Coaching Staff: Qualifications And Training
The Gators Swim Club coaching staff consists of a Team Director, Site Director and coaches.
All our coaches are USA swimming accredited and have passed the following United States Swimming requirements for coaching credentials:
- Background check
- CPR/First Aid
- Athlete Protection Training
- Safety Training for Coaches
In addition, we believe in continuing education for our coaches and take every opportunity, such as the United States Regional Coaches Clinic, to learn from and be trained by some of the best and most experienced coaches in the country. We hire coaches with a passion for the sport, matched by an enthusiasm for teaching age-group swimmers.
Gators Swim Club Coaching Staff
Felipe Delgado is a two-time Olympian (1996 & 2000). Felipe started his career by swimming for the South Gate Gators before moving to Orange County and swimming for the Mission Viejo Nadadores. Felipe competed at Mission Viejo High School where he set numerous high school records. He went on to compete at Arizona State University where he graduated with a Marketing Degree. Felipe graduated as a member of the dean's list and was recognized as a scholar-athlete. While at Arizona State, he was a fifteen time All-American, and qualified for finals multiple times at the NCAA Divison I Championships. He was the bronze medalist at the 1996 NCAA Championships (50-yard freestyle) and went on to help set multiple team records in the relay events, while posting Top 10 all-time swims in individual events. Felipe was a Pac-10 Champion and US Open bronze medalist (50-meter freestyle). Post graduation, Felipe swam with Dave Salo and the Irvine Novaquatics, and finished his career swimming for Mike Bottom and The World Sprint Team.
Felipe is married to Megan Delgado, and has three daughters—Anicka, who currently swims for the Gators Swim Club, Valentina and Francesca, both in learn-to-swim lessons at Evolution Swim Academy.
Evan Forbes is the Site Director at Ladera Ranch. He comes to the pool deck with a myriad of experiences with children, as well as competitive swimming. He has 15 years of experience as a classroom teacher, working with grades K through 6 and spent 10 years as an age-group swimmer, and finally coach. Evan began his swimming career late in life at the older age-group level, he swam for his high school team in Ohio and then went on to The Ohio State University where he walked on as a sophomore and earning varsity status by his senior year. In that same year, Evan represented the United States in international competition as a member of the U.S. Maccabi Team competing in Sydney, Australia where he won 3 gold medals (one individual and 2 relay). Evan has coached for nearly 20 years at the age-group level and one year at the collegiate level. He holds a Bachelors of Science from The Ohio State University and a Masters of Science Education from Northern Illinois University. He has been married to his wife Tracey for 23 years and they have two boys Eric and Ryan. Eric has represented the Gators Swim Club since his Junior Year of High School and will again be swimming this fall at the University of Redlands as a junior.
Jeff Natalizio did his college swimming at UC Berkeley, and credits much of his coaching style to having trained with some of the sport’s greatest coaches- Nort Thornton, Mike Bottom, Dave Salo, and Dave Durden. Jeff is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and, as a strength coach, was instrumental in Anthony Ervin’s achieving a record-setting gold medal in the 50 freestyle at the Rio Olympics in 2016. Before joining Gators, Jeff spent a year coaching in Serbia, working with some of that country’s top swimmers. Jeff has been coaching with Gators since April, 2015, and many of his swimmers have gone on to swim in college at various levels. Jeff brings a level of technical and physiological understanding to his workouts, and his passion for the sport of swimming is palpable and infectious. In his own swimming, Jeff is a multiple US Masters national record holder. You can learn a little more about Coach Jeff at www.ziofitelite.com
Alicia Thornton graduated as valedictorian of Aliso Niguel High School, where she was also CIF champion in several events. She was an accomplished age-group and high school swimmer in Southern California, achieving Junior and Senior National Time Standards in multiple events. Alicia swam for the University of Southern California, where she received a Bachelor’s Degree in Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, and a Master’s Degree in Public Health. She also worked for USC as a nutritionist in childhood obesity research and prevention.
Kathi Kopp was an age-group, high school, and varsity swimmer. She also swam and played water polo at CSU, Chico. Living in Germany for 25 years, Kathi swam in a Masters Program for SV Goeppingen, and SB Goeppingen before retiring and beginning her coaching career. She has been coaching in Ladera Ranch since 2005 with the Ladera Liquids, which is now the Gators Swim Club. Kathi is always continuing her professional development and is a Level 3 ASCA coach. During the day, Kathi is an elementary school teacher.
Kim Thornton As a child, Kim suffered from asthma which severely limited her physical activities until she learned to swim. Her doctor suggested that swimming might help develop her lung capacity. At the age of 7, her swimming career began. Kim took to the water like a fish and joined the local swim team, City of Commerce, in Southern California. She achieved National Ranking by the age of 10 and set several National Age Group records in breaststroke and individual medley events. At the age of 12, Kim qualified for Senior Nationals in the 400 IM and by 16 headed for the Olympic Trials in 4 events, 100 and 200 breaststroke and the 200 and 400 IM. However, she fell short of her goal of the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City. Kim hung up her cap and goggles and retired from swimming for nearly 40 years until she joined Masters Swimming in 2005. With the great support from her teammates and coaches, her love for swimming was quickly rejuvenated. Once again, swimming became her focus and zest for life. Now as a coach for Gators Swim Club, Kim’s goal is to help her swimmers be successful in the water. Her main emphasis is to motivate each one to achieve their own personal goals in swimming and to enjoy the sport.
Jason Lezak grew up in Irvine, California as a well-rounded athlete. He began swimming at the age of five, played on the high school basketball team and become an All-American in water-polo. He is considered one of the most athletic and energetic personalities in the sport of swimming. Practically unknown in the swimming world before 1998, Jason lit up the U.S. National Championships that year winning his first national title in the 100m freestyle, and that was only the beginning. He went on to win a gold and silver medal at the 2000 Olympic Games, and in 2002, he dominated all opponents becoming the number one ranked swimming sprinter in the world. At the 2004 Olympic Games, Jason took home a bronze medal in the 4x100m freestyle relay and the gold in a world-record-breaking swim in the 4x100m medley relay. In 2008, Jason qualified for the Beijing Olympic Games in the 100m freestyle, the 4x100m free relay, and the 4x100m medley relay. At 32, the oldest man on the U.S. swim team and tri-captain, Jason anchored the U.S. men's 4x100 freestyle relay team to a come-from-behind victory, stealing the gold from the French. You can expect to see his leg of the race, the fastest 100m relay split in history (46.06), for decades to come in sports highlights. After many years of placing 4th and 5th in his individual swims, Jason persevered and achieved his 1st individual medal earning the bronze in the 100 freestyle. He also dominated the last leg of the 4x100m medley relay, winning the gold and securing Michael Phelps' record-setting 8th gold medal. Jason qualified for the 2012 Olympic Games as a part of the 4x100m freestyle relay and helped bring home a silver for the United States in that event. In 2009 Jason represented the U.S. in Israel at the Maccabiah games. It was a tough decision to make having to pass on the World Championships but this was more than just another swim competition. During this trip Jason got the opportunity to see many of the sites he learned about as a kid as well as compete against the best Jewish athletes around the world. Winning 4 gold medals was only part of the experience. During his time there he was inducted into the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, lit the flame at opening ceremonies, met with the Israeli President, and much more. As a proud husband and father, highly respected athlete and Olympic gold medalist, Jason has become an inspiration to a wide variety of audiences. He successfully balances his family life with motivating others and sharing his stories.
Belinda "Bee" Eschenwald combined her skills in business and talent as an athlete to build a career helping other athletes reach their greatest potential. Bee started coaching multi-sport athletes in 2002 when she joined The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training (TNT). She has been helped many athletes achieve some very impressive goals. For years Bee coached swimming at Irvine Novaquatics were she trained and developed kids in the 8 and under division. While there, she studied under Dave Salo , Head Coach of Nova and the USA Olympic Coach in 2000 & 2004, where she learned that every workout must have a purpose and that in order to get results, you don’t need to do excessive yardage. Currently she is the owner of Capo Masters swim club in San Juan Capistrano which consists of a group of mainly triathletes of all different levels training year-round for upcoming races. She also Head Age Group coach for Azot swim club for the 12 and under groups and Assistant Swim Coach at J Serra Catholic School. In addition to her BA in International Business from California State University, Fullerton, Bee has several certifications including ASCA (The American Swimming Coaches Association) Level One Coach, CPR, Water Safety, and Spinning Instructor by Johnny G. Bee was coached by Joe Friel associate, Gordo Byrn, for 3 years. As a pupil of Mr. Byrn, Bee learned that through hard work, persistence and a progressive approach to training, breakthroughs in performance are inevitable. Her Ironman race results prove that with the right plan and attitude anyone can achieve their goals. Bee’s athletic career began at St. Elizabeth High School in Wilmington, Delaware where she built a reputation as a star volleyball player. She was named to the All-Catholic and All-State teams and she was selected MVP in both her junior and senior years. She went on to play volleyball for Wilmington College where she was also named MVP her sophomore, junior and senior years and to the All-American team her senior year. Bee’s running career started in 1991. She has competed in countless 10k races, ½ marathons and marathons, including the Boston Marathon in 1999. She completed a few sprint triathlons in 1990 & 1991 and got back into racing in 1999 when she signed up for the Vineman ½ Ironman. She was hooked. After 15 Ironmans and knee injury Bee started competing in cycling where she raced Semi-Pro for La Grange’s Elite Women’s Team. She has won State Championship cycling titles in 2008, 2009, 2012 & 2013 and finished in the Top 10 numerous times at local Pro races. She has now transitioned into Mountain biking and is obsessed!