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 fifteen 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 individula 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 20 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 be swimming this fall at the University of Redlands.
Jeff Natalizio swam four years at UC Berkeley, graduating with a degree in Art Practice. After spending the better part of a decade in the Rock Poster and Garment Printing Industry, missing the entirety of the infamous "Tech Suit Era," he came back to swimming as head coach of the diverse Berkeley Bear swim club in Northern California. After two years he transitioned full time to the fitness industry, working at the highly reputable private gym Urban Fitness, in Oakland, California, where he earned the CSCS certification that he still maintains. After a year and a half working as a trainer, with large groups and private clients, he started to hear the siren song of swimming, so he began holding weekly pro bono strength and conditioning classes for a group of teenagers from the nearby Oakland Undercurrents swim club. After working with them for another year and a half, he knew the time had come to dive headlong back into coaching swimming, and to put the last three years of learning to the test. It was then that he took a job in Serbia, as Head Strength Coach and Associate Head Coach to a small group of Serbian national and Olympic level swimmers. There he honed his craft, guiding their star breaststroker to his first PR in three years, and helping him break the elusive one minute barrier in the 100 meter breaststroke. After returning to the states, Jeff started working with long time teammate Anthony Ervin as his strength coach, and together they got Anthony on the Olympic Team as the oldest man to ever qualify for the United States in an individual event. Ervin topped that mark in Rio by becoming the oldest man to win a gold medal in the 50 freestyle, going a lifetime-best. Jeff also competed for Gators at Olympic Trials himself, achieving a lifetime-best in the 100 backstroke in order to qualify for that meet, making him the second-oldest swimmer (besides Ervin) to compete in Omaha. Most recently Jeff competed at Masters Nationals, breaking four National Records formerly held by Olympic Champion Josh Davis, and swimming less than four-tenths of a second off his college-best time in the 100 backstroke. Jeff plans on attending US Olympic Trials again in 2020, this time, as a coach.
Hesham Sakr pursued a passionate swimming career nationally and internationally by serving in various roles in coaching, management and mentoring in field of swimming. Worked with athletes of all levels and ages from beginners to elite Olympians with the desire to develop a great swim program experience by Planning and implementing an appropriate training program that maximizes each swimmer development while inspiring, motivating and challenging swimmers to be at their best abilities and characters. Backed by an impressive 25 years of coaching experience, Coach Hesham first began his swimming career as passionate swim coach since 1991 as a FINA Certified Coach and as USA Swimming Certified Coach by American Swimming Coaches Association since 2000. Equipped with a Bachelor’s Degree in Physical Education from Alexandria University (Swimming Team Captain), Coach Hesham has previously coached at: Piranhas Swim Team, Chino Hills Aquatics, Gezira Swimming Club, La Reina High School, Conejo Simi Aquatics, Fullerton Aquatics Sports Team, Arcadia Swim Club and Alexandria Swimming Club. Through his years, Coach Hesham has produced impressive swimmers that have accomplished the following: Extensive track record of success with top swimmers in USA Senior Nationals / Junior Nationals/Sectionals swim meets. Promoted top swimmers in Southern California swimming reaching top 16th in the nation as well 2000, 2004, 2008, 2012, 2016 Olympics. 2007 USA Swimming Silver Level Club Excellence Award. Runner up 2007 CIF High School Division 3 in Southern California. Promoted top swimmers to swim in Division 1 Elite Universities in the nation. Promoted top swimmers for the Egyptian national swimming team achieving gold medals in Arab, African, FINA World Junior Championships and bronze medal in FINA World Championships.
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.
Kaye Zoolikas I grew up swimming and competing on my local Swim Team in Nebraska at the age of five. I enjoyed making my stokes as beautiful as possible! Perhaps this is why I am a strong advocate for good technical swimming when it comes to coaching. I competed with my age group team through high school where I attended many state wide championship meets, swimming primarily the 200 Breaststroke and the 200 IM. My coaching career began in San Diego in the late 90’s developing the twelve and under age group swimmers. I then grew and developed into coaching thirteen and older athletes, as well as masters swimmers. It has been extremely rewarding to work with these different ages at all levels. I’ve had experience coaching from the Novice to the Junior Olympic, Sectional and State Championship levels, as well as beginning to elite Masters level swimmers. I am truly passionate about the sport of Swimming and believe in educating and fostering respect and enjoyment of our great sport!
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.
Jim Dietrich has a tremendous passion for swimming. He started competing at age 7, in the Northern Virginia Swimming League. The NVSL has over 17,000 swimmers on 102 teams and is the largest summer swim league in the United States. Earning age group high point awards, club records and competing in the All Stars meet each summer quickly became his focus, so he continued swimming year round with Nation’s Capital Swim Club. Jim swam all four years at Robinson Secondary in Fairfax, VA, placing 10th in the 100 breast State Championships. He then earned a bachelors of science degree in psychology from George Mason University. After a break from the pool, working with Hyatt Hotels and in the mortgage industry, Jim rekindled his love for the sport, competing in U.S. Masters Swimming and ranking in the top 10 nationally in his age group while also coaching for a local masters team since 2009. In 2012, Jim created the local SCS team and was the Head Coach of Newport Beach Swimming where he enjoyed developing young swimmers, from in-water private lessons to five year olds, to his 10 & under girls winning two silver medals in their relays at the 2017 June Age Group Championships, a bronze in their Summer JO’s relay and a gold medal winner in the 200 free at Spring JO’s. Jim uses his experience and passion to bring out the best in others.