NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ – Tributes to the late Jim Wood, founder and head coach of Berkeley Aquatic Club Center of Excellence (BAC), are already pouring in on social media and in media outlets around the country.
Wood’s death on Jan. 4, at the age of 68, was announced by BAC on its Facebook page this morning.
Details of his passing and of the Celebration of Life being planned have not yet been announced, except that they will be held at the BAC facility on Central Avenue in New Providence, “at a future date.” More information on the celebration will be provided by TAPinto when it becomes available.
The Facebook post provided some history into Mr. Wood and his association with BAC, from its founding back in 1977, to his commitment to USA Swimming, including his 12 years as the coordinator of the USA Swimming Olympic International Operations Committee and as a Technical Vice President for four years, while also serving two terms as president of USA Swimming. He was also president of USA Aquatic Sports.
Mr. Wood received many awards over the course of his career, including: the USA Swimming Award in 2003; being inducted into the American Swim Coaches Hall of Fame in 2011, and named one of the “30 Most Influential People in Swimming over the Past 30 Years” by USA Swimming and Speedo USA in 2015.
Chuck Warner, writing for Swimming World Magazine this afternoon, wrote “Tribute to Jim Wood: A Life of Offering A Fork in The Road.” He reminisced about Wood's time at Union Catholic High School, including when he and his friends got Eric Clapton and his rock band “Cream,” to perform; and the next year brought “’The Who’ to their school. Jim Wood was never shy around big ideas,” wrote Warner.
One of Wood's biggest ideas was building the BAC Center for Excellence. There are those who will remember Wood and members of the Friends of the BAC bought an Olympic-sized pool in California in 2003. It arrived in New Jersey after the 2004 Olympic Trials were finished, but that was just the start of the story. The BAC needed to find a home for the pool, but efforts were thwarted for 10 years.
In 2013, Warren Township agreed on a location, but many Berkeley Heights neighbors of the proposed site objected, and the township council denied a request to provide a sewer connection for the facility. After residents supported the council in a special election, Wood sought another site and found one in his own town – the Panasonic Building on Central Avenue.
In May 2014, the New Providence Planning Board approved the BAC application to build the BAC Center of Excellence. In February 2016, the swim team held its first official swim practice in the newly constructed Olympic-size pool.
Since that time the BAC has been busy providing swimmers of all ages and abilities the opportunity to use its facility. In an article on the BAC this summer, Mr. Wood said,
"My dream has always been to offer each athlete that comes into our program the opportunity to reach his or her potential. We preach and try to teach eight values that make Berkeley Aquatic Club unique: Pride, Courage, Humility, Respect, Commitment, Integrity, Accountability and Perseverance. Each value can be seen on the bottom of the pool across the lanes so the swimmers will see if every day and when people visit during swim meets they can see what we stand for."