Lifetime Achievement Award

2019 Jim Wood (USA)


“A coach’s main job is not to take young athletes and create great swimmers, but to take young athletes and create great adults.” – Jim Wood


The loss of James “Jim” Martin Wood was felt deeply throughout the USA Swimming community as well as around the world. This year the International Swimming Hall of Fame decided it was a simple choice to present its Lifetime Achievement Award to Jim Wood. We lost Jim in January of this year, but he will never be forgotten.


In 2006, Wood was the first swim coach to be elected President of USA Swimming. After serving his term of President at USA Swimming, Wood was elected to serve the entire governing body community, when he was elected President of the United States Aquatic Sports group in 2010.


Wood founded the Berkley Aquatic Club in 1977, a successful swim club team in New Jersey, while simultaneously influencing the future of swimming on a global scale. His passion for the sport and his desire to see it expand and grow inspired the entire swimming community for decades. He spoke extremely well before a large audience and he was often outspoken in his messages on the floor of the USA Swimming House of Delegates at its annual convention. Many of his friends will remember Jim as the champion for bringing back Junior Nationals to USA Swimming, mostly because he saw so many young swimmers benefitting from this first step to being recognized on a national level.


Wood gained national attention for being very active on the administrative side of the sport, setting high ethical standards.


His first national responsibility was as the Chairman of USA Swimming’s Time Standards Committee. He served 12 years (1992-2004) as Chairman of the USA Swimming Olympic International Operations Committee and was a member of the USA Swimming delegation at the 1996, 2000 and 2004 Olympic Games.


In 2011, Jim was inducted to the American Swimming Coaches Association (ASCA) Hall of Fame and in 2015, he was voted as one of the “30 Most Influential People in Swimming Over the Past 30 Years”. In 2017, he was elected as one of the ASCA’s Vice Presidents.


At the time of his passing, Jim was Chairman of the USA Swimming Steering Committee, a member of the USA Swimming Board of Directors and a member of the USA Swimming Foundation. On a local level he previously served as the General Chairman of New Jersey Swimming.


The Berkeley Aquatic Club (BAC) swim school that Wood founded, taught over 8,000 school children how to swim. In 2012, it was reported that BAC competitive swim team had won 57 out of the last 64 state championships. At least 30 BAC swimmers have held first place national rankings and have raced 38 times at the U.S. Olympic Trials since 1980.


BAC athletes have represented the United States and “medaled” in every major international swimming competitions including the Olympic and the Paralympic Games. Wood coached Scott Goldblatt, a USA Olympian who won silver in 2000 and gold in 2004 as a member of USA’s 800 Free Relay, and Lauren Reynolds in the lead up the 2000 Sydney Paralympic Games. Reynolds won a Paralympic Gold medal in the women’s 400 free (S7 disability class) setting a new world record. She earned two silver medals in the 100 free S7 and as a member of the 400 free relay.


At the 2001 FINA World Swimming Championships, Wood was on the pool deck in Fukuoka, Japan to watch the USA swim to a third-place finish in the men’s 4 x 100 freestyle relay. He may have been the only one to notice that two men swam in a different order, but while this may have escaped everyone else’s attention, he urged the National Team Director to self-report the violation, resulting in the relay team’s disqualification. Jim Wood was a man of integrity and this is but one example of his character. In 2003, the USA Swimming Award, the organization’s highest honor was presented to Wood in recognition of his contributions to the sport of swimming.


In 2004, he had a vision to build his own aquatic complex. It was a dream that started with the purchase of the 2004 USA Olympic Trials pool from Long Beach, California. The pools were shipped across country and were to become the cornerstone for his vision, “The Center for Excellence”. The pools sat in storage for years while he considered more than 50 properties and fought countless zoning issues across several municipalities while searching for the optimum location. In 2015, Wood’s dream facility finally opened in New Providence, New Jersey, just miles from his childhood home.


Beyond swimming, more than 50 BAC swimmers have earned High School All-American Honors. All Berkeley graduates have gone on to attend four-year colleges such as Princeton, Harvard, Yale, Penn, Texas, US Military Academy at West Point, the Naval Academy, the U.S. Air Force Academy, and UNC, to name a few. More than 20 BAC graduates have earned NCAA All-American Honors.


Over the course of his coaching career, Jim was stubborn……Jim was outspoken……and Jim was a man of the highest integrity. As a swim coach Jim Wood will always be loved.

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