By Mike Watkins//Contributor | Friday, March 9, 2018
Will Davis has always been fast in the water.
In fact, when he and his twin brother, Isaac, first learned to swim as 7-year-olds, Will learned right away that he had something special.
“The day of my first lesson, I noticed that I was able to do things in the water that the other kids couldn’t, and I wasn’t the only one that noticed,” he said. “Both my mom and many of the lifeguards that worked there noticed me swimming. After about three lessons, one of the lifeguards approached me asking if I were maybe thinking about joining the summer league team that they had.
“I didn’t think much of it at the time; I just liked swimming and thought ‘Hey, this could be really cool.’ I didn’t think of swimming as that serious. I actually wanted to play baseball before I started my swim lessons. I never imagined the impact of saying yes that day would have on the rest of my life, until now.”
Since that moment, the future Florida Gator (he and Isaac are both going to swim for the University of Florida this fall) has known he would do exciting things in the pool.
He said he feels like that opportunity is getting close – possibly as soon as the 2020 Olympic Trials but most likely closer to 2024.
Will said one of the biggest reasons he chose Florida over other programs was the work that Coach Gregg Troy has done with Caeleb Dressel, one of the fastest sprinters in the world and the reigning 100 freestyle World Champion.
But what drove him to swimming in the first place were his parents, who encouraged him to learn to swim and knew having a basic knowledge of water safety would keep him, his brother and sister safe.
“Growing up, I can’t really say I had role models/idols in swimming; what drove me in swimming growing up were my parents,” he said. “They knew the gift I had, and time and time again, whenever they could, let me as well as my twin brother know that we could change this sport forever.
“Of course, I wasn’t thinking about that at the time. I just wanted to win and keep winning. I can see now what they meant.”
As an African-American swimmer, Davis said watching Maritza (Correia) McClendon and Sabir Muhammad and current stars of the sport – Cullen Jones, Simone Manual and Anthony Ervin – win at the national and international levels helped him realize as a young competitor that opportunities in swimming do exist for him.
He said he wants to be one of those faces that other young minority swimmers see as the future of the sport – helping them also realize they have a future in the sport no matter their race.
“The level of success that African-Americans have had in this sport because of these spectacular individuals is truly inspiring,” he said. “(They) have all made great strides to the success of the sport. History didn’t choose to make them, they chose to make history, and that’s what I strive to do also.”
Davis said he’s already seeing growing diversity in swimming. Last August, the World Junior Team he was a member of contained a “significant amount of diverse swimmers” on it.
Each and every one of these swimmers, including Davis, scored at the meet and contributed to Team USA’s overall win, showing that there is no standard for speed, skill and talent in swimming. It comes in all shapes, sizes and races of people.
“I believe that more African-Americans will begin to transition into swimming as the success of African-American swimmers continues to thrive. As more and more successful African-American swimmers begin to appear, I believe the success of others will inspire future African-American swimmers. With the inspiration comes a dream, and with that dream comes hard work and determination. Finally, with that same hard work and determination comes success, then the cycle will repeat.”
Having competed in the 50 and 100 freestyle and 100 butterfly events at Phillips 66 USA Swimming National Championships, as well as the 50 free at 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials, Davis is one of the top up-and-coming swimmers in the United States.
A 9-time Speedo Junior Championships medalist (five golds, three silver and one bronze) and a finalist in the 50 free at the FINA World Junior Championships, he said he knows his best days in the pool are still ahead of him – and success won’t come without putting in the necessary work.
But he knows his purpose in the sport of swimming is much bigger than making the most of his natural talent.
“I believe my sole purpose in swimming is to inspire as many people as I possibly can,” he said. “Inspiration is what drives us to be follow our dream and desires. Every day, we get inspired to try something different. To inspire someone, is to plant the seed of a dream in that person’s mind.
“I strive to change the world of swimming. Many people label swimming as a ‘white’ sport. That same mentality has resonated in the minds of people for longer than I’ve been alive. I believe with everything in me that if I keep God first, keep good people in my circle and focus that with the help of other African American swimmers, we can tear the label off swimming and no longer will it be a ‘white’ sport.”