Jim Ellis’ story is testimony to the power of dreams and their ability to inspire and transform human life. His story is the subject of the film, Pride, starring Terrence Howard.
Ellis founded the P.D.R. (Philadelphia Department of Recreation) Swim Team, based at the Marcus Foster Recreation Center in the Nicetown section of Philadelphia, in 1971. Today, it is the city's nationally recognized competitive swim team, the nation's best predominately African-American team, and has become a model for urban swim programs around the country.
Over the past 36 years, Ellis has been introducing competitive swimming to inner city youth and their families. His coaching has provided a healthy and stimulating environment in which the young athletes can grow and compete. It also brings together families from diverse ethnic backgrounds. Through travel to various competitions, the program exposes swimmers to other parts of the country and different lifestyles.
The movie based on Jim Ellis’ life, Pride, tells the story of how Ellis built a successful swimming program in one of Philly’s most impoverished neighborhoods. It is set in the early 1970s, when the lives of the young African-American teens on the P.D.R. swim team are full of hardship and prejudice. The film shows this uplifting and soulful story of Ellis’ journey that pulled together a group of troubled inner-city kids, made them into a dedicated team, and taught them how to overcome adversity through hard work and determination. Jim Ellis teaches his swimmers more than just how to compete in the water; he gives them important and life-changing lessons that prepare them for a better future. Through this emotional journey, Coach Ellis also discovers his team has a lot to teach him as well. Pride stars Oscar nominee Terrence Howard (Hustle and Flow, Crash, Ray), popular comedian turned actor Bernie Mac (The Bernie Mac Show, Kings of Comedy, Ocean’s Eleven), and Kimberly Elise (star of CBS series Close to Home).
Besides his work as a swim coach, Ellis has served as a math teacher for many years.
As a real-life role model, Ellis’ story strikes a chord with all types of audiences. Coach Ellis is a loveable storyteller whose inspiring true-to-life story captivates and motivates audiences to always remember the influential power of one.