“The club was originally started as the Kingsport American Legion Swim Club and through the years, the club has expanded and contracted,” said head coach Chris Coraggio. “We employed three full-time, professional coaches and depending on the month, we have anywhere from 120-150 kids in the water.”
The club is year-round with two main sites in both Kingsport and Johnson City. The age ranges are from 6 to college-age and welcomes all skill levels.
“I took over as the head coach in 2002 and the program has expanded greatly since then. The first practice I went to, we had 47 kids,” he said.
Coraggio came to Johnson city as a highly-successful assistant and head coach in the college ranks. After graduating from the University of Notre Dame and earning a master’s degree from Ohio University, he was an assistant at Drury College and helped the team win six national team titles.
He became the head coach at NCAA Division II Northern Michigan University, where his team won the conference four consecutive years and he was voted Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletics Conference coach of the year from 1999-2001. Coraggio tutored one national champion, an Olympic Trials qualifier, 15 All-Americans and 17 Academic All-Americans.
“My job is to get our swimmers to the point where they don't need me any more," he said. "But I also tell them that I'll be there if they do."
Coraggio remarked that one of his main goals when her came to Johnson City was to expand the coaching staff.
“I’ve been here for 17.5 years and coming from the college environment, this has been very satisfying,” he said. “Getting three full-time coaches and getting them professionally certified gave assurance to the parents that they were going to get some of the best coaching around and that their kids would succeed.”
Being involved with a program for so long and seeing it expand has to have outstanding moments, but Coraggio says that not one moment stands out specifically.
“I’ve coached plenty of All-Americans, all-state and Olympic Trials qualifiers, but every day I go to the pool, there’s a new favorite moment,” he said. “One reason I love coaching is I love seeing that light bulb come on when a kid finally figures out a stroke or something like that. It’s one of those satisfying moments.”
During the coronavirus pandemic, Coraggio has been having team conferences on Zoom and making sure that the kids stay engaged. Up on the BSC website under the “Barracuda Strong” tab, there are workouts that have been posted, inspirational quotes, a team challenge and learning modules to help sharpen mental strength.
“One of the main things with swimming and in any sport is building confidence,” he said. “We started ‘Barracuda Strong’ because we want to keep the kids’ confidence high even though they can’t be in the pool right now. And when we do return to the water, they can be stronger, mentally.”
The summer swim schedule has been largely affected by the pandemic with all USA Swimming events being canceled through May 31.
“It’s been tough on the kids, but hopefully we’ll be able to get back into the water soon,” Coraggio said. “Swim meets bring together a lot of people in a very small area for an extended amount of time and that’s something we’re trying to avoid right now.”