Jim Ellis, The Only Swim Coach With A Hollywood Film Produced About His Life

In the SwimSwam Podcast dive deeper into the sport you love with insider conversations about swimming. Hosted by Coleman HodgesGarrett McCaffrey, and Gold Medal Mel Stewart, SwimSwam welcomes both the biggest names in swimming that you already know, and rising stars that you need to get to know, as we break down the past, present, and future of aquatic sports.

Jim Ellis, PDR Head Coach and Board of Director President, joins the SwimSwam podcast. This conversation was a truly a joy and an honor. Jim’s been coaching 50 plus years, producing elite swimmers all five decades. He’s in the International Swimming Hall of Fame and the International Swim Coaches Association Hall of Fame. USA Swimming named him among the 30 most influential people in the sport.  Lastly, in this list of accolades, Jim is the only swimming coach who has been the subject of a major Hollywood feature film, PRIDE, which was released in 2007.

Jim Ellis formed the PDR (Philadelphia Department of Recreation) Swim Team in 1971, which was the first African-American swim team in the United States. I was an age grouper back in the 1970s, and by the 1980s I was nearing elite status. I knew Jim only by reputation. I did not know he was black. (Moreover, I didn’t know Jim’s history until I saw his film). I only knew his swimmers were fast—elites you wanted to compete against.

In this podcast Jim shares what wasn’t in PRIDE, his feature film. No disrespect to the filmmakers, but there was no way to include all of Jim’s success in two hours. There needs to be a recurring Netflix series to unpack it all. We do our best in this podcast to dive into Jim’s history and those finer details. I hope you enjoy it.

Pictured with Jim is my friend, Trevor Freeland. Trevor’s portrayed in the film PRIDE, and Trevor’s brother. Tracy Freeland, is PDR’s current Lead Coach… Many thanks to Trevor, who helped me prepare for this podcast, providing unearthed PDR history.


Music: Otis McDonald


Opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of the interviewed guests do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs, and viewpoints of the hosts, SwimSwam Partners, LLC and/or SwimSwam advertising partners.

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About Gold Medal Mel Stewart

Gold Medal Mel Stewart

MEL STEWART Jr., aka Gold Medal Mel, won three Olympic medals at the 1992 Olympic Games. Mel's best event was the 200 butterfly. He is a former World, American, and NCAA Record holder in the 200 butterfly. As a writer/producer and sports columnist, Mel has contributed to Yahoo Sports, Universal Sports, …

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