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Blocking stereotypes

Burbank goalkeeper LaChee Singleton refuses to be defined only by her race in girls' water polo

February 07, 2007|By Jeff Tully

Burbank High's LaChee Singleton has worked hard in the pool to get noticed among her girls' water polo peers.

With cat-like reflexes, an uncanny ability to block shots, a driving passion to be successful and the willingness to be a leader, the senior has received her share of attention in her three seasons playing for the Bulldogs varsity team.

However, Singleton has also had to deal with individuals who are preoccupied with pointing out just one thing about her — the color of her skin.

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Singleton, who is black, has been able to thrive and find success in a sport that is predominantly white. In her travels with the Burbank team over the years, she admits she has rarely encountered an opposing player who looks the way she does.

Instead of lamenting about what others might perceive of her because of her race, much like the water she toils in as the Bulldogs' starting goalkeeper, Singleton lets any racism roll off her back.

As Singleton sees it, she isn't a black water polo player, but a water polo player who just happens to be black.

"I can't really change what people might think of me because I am black, so I don't let it bother me," Singleton said. "I just let things go and I don't let things sit with me."

Growing up in Burbank, Singleton began her career in the pool as a swimmer at age 5. She took up water polo as a freshman at Burbank. Also an avid runner, she has taken part in four Los Angeles Marathons.

Despite her success in the pool, Singleton has often had to defend her choice of sports to those who see the activities as nontraditional for blacks.

"A lot of people say that African-Americans can't swim," she said. "Even some of my friends are like, 'Why are you swimming? You're not suppose to swim.'

"I could have listened to people and competed in track or basketball, but I chose to swim and play water polo because that's what I like to do. What color I am shouldn't keep me from doing something I want to do."

Singleton's resolve to stick with water polo was further strengthened in 2005 when she was the Bulldogs backup goalkeeper as a sophomore. Former coach John Abdou invited two members of the U.S. Olympic Men's Water Polo Team to Burbank for a clinic.

One of the players was Genai Kerr, the national team goalkeeper, who is also black.

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