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Rebuilding the Jets
by Audrey Hanes, photography by Melissa Donner

Since its start in 1958, Jets Aquatic Club has had many beloved coaches, talented swimmers and generations of families pass through the program. New Head Coach and CEO Vic Moore took the helm in September 2018, bringing with him a desire to work alongside the passionate swimming community in Northeast Arkansas and a vision to continue to grow all aspects of the program.

“The Jets board of directors identified a need for a full-time dedicated head coach and chief executive officer in order to take the next step in continuing to grow the Jets Aquatic Club into a top notch, nationally recognized swimming organization,” said Dr. John Rowe, who has served on the board since August 2017 and whose daughters, 11-year-old Katie and 9-year-old Caroline, also swim for the team. “Board President Ashley Ditta formed the Jets Head Coach Search Committee in November of 2017; I was appointed chairman. … After a thorough process, the committee identified Vic Moore as the ideal head coach/CEO for our program.”

Rowe says that Jets Aquatic Club is very appreciative of Head Coach Shawn Drake for her work with the Jets swimmers and as a member of the Head Coach Search Committee during the search process; now, all of the of the board members and parents of the Jets swimmers are excited to see the program continue to thrive under Moore’s leadership.

“Vic Moore is well-known in the professional swim coaching community and has a reputation for excellence,” said Rowe, a past college swimmer and NCAA All-American with a lifelong love and respect for the sport. “He has a proven track record for helping young swimmers identify and achieve their goals. He brings energy, discipline, creativity and passion for success to the Jets. The swimmers enjoy being around Coach Vic, as his passion is contagious. He engages the team in such a way that even his most physically challenging workouts are felt to be fun and exciting events for the swimmers.”

At the time he was recruited, Moore was coaching for Nu Wave Swim Club in New Orleans, where between the fall of 2012 and the summer of 2018, athletes training under him broke more than 150 team records, set numerous state records and were awarded major honors at state and national levels. Moore was also instrumental in the process of Nu Wave Swim Club becoming the first and only USA-S Recognition Level 4 Club. He has a master’s degree in sport administration from Georgia State University and a bachelor of science degree in sport management from the University of West Georgia. Prior to UWG, he swam for Vincennes University and was a multiple time Honorable Mention NJCAA All-American and served as captain of the 2003 NJCAA national runner-up team.

On the business side of things, during his time in Louisiana, Moore also led Pelican Athletic Club Swim Team to Marketing Club of the Year for USA Swimming. That national recognition and public local business success led to being elected unanimously to serve as President of Old Mandeville Business Association, which represents more than 100 businesses and puts on five major city events annually. Moore and his wife both served as ambassadors for the St. Tammany West Chamber of Commerce, he was a member of the STWCC Advocacy & Public Policy Committee, and she was a member of the Small Business Council for STWCC. The head coach says they very much believe in supporting local.

“When Dr. Rowe first reached out to me about Jets Aquatic Club, he told me that one of his connections from the Atlanta swimming community encouraged him to contact me,” said Moore. “His contact, Franke Marsden, is owner of Atlanta Swimming. As an undergraduate student, I received 12 academic credit hours for the time and work I put in with Franke’s company. Dr. Rowe’s patience and persistence led to my wife and I driving from New Orleans to Jonesboro to get a closer look. We found the Jonesboro area to be an athletically inclined community where we could come and make an immediate impact. Moreover, civic pride shines through the local school districts and the city parks and recreation department.  At many of the local high schools, there are talented, homegrown athletes in just about every sport. It was also impressive to me that three former Jets sat on the board of directors and our current board of director president’s children are third generation Jets. This community appeared to be invested in the success of this program. 

“Aside from everything else, the community seemed like a solid fit for my family. A-State being located in Jonesboro also played a factor. Additionally, Ross Hedrick, my then boss at Nu Wave Swim Club in New Orleans, made some impactful comments that I greatly appreciated hearing from him. Leaving a program with national name recognition was a tough pill to swallow, but it was 100 percent the right move and we are super excited to be here.”

Ditta said it was Moore’s history and passion for the sport that made the board realize he was the perfect fit for the job. He is a full-time head coach who devotes 100 percent of his time to the Jets, whether that is through practice hours on deck or in the office developing new programs.  

“Vic has 18 years of coaching experience and prior to that was a competitive swimmer, so he knows this sport inside and out,” said Ditta. “Every program he has been with has not only grown in numbers, but has shown tremendous growth in performance, as well. His passion for the sport, as well as his knowledge of the sport, were evident from the first interview.

“Besides growing the team, Vic has also focused on improving meet attendance and performance. … Our program has been able to host our first USA meet in Jonesboro in over 10 years. We look forward to hosting two AAU meets this summer at the city pool, as well.”

Moore joins lead fun and fitness coach John Dellorto, administrative assistant and novice coach Greta McClugage, and Haylee Dragon, the lead novice coach and assistant coach for age group, pre-senior and senior age groups.

Rowe says that in just a few short months, Moore has already made a significant impact on the established program.

“The Jets Aquatic Club is growing rapidly,” said Rowe. “Our swimmers are achieving a level of success that they had previously not identified as a possibility. Since Vic began coaching in October of 2018, the Jets swimmers have virtually rewritten the team’s record books. Vic has coached several of the Jets swimmers to achieve state, regional and national levels of recognition. He is also actively working to prepare a number of the Jets swimmers who plan to pursue the sport at the collegiate level. Under Vic’s leadership, the Jets Aquatic Club has achieved Level 3 Club recognition with USA Swimming and has been recognized as one of the first programs in the nation to achieve Safe Sport Recognition with USA Swimming.”

There are currently 110 registered Jets for the 2018-2019 season and close to 90 who actively participate; those numbers increase during the summer. Members of the Jets Aquatic Club hail from Jonesboro, Bono, Paragould, Brookland, Nettleton and even Mountain Home.
Although more than 60 of those participants are age 11 or younger, the Jets Aquatic Club caters to swimmers of all ages and abilities.

“We are a multi-level program that has certified coaches dedicated to individual and collective successes within each level,” said Moore. “We are not a swim team, we are a nonprofit organization with a full-bodied swim program providing opportunities 12 months a year for all ages and abilities. As CEO, I handle business operations and overall direction of the club. As head coach, I oversee all aspects of the swim program while at the same time delegating responsibilities to our assistant coaches, which gives them ownership to develop their individual groups.

“High level swimming is a clear goal and purpose of our organization, but my staff and I also subscribe to the philosophy that we are providing folks with a lifelong activity. Any sport can become taxing physically and mentally, but most sports don’t involve staring underwater at a black line for a couple hours a day. Even on our most taxing days, we try to keep an element of fun to training sessions. For different skill and experience levels, there are different workout times and time frames. Within those times and time frames, we try to cultivate talent and empower athletes to take ownership of their sport by setting, evaluating and accomplishing goals. Our program is an individualized sport in regard to personal goals, aspirations and training; however, the team aspect comes in the form of groups of people working together towards becoming their best selves.”

For those interested in swimming for the Jets, Moore is quick to point out that there is a place for everyone. The team doesn’t hold tryouts and offers evaluations throughout the year.

“We aren’t looking for anyone to be world class right at the start,” he said. “Fast is not a requirement, but safety is. Kids need to make it across the pool unassisted to be in the program. Evaluations are not stressful. We look for how quickly a potential athlete(s) picks up on the skills just as much as we look at current ability. We also evaluate whether or not the kid is into it. … We want people who want to be part of the program. Buying into the philosophy is a key to long-term participation within our sport and our program.”

Ditta is one of those long-term participants. She began swimming on the Jonesboro Swim Team when she was 4 years old and continued until she graduated high school. Once her children, Anthony, now 12 years old, and Audrey, now 9 years old, began swimming on the team, she began volunteer coaching before being asked to serve on the board of directors.

“The Jets have been a part of the Northeast Arkansas community since 1958, and we have had Olympic and national level swimmers come out of our program,” said Ditta. “We also have several third generation swimmers on our team. Swimming is a lifetime sport that offers so many benefits. Our kids learn a physical skill in swimming, but on our team they also learn life skills such as discipline, the value of hard work, commitment and teamwork.”

That history of investment began in 1958 with Jack and Dorine Deacon, whose children and grandchildren swam for the Jets. Throughout the decades, many local families and coaches have supported the program, including former YMCA executive director Bob Williams and Dean and Janice Massey, who received an economic award from the Jonesboro Regional Chamber of Commerce in the ‘90s for their series of swim meets. Former coaches include Sam Kendricks, who announces for the Olympics and is known as the “voice of swimming,” and Tom Genz, who is now the aquatics director at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

As Jets Aquatics Club continues to grow under its new leadership, the Northeast Arkansas swimming community hopes that Moore and his family are here to stay. The Jets head coach and his wife, Jenny, said they have felt right at home in Jonesboro. Their son, Kade, is a first grader at Blessed Sacrament who swims for the Jets, and the couple welcomed, their daughter, Sadie Jones, last month.

For more information about Jets Aquatics Club, visit jonesborojets.com or find it on Facebook.