Coaches and Directors

Coaches and Directors
Coaching Staff
Michael Chasson Head Coach and President

Mike Chasson has been involved in competitive swimming for over 45 years and has coached at every level of swimming.  He began his career as an age group coach at Los Altos Aquatic Club in 1971.  Since then, he has coached at Santa Barbara Swim Club, Stanford University, Harvard University, Mass Bay Marlins, Arizona State University, and Sun Devil Aquatics.  He has coached Olympic Gold Medal winners, USA Swimming National Champions and Junior National Champions, NCAA Champions, and many NCAA and High School All Americans.

Mike coached swimmers at every Olympic Games from 1984 through 2008.  He has been a USA National Team Coach for many international trips, including Head Men’s Coach at the 1997 World University Games and an assistant coach at the Olympic Games in 1988 and Pan Pacific Championships in 1993.  He has had teams place in the top five at every major swimming competition in the United States.  He has been a speaker at the American Swim Coaches Association Convention as well a number of regional clinics.

While at Stanford, Mike coached five different NCAA Champions, and helped coach the team to the NCAA Championship in 1989.  While at Harvard, he won six Ivy League Championships and helped Harvard achieve an 11th place finish at the men’s NCAA’s in 1998, which is the highest finish ever for a non-scholarship school.  While at Arizona State, the men’s team finished in the top 20 nine times, and the women’s team did so six times.  This included three top ten finishes.  Mike coached 52 All Americans and helped swimmers to 58 school records.  His swimmers also achieved seven Pac-10 Championships and earned 165 Pac-10 All Academic honors.

Currently, Mike oversees and coaches the Cactus Aquatics program, which has included coaching every training group on the team at various times.  His background in club swimming for 18 years before going into college swimming gave him great preparation for guiding Sun Devil Aquatics, now Cactus Aquatics, which he started in 1998.  He previously started age two club programs and one masters program from scratch.  Mike believes strongly that age group swimming should promote technique, sportsmanship, and academic excellence.  A successful program should help swimmers develop a passion for the sport and encourage them to compete through high school and college, depending on their academic interests and school choice.

Mike is proud of the fact that he has remained in contact with swimmers he coached in the 70s, 80s, 90s and the 2000s.  These swimmers went on to successful academic and professional careers.  Mike has always encouraged his staff to have this same type of connection and interest in their athletes, which differentiates Cactus Aquatics from many other teams.  Mike will continue to build a positive environment that encourages future athletic, academic and personal growth.

Kyle Johnson Assistant Coach

Kyle started coaching with Cactus Aquatics, now Gold Medal Swim Club, in August of 2018. Since joining GM, Kyle has had a hand in coaching every group on the team at times. Currently, Kyle assists Coach Chasson with the Senior and PreSenior groups as well as coordinating the age group dryland program. Kyle is also an American Swim Coaches Association Certified Level 2 Coach with an additional ASCA Level 5 Certification in Coaching Education.

Kyle has been involved in the world of swimming for most of his life. Growing up in Normal, Illinois, Kyle swam for over 12 years at various club teams around town, one of which includes the 10-time silver medal club excellence team, the BNY Waves. Kyle also swam high school for University High School in Normal, who is the only non-Chicago area team to win the Illinois Boys High School State Swimming Championship.

Kyle’s passion for swimming led him to start teaching swim lessons in 2015. Kyle taught lessons for over 3 years, including one year at the local YMCA in Bloomington, two years at the Marlins Swim Team in Normal, and multiple different times for the Gold Medal Swim School. Kyle went to college his freshman year at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. During the summer of 2018 Kyle and his family moved from Illinois down to Ahwatukee, where he finished a certificate in business and currently resides with his family while continuing to pursure his career in coaching.

Christine Sugihara Assistant Coach

Christine Sugihara is originally from Taipei, Taiwan. She competed on the Taiwan National Team starting from age 12 earning junior national and then national champion status for 7 consecutive years. Christine swam at the Pan Pacific and World Championships. She won the Asian Age Group Championship at age 13 going on to compete for her country in the 1988 Olympics in Seoul. While on the National team Christine also began her coaching career instructing younger teammates as well as swimmers on club teams operated by her family, focusing on technique and form.

Studying and swimming at Takushoku University in Japan, Christine met husband Rick, moving to the suburbs of Chicago, Illinois in 1993. As her kids became involved in swimming, she resumed her coaching career starting in 2004 with USS swim clubs EG Stingray, Alligator Aquatics and Hickory Willow SA as Age Group Head Coach and assisting with Elite Group swimmers obtaining Level 2 USS Swimming certification.

Moving to Chandler in 2014, Christine has stayed active in swimmer development inviting competitors from Taiwan to train with her in Arizona and has continued her own education, attending a coaching program invited by Jack Bauer at the University of Georgia in 2017. Occasionally spending summers in Taiwan, Christine has over 10 years of experience coaching international competitive swimming. She has also been providing oversight of training for her nephew in Japan at the National Institute of Fitness and Sports at Kanoya University in 2019 and in San Diego with Dave Marsh and his Team Elite Pro Group in 2020. Nephew Tommy is on the Taiwan National team and will be competing in the Olympics in Tokyo, Japan in 2021.

Christine started in August 2020 as Age Group Coach joining youngest son Jason on the Cactus Aquatics swim team. Her older son and daughter remain in Chicago for college study and work. Christine can speak English, Japanese, Taiwanese and Mandarin.  

Jens Nielsen Assistant Coach

Jens Nielsen is originally from Lakeville, Minnesota.  He attended Iowa State University where Jens was co-captain of the men’s swim team.  As a swimmer at Iowa State, Jens achieved All Big Eight Honors and participated in the 1984 NCAA Championships.  He graduated with a B.A. in Physical Education in 1988. Jens began coaching in 1986 and has coached swim teams in Iowa, Minnesota, New Mexico and Arizona.  He has coached age-group, high school, and masters teams. Jens has coached swimmers who have competed at the Junior National and Senior National levels as well as swimmers who have gone on to swim collegiately at Division 1 schools such as Arizona State University, University of Arizona, University of New Mexico and New Mexico State University.  While Jens was the Head Coach of the Farmington High School Swim Team in Farmington, New Mexico, he led the men’s swim team to win the New Mexico Boys State High School Championship. Jens moved to Arizona in 1999 where he took a break from coaching for 17 years. Jens returned to coaching in 2016 when Coach Chasson hired him to coach the senior group for MAC West which later became Cactus Aquatics.  Jens lives in Tempe, Arizona with his wife, son and daughter.

Board of Directors