Named to coaching hall of fame
By Don Rush
“The only true path to success is through failure. If you have never failed, you haven’t really tried.”
Oxford resident and now, Hall of Fame swim/dive coach John Pearson believes in that quote. It’s been attributed to him by those who know him.
“People don’t know what they’re capable of until they have pushed the limit of what they think is possible,” he said. “If you try something new and it doesn’t work that doesn’t mean it can’t be done, it just means we have to try a different way to get there. The first time I said this was to a diver trying a new dive. They didn’t get it the first, second or third time. We didn’t quit, we used the experience to find a new way to get the dive done. That was in the early 1990’s, with the first diver I ever coached to All-American consideration.”
On September 25, at the Michigan High School Coaches Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, Pearson was officially named to the hall. The ceremony was in Mt. Pleasant at Central Michigan University’s Student Activities Center. A photo of Pearson and his biography, are both now on display with other Hall of Fame coaches at the university’s Bovee Center.
“I was incredibly humbled when I first heard the news,” he said “I have several friends and mentors that have been inducted to the Hall of Fame. To be included with those great people and coaches is an incredible honor.”
He has coached swimming and diving to area student athletes since 1982, when he coached at the school he graduated from in 1981, Rochester High School. And, he’s coached ever since.
“I attended Western Michigan University and ran track as a freshman,” he said. “then I transferred to Oakland University as a sophomore and trained with the OU divers, though I never made the team, I did use the knowledge gained while training for my first coaching job at Rochester.”
He coached at Rochester until 1986, before becoming assistant swim and dive coach for Romeo High School. He coached there for 32 seasons. His teams produced nine league champions, one county champtoin, 75 regional qualifiers, one regional champion, 22 state qualifiers, seven state finalists, three All-State athletes and two All-Americans.
In 2015 he became the men and women’s diving coach in Oxford. In seven seasons his teams had five leaue champions 23 regional qualifiers, 12 state qualifiers, two All-State athletes and four All-American considerations. Since 2018, he is also the men’s and women’s diving coach at Lake Orion High School. These teams have had one league champion, one county champion, nine regional qualifiers and one All-State athlete and one All-American.
Coaching two different high school teams at the same time isn’t as bad as it sounds, “Yes, I coach diving for both Lake Orion and Oxford High schools. We practice at Lake Orion Monday, Tuesday and Friday. We practice at Oxford Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday. The teams work together,” he said. “Our goal is to develop each diver to be the best student athlete they can be. We want all the divers to perform their absolute best at every opportunity and let the judges sort out the order of finish. Success isn’t determined by the place taken in a meet. Success is determined by each athlete reaching their maximum potential.”
Pearson grew up and enjoyed swimming in local lakes, “Orion, Bald Eagle Lake in Ortonville and Lakeville Lake were my favorites,” he said. “I also spent time at the old Lepley Pool at Oakland University and summers on the diving boards at the Heart of the Hills Swim Club. I worked as a lifeguard at Heart of the Hill and spent all my breaks on the boards.”
He credits his wife Kimberly for his success as a coach. “Kimberly is the best. We’ve been married 22 years and I could not have accomplished an honor like this without her love and support. The role of the coach’s spouse is one of the toughest jobs there is.”
They have two sons, Ethan is a 2020 graduate of Oxford and swam for the swim and dive program for all four years. Liam is a current junior at Oxford High School and decided as an eighth grader that he wanted to dive for his dad. Liam is an AAU All-American, finished 7th at last year’s D1 State Meet and qualified for NISCA All-American consideration.
“We also have two horses, a dog and a cat on our small farm just north east of Oxford,” he said.
The Pearsons have called Oxford home since 2000.
“We love the community and the schools,” he said. “Oxford is one of the biggest ‘small towns’ I could imagine. The small town feel comes from the love and support the people have for each other. The area is also large enough to be diverse. We have many people from different backgrounds that can all learn to live together and support each other. It’s the best of both worlds, a large community with a small town feel.”