Kamrin Dawkins graduated from UConn women’s Division-I swimming and diving program last year.
Growing up in Meriden, Conn., Dawkins began diving in high school after she retired from gymnastics.
The transition from high school to college wasn’t easy. “My freshman year was very humbling… I was really developing into a diver versus doing things as a gymnast,” Dawkins said.
However, not every battle is fought in the pool; some are fought in the classroom.
In Dawkins’ freshman year she was placed on academic probation. Starting in Spring 2017, Dawkins was on academic probation until Fall 2019. After that, she made it her mission to prove to the UConn coaching staff that she was better than her GPA and more than a failing student. Through hard work and dedication to her team as well as herself, Dawkins took advantage of the extra study hours, pool time, athletic advisors, trainers, and alumni, all that UConn had to offer, to redeem herself.
“The odds were stacked against me,” Dawkins said. She was determined to prove that she was better than the “dumb jock” stereotype that follows Black students into college. On average, 42% of Black college students graduate, and even fewer graduate as a fourth year student-athlete.
Discrimation is often covert and even unconscious, which makes it hard to identify. Historically, minorities have faced several challenges that are caused by systems and structures within our culture and society that make it more difficult for people of color to participate, including wage gaps, education and access to sports. More often than not, the burden of addressing and overcoming discrimination through miscroagressions, systemic and preconceived notions fall upon the victims of this discrimation.
“I wanted to show that even though there is systematic and institutional racism and bias, that wouldn’t hold me down [and] that wouldn’t stop me from graduating as a student-athlete and captain of the swim and dive team,” said Dawkins.
Although being a collegiate student-athlete is challenging, one person that continued to support Dawkins throughout her career was her college diving coach, John Bransfield.
“My coach, John Bransfield believed in me and saw my potential farther than I could even fathom,” Dawkins said.
Dawkins recalls her greatest accomplishment in her diving career was qualifying for Zones her junior year. “I didn’t think I’d make Zones until my senior year, and I superseded my own goals.”
One thing diving taught Dawkins is she shouldn’t put limits on her goals, dreams and capabilities.
“In terms of all goals, I advise myself and everyone not to limit themselves and dream bigger than reality,” Dawkins said. “I always want to be reaching for the next accomplishment!”
In the future, Dawkins plans to attend graduate school for speech pathology or become a diving coach. Diving helped shape Dawkins into the leader she is today. “That is probably the biggest lesson I learned. Nobody is going to stand up for you like yourself. Nobody is going to fight for your place at the table like you. So, take accountability and do it yourself.”
Dawkins hopes to use her diving experience to help other girls, especially those of color, through their collegiate athletic experience. “The lack of black women and men in the sport of swimming and diving makes it hard to feel successful,” Dawkins said. “I wanted to show other black divers, swimmers, and athletes that I am one of you, I did it, [and] it’s possible."