made me watch the final heat. The winner of the heat went 2:22 and made Olympic Trials. I remember saying out loud, “There is no way I can go that fast.” Jim turned to me and said, “No Michael, you will go faster then that guy”. I had a great summer and at the end of the summer, he told me that I had the talent to swim at Olympic Trials and possibly make the Olympic Team. I did not want to move to Philly because I loved NY, Robert Trotman, and Trots. When I returned to NY for fall training, no mention was made of Junior Nationals, Senior Nationals, Olympic Trials or making the Olympics. I don’t remember seeing anyone from our team ever making Junior, Senior Nationals, or Olympic Trials. Todd, Coach Trotman’s son, might have made it but, I don’t know if he did. I did well that year and attributed much of my success to the training I received in Philadelphia the previous summer. Later that year I made the zone team again and went 1:02 for the 100yd breaststroke. I remember going to Coach and telling him that I wanted to make Juniors in the 100yd breaststroke, which was 1:00.49, and he chuckled and said, “Maybe in a couple of years.” I took offense to his response to my aspirations of making Junior Nationals. I also knew at that moment that he would never be able to provide the necessary inspiration or training to help me swim at the level I knew I was capable of. “Original Finmen” and “David Johnson,” as you may or may not know, African American swimmers were viewed differently by many but, not all coaches in the 1980s. There were very few African American swimmers that were making Jr. and Sr. Nationals, making zone teams, or winning high school state meets in events like the 500 free, 200IM, 200BR, 200Fly, 200Free, 400IM. This is what I mean by swimming. My statements about my experiences as a young swimmer were in regard to the success of African-American swimmers at the State, Regional, National, and International levels. It was about the state of African-American swimming at that time-the 1980s. Fortunately, coaches’ mindsets have changed with regard to how African American swimmers are recruited to join the sport, how African American swimmers are trained, and what we are capable of. I was leaving Trot’s. That was inevitable. I did not stay in New York to train with any other coach because I did not believe that I would get the exposure to the training that I wanted and needed to swim at the next level because of the prevailing mindsets held by coaches regarding the training of African American swimmers. I did not leave Trot’s Finmen because I was afraid of him training me only for the 50 free. I never said he did that. He had us swimming everything. He just did not have the experience, knowledge, and ability to take swimmers to the national level then. There may very well have been other coaches in the New York area who may not have had a mindset which pigeonholed African-American swimmers into 50 freestyle training. However, I knew that Jim Ellis believed in me and had a vision of competing on an international level. Coach Trotman did not share this vision and ability. As you can see, all that has been written could not be added to the bio on DAQ’s website, nor would it fit in this article. I hope this very long winded explanation clears things up for the two of you. If you have any further questions and need further clarification, please email me at mike@swimwithapurpose-atlanta.com.

    Kindest Regards,

    Mike Norment

  13. Hi folks–this is Tim Sullivan and I wrote the article. Mike was giving my son lessons and we got to talking and I thought this was a really interesting story to tell so I ventured to. But he is right–my space is limited and even though we had lengthy discussions and an email exchange, I had to edit it down to something that would conform to my column. I’m sorry if there was confusion with regards to the specifics of Coach Trotman’s training. By Mike’s account, and those of the commenters above, he sounds like a special man and a great coach but I also think Mike’s results in the pool support his choices beyond words.
    I think it is an interesting dynamic for former athletes to recall coaches and I think it is totally natural for people to hold varying, individual accounts especially when so much time has passed.
    I had a similar experience (on a much much smaller, non-olympic scale)with a basketball coach my freshman year of high school. He was also the freshman football coach and favored his football guys heavily with playing time. The five “tough guys” he started never even made it to the varsity team. I transferred to another school and became captain of my varsity team.
    The guy who sat on the bench next to me eventually became the star player at that school. And that coach is now the long tenured Varsity Football coach at the school and a beloved, local restaurant owner. Even though I know he is a wonderful man, my experience with him as a player was negative. As an adult now I can understand that he just didn’t understand the game too well but back then it seemed like a personal affront. I took myself and my game very seriously and worked extremely hard and he essentially told me I wasn’t very good after all. I can say objectively and subjectively that he was wrong but I know that so many other former athletes (football players especially) hold him in the highest regard.
    Long story short, I see both sides here and each individual is entitled to their own experience. But it is heartening to see a spirited discussion about African American swimmers and how far they, and the sport have come. Keep up the great work Mike,Nathan, Coach Trotman and Coach Ellis and many thanks to everyone else for reading.
    Tim

  14. Hi folks–this is Tim Sullivan and I wrote the article. Mike was giving my son lessons and we got to talking and I thought this was a really interesting story to tell so I ventured to. But he is right–my space is limited and even though we had lengthy discussions and an email exchange, I had to edit it down to something that would conform to my column. I’m sorry if there was confusion with regards to the specifics of Coach Trotman’s training. By Mike’s account, and those of the commenters above, he sounds like a special man and a great coach but I also think Mike’s results in the pool support his choices beyond words.
    I think it is an interesting dynamic for former athletes to recall coaches and I think it is totally natural for people to hold varying, individual accounts especially when so much time has passed.
    I had a similar experience (on a much much smaller, non-olympic scale)with a basketball coach my freshman year of high school. He was also the freshman football coach and favored his football guys heavily with playing time. The five “tough guys” he started never even made it to the varsity team. I transferred to another school and became captain of my varsity team.
    The guy who sat on the bench next to me eventually became the star player at that school. And that coach is now the long tenured Varsity Football coach at the school and a beloved, local restaurant owner. Even though I know he is a wonderful man, my experience with him as a player was negative. As an adult now I can understand that he just didn’t understand the game too well but back then it seemed like a personal affront. I took myself and my game very seriously and worked extremely hard and he essentially told me I wasn’t very good after all. I can say objectively and subjectively that he was wrong but I know that so many other former athletes (football players especially) hold him in the highest regard.
    Long story short, I see both sides here and each individual is entitled to their own experience. But it is heartening to see a spirited discussion about African American swimmers and how far they, and the sport have come. Keep up the great work Mike,Nathan, Coach Trotman and Coach Ellis and many thanks to everyone else for reading.
    Tim

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