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Making a Splash

Avon High School Swim Coach Has Team on the Right Track

Avon High School Swim Coach, Jon Karr

Writer  /  Heather Chastain

Success on the Avon High School swim team comes one stroke at a time.

“The sport itself is brutal,” says swim coach Jon Karr. “The kids have to work hard and it’s not for everybody. You have your face in the water, you’re looking at a black line and trying to figure out when you’re going to breathe again.”

It’s not just the mental impact on the athlete but the physical impact as well. The team has 10 practices a week — five mornings, four afternoons and Saturday practice.

“We’ve been very successful, but that’s not the ultimate goal,” Karr says. “The ultimate goal is to produce valued members of society. I want them to go out and do the best in whatever they do.”

While the coach is proud of the achievements his team has produced in the pool, including several state champions, state record holders, national Top-16 finishes and in 2016 a national high school record holder, he’s also proud of their achievements out of the pool.

“We’ve had 11 Academic All-Americans on the team [over the years],” Karr says.

Karr has been with the Orioles since 2004. As an athlete at Columbus North, he was a six-time Indiana High School state champion, including three straight state titles in the 100 backstroke.

While at Auburn University, he was a six-time All-American and a member of the 1999 National Championship team. He was also a member of an SEC championship and record-setting 400 Medley relay team. His swimming career culminated when he competed in the 2000 Olympic Trials in Indianapolis.

Since he began coaching, Karr says he’s grown tremendously as a coach.

“I had been part of some great programs,” he says. “I knew what great swimming was, but I didn’t know how to implement it. I have some great people in my corner who have helped me grow.”

He also never stops learning.

“Over spring break I read six books. I like to read books that I can apply to myself as a coach and then to my team,” he says. “I can already see the impact of what I learned since spring break.”

Karr has twice been named State Coach of the Year (’14, ’16) by the National Federation of High School (NFHS) Coaches Association. This group is the official national coaches association of the National Federation of State High School Associations.

“I really believe in what we do,” Karr says. “It’s all based on how you can get better today. It’s nice to know the commitment and the craft we’re giving our kids doesn’t go unnoticed, but it’s not about the recognitions.”

One notable coaching opportunity happened in the summer of 2015. Karr helped coach Chandler Bray to qualify and earn a sixth place finish at the World Junior Championships becoming the 2nd and 3rd fastest 17 to 18 swimmer in United States swimming history in the 200 and 100 Breaststrokes.

In addition to the high school program, Karr is also in charge of the club program. The club program is open to all swimmers. The coach says he enjoys watching all of his swimmers perform and reach their goals or perform at a level they didn’t expect.

“When you see the smiles on the kids’ faces knowing they just did something they didn’t think they could — seeing that smile on their face and the belief in their heart is awesome,” Karr says.

The club program competes across the state as well.

Younger swimmers can also take swim lessons at the high school. Students from the swim team teach the classes. To learn more about these swimming programs, visit acstswim.org.

About Heather Chastain

Heather Chastain is an Emmy award-winning journalist and author of the children's book "Caroline Girls." Learn more at CarolineGirls.com.

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