Lesson Plan

What is the Soul Cap and Why Was it Rejected for Olympic Use?

Side profile of a women of color wearing a soul cap

Soul Cap | Instagram

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GRADE LEVEL: Middle School

COMMON CORE STANDARDS: Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening, Language

SEL STANDARDS*: Self-Awareness, Social Awareness, Relationship Skills, Responsible Decision-Making

What does the FINA ban of the soul cap in the Olympics say about inclusivity and representation, especially in competitive swimming?

The “Soul Cap,” invented in England by two friends, Michael Chapman and Toks Ahmed-Salawudeen, provides Black swimmers with a swim cap with extra room to fit more voluminous hairstyles like braids, dreadlocks, weaves and afros. The creators applied to register the soul cap with FINA (the International Swimming Federation) for use in the 2021 Tokyo Olympics. Their application was denied certification and they were told that “athletes competing at the international events never used, neither require to use, caps of such size and configuration,” and that the soul cap does not follow “the natural form of the head.” FINA’s decision sparked considerable outrage and backlash from numerous people and groups, with many commenting on the long-standing problems of racism and lack of inclusivity in the world of competitive swimming.

About the Lesson Plan

This lesson provides an opportunity for students to learn more about the Soul Cap and FINA’s decision to ban it in the Olympics, reflect on the backlash sparked by that decision, and express their point of view on this issue through writing and delivering a speech.

Learning Objectives:

  • Students will learn about the “Soul Cap” and why it was created especially for Black swimmers.
  • Students will reflect on quotes and statements about FINA’s decision to ban the soul caps from being used for the 2021 Olympics in Tokyo.
  • Students will explore and express their point of view about the soul cap and FINA’s decision by writing and delivering a speech.