There are few places in the swimming pool that 7’5” Celtics center Tacko Fall cannot touch, but even so the loveable post player wanted to learn to swim.
So, he came to Charlestown.
In what was a very unexpected turn of events, Fall and some of the Celtics front office were trying to find a place near the Garden where Fall could learn to swim, and they soon learned about the Charlestown Boys & Girls Club and its famed aquatics program. Before anyone knew it, the 7’5” towering man was side by side with youngsters from the Club learning the crawl, backstroke and floating techniques.
“It all came together very organically,” said Club Director Derek Gallagher, noting that the lessons took place in October. “Just seeing Tacko Fall in a three-foot pool was like us being in a mud puddle. He was there to learn to swim. He learned how to do the backstroke and how to float and hold his breath underwater. He was 100 percent into it and afterward played games like ‘Fishy, Fishy’ and ‘Sharks and Minnows’ with the kids. He was just really, really sweet – getting out in the water with the kids and sincerely trying to learn.”
The situation unfolded with Fall, who is from Senegal, telling one of the Celtics public relations workers that he couldn’t swim despite having gone to college in Florida. She took it upon herself to help him learn to swim, and soon enough she had called Gallagher and arranged for Fall to take lessons. He was fully cooperative, noting that many young people and adults drown due to not knowing the basics about swimming.
Then he met Colby Cahill, the Charlestown Aquatics director, and she was very interested in helping him and put him in a class with other beginners at the Club.
Gallagher said while it was fun, it was consistent with their mission to teach all kids (and now, Celtics seven-footers) the basics of swimming.
“Our goal at the Boys and Girls Club of Boston is to make sure every kid can swim,” said Gallagher. “It’s a cornerstone of what we do now. We want kids to know that they can have fun in the water without being scared. Also, we want to be able to give them the skills to be safe it they are swept out at the beach or fall into a pool. It’s huge for our organization and has been for 15 years.”
But one turned into two, as Fall asked if he could come for a second lesson and bring some friends. So, later in October, he came again with Celtics Semi Ojeleye and Grant Williams. Once again, with the young Club members side-by-side, the towering Celtics players learned how to kick off the side of the pool and hold their breath underwater. Some of the younger kids even gave them tips on how to float.
“Colby was so good with them, and really helped them to learn,” said Gallagher. “I have to say, though, when you’re 7’5” and in a three-foot pool playing sharks and minnows, the kids are too successful in getting past you. He was reaching out and tagging them and they couldn’t get by at all.”
Nowadays, Fall has been transferred up to the Portland G-League club, and Gallagher said they helped him find a Boys and Girls Club program up there to continue his lessons. He is currently taking lessons with Club members at the Portland Boys & Girls Club, Gallagher concluded.