We Are HAC! – Jim Whitehead

By way of the state of Alabama, Jim Whitehead is now a Michigander at heart and in spirit. Though quick to tell you that he hopes to retire to Florida someday (when you read his fun facts below, you’ll see why!), Jim has become deeply engrained in West Michigan thanks to his role as the co-head coach for Michigan Lakeshore Aquatics (MLA), HAC’s club swim and dive team. 

Jim is a graduate of the University of Alabama (Roll Tide!), and he left the Cotton State for the Great Lakes State to coach club teams in Monroe and Plymouth before settling in Holland in 2015. For the past 7 years, he has helped guide MLA swim to a reputation of excellence in Michigan and beyond. Along with co-head coach Ian Townsend, Jim works to maximize the potential of every athlete regardless of experience or ability. The year-round program serves 125-175 swimmers ages 8 to 22 during the calendar. Since the program’s inception, it has produced 15 Olympic trialists and averages 12 qualifiers at USA Nationals at year. For a club its size, MLA has produced more than its fair share of elite swimmers. 

Jim was a club swimmer himself (starting at age 5) and a NCAA Division I swimmer at East Carolina University (before transferring to ‘Bama). He says his coaching philosophy is one that is based upon patience and improvement.  

“For youngsters 12 and under, our goal is to get them to fall in love with swimming and have fun,” Whitehead says. “When they get a little older, we just want them to keep coming back and focus on what is going on inside our walls. Then, by the time they are senior-level swimmers, we are helping them realize a dream – whether they want to swim in college or internationally or nationally.”

“Providing a program so all three age groups achieve their goals is what we are most proud of.” 

Jim WhiteHead


Favorite place in the world: Captiva Island, FL 

Favorite sport: Fishing 

Thing that brings me joy: Fishing 

Bucket list item: Own a boat on the Gulf of Mexico so I can fish anytime I want. 

If I could live anywhere, I would live in… Captiva Island, FL 

Biggest fear: War 

You’d be surprised to know…his bachelor’s degree is in geographical information systems, and he conducted sustainability research for an architectural firm in Birmingham, Alabama before starting his coaching career. 

What attracted me to work at HAC: “I had a pretty extensive interview process here and I just fell in love with the people. Then I fell in love with Holland. It’s a southern town up north. It’s got a great pace of life, you’re never far from the water, people are friendly. Once we started visiting towns up and down the Lake Michigan coast, we were sold.”