Brooklyn Boro

He’s the magician at Medgar Evers Prep

March 6, 2023 Andy Furman
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They may call him coach.

But Sheldon Sucre is really a magician.

If you don’t believe it – then how do you explain what he’s accomplished at Medgar Evers Prep in just two seasons.

“Our coach, Sheldon Sucre has done an amazing job with our boys and girls swim teams,” notes Keisha Lewis, Athletic Director at the school. “And what’s most interesting is that we didn’t have a pool of our own. Medgar Evers College pool was closed. Then we were barred from using Prospect Heights pool. Finally, we used Erasmus Hall’s pool, thanks to the relationship that Coach Sucre developed with the Erasmus coach.”

Sheldon Sucre learned to swim when he was 12 years of age.

Never has he faced a bigger challenge than coaching swimming at Medgar Evers Prep.

“Coaching swimming in an inner-city neighborhood,” he told the Eagle the other day, “is not exactly what inner-city kids do.

“These kids see swimming as a white-privilege sport,” he said, “But truly, it’s a skill everyone needs to know.”

In fact, the biggest barrier to black children and adults knowing how to swim has always been racism.
From the early 1900s through the Civil Rights era, and beyond, pools were segregated through formal and informal expectations.

Access to many pools was limited, occasionally because of draining and often because Black families were banned from local pools and only allowed to visit limited Black-only pools.

Research from the USA Swimming Foundation shows that 64 percent of African-American children, 45 percent of Hispanic children and 40 percent of white children have little to no swimming ability. Those whose parents don’t swim have only a 19 percent chance of developing this lifesaving skill.
In New York City, fewer than one in four high schoolers know how to swim.

It’s a good thing Sucre didn’t know these stats before he decided on coaching at Medgar-Evers Prep.

“I’d have to say, my passion and my love for the sport – that’s how I teach,” said Sucre, a grad of Nazareth High School and later Brooklyn College and Adelphi University.

He says he has a “collaborative approach.”

“I look at my swimmers as co-coaches,” he said. “I learn from them, and they from us.”

It seems to be working – beautifully.

As for pool access, Sucre says his teams – both boys and girls – practice at Prospect Heights, Erasmus High and the Brooklyn Armory on Bedford Avenue – just four blocks from the school.

He must be the ultimate salesman as well, since 40 girls showed at his first practice this season.

“Half of that number didn’t know how to swim,” he said, “that was then. We invited anyone and everyone to the practice. We’ve had no cuts the past two years – and no limit on our team.”

The results – better sit for this.

“Our girls were undefeated this past season,” Sucre said without hesitation. “The boys won six of their nine meets.

If there’s a problem, well for Sucre it’s not finding a pool, or even athletes to compete.

“Practices,” he admits, “are a bit of a headache.”

He says we usually meet in the school lobby in the afternoon – at the end of school – and the girls meet me at Erasmus for practice.

The girls, he says, practice Monday, Wednesday and Friday and the boys do their work out Tuesday and Thursday – usually in the morning.

“The morning practice is really a Physical Education class,” Sucre said. “This is where they really learn how to swim, and practice their skill-set.”

And the response?

“I’m ecstatic with our success,” Lewis said.
Sucre said the parents have really taken hold and gotten involved as well. “During the girls’ season,” he said, “the parents raised money for our team. It was wonderful.”

The magician is still at work.

He’s planning a Middle School swimming program for next season. “It’ll be for sixth and seventh graders and act like a feeder program for our varsity swimmers,” he said.

But now all Sheldon Sucre can do is praise his swimmers.

“Leah Bragg is a freshman and took First Place in the B Division 100 breast stroke competition,” he said. “She also does track and field and fencing.”

For the boys, Sucre was quick to mention Brennan Souchong, a senior who broke a minute in the 100 freestyle. Junior Joel Reece is an outstanding breaststroker as well.

The future looks tremendous for Sucre at Medgar Evers Prep.

“We’re building a new facility with a pool at Medgar Evers College,” he said, “and it should be completed within four or five years.”

And then don’t be at all surprised when Sucre pulls a rabbit out of his hat.

Andy Furman is a Fox Sports Radio national talk show host. Previously, he was scholastic sports columnist for the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. He may be reached at: [email protected] Twitter: @AndyFurmanFSR

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