Coaches and Directors

Coaches and Directors
Coaching Staff
Clifford Murray Head Coach; Silver Coach
Cliff Murray is the Head Coach and owner of Northern Lights Swim Club.  Coach Cliff has been the head coach of NLSC since August of 1998.  In that time he has seen the club nearly double in size and has coached the club to dozens of state championships.  Coach Cliff is the 4 time winner of Alaska Swimming's Senior Coach of the Year award and the 2 time winner of Alaska Swimming's Age Group Coach of the Year award.  Cliff is currently working as the Silver Coach and assistant Gold coach.
 
Cliff was born in Fairbanks, Alaska in 1970.  In 1977 he began swimming competitively on the Eielson Flyers near his mother's job as a teacher on Eielson Air Force Base.  At 12 he moved to the North Pole Aquatics Club which was closer to his North Pole home.  During his 8th grade year he began swimming on the Fairbanks Arctic Swim Team in Fairbanks.  Cliff competed for North Pole High School all four years of high school and was captain for the last three.  Cliff retired from swimming after the Alaska Junior Olympics his senior year in 1988.
 
Cliff began coaching in Fairbanks in 1991.  His first coaching job was as assistant coach at West Valley High School.  In November of 1991 he became the assistant coach of Midnight Sun Swim Team in Fairbanks.  In August of 1993 he became the Head Coach for both West Valley and Midnight Sun Swim Team.
 
Since becoming NLSC's head coach, Cliff has also served as the Head Coach of East Anchorage High School Swim/Dive team (2007-2012), and South Anchorage High School Swim/Dive (2015-2020).  Under his leadership the East High Thunderbirds won their first men's state title in fall of 2007. 

In his spare time Coach Cliff enjoys spending time with his wife, Sarah, and daughter, Dagny.  Cliff enjoys hiking, fishing, camping, and scuba diving.
Matthew Hanley Head Coach - Mat-Su

Coach Matt Hanley is the Head Coach of Northern Lights Swim Club Mat-Su (January 2007-Present).  He began his work with NLSC in October of 1997, where he was a swim instructor for the club’s Learn To Swim program.  He began coaching for NLSC in the fall of 1999 where he coached the team’s Novice Group.  In 2000, Matt began coaching a combined Novice/Bronze group and was hired as NLSC’s Assistant Gold Coach under Head Coach Cliff Murray, a position he held until January of 2002.  In the fall of 2004 Matt returned to NLSC as an Assistant Gold Coach under Gold Coach Ben Kitchen and continued in that position until January 2007.  In 2007 Matt moved to Palmer, AK, to work as NLSC’s Head Coach of the new NLSC Mat-Su branch.  In addition to Club coaching Matt has worked as an Assistant Coach for Service High School Swimming and Diving for six years (2000, 2002 - 2006) and Head Coach of Bartlett High School Swimming and Diving for one year (2001).

Matt began his relationship with swimming in August of 1993, when he joined the Lathrop High School Swimming and Diving Team.  He began swimming club in November of that year under Midnight Sun Swim Team Head Coach Cliff Murray.  Matt swam for MSST Under Cliff until the fall of 1998.  In 1997 Matt began swimming for the University of Alaska Anchorage.  He swam two years on schollarship until the swimming program was cut from UAA athletics.  He attended NCAA Division II Nationals in 1998 and 1999, where he finished as an All American (Honorable Mention) in the 200 IM and 200 Brst, both years.  When the collegiate program was cut, Matt continued his swimming career, swimming for NLSC under Head Coach Cliff Murray, until the spring of 2000 when he traded in his goggles for a stopwatch.

William Kitchen Gold Coach - Anchorage
Coach Ben Kitchen has been coaching with Northern Lights Swim Club since 1996.  He has worked with every level of the team during his tenure. Ben has been leading the Anchorage Gold group the last 15 years, winning Alaska senior coach of the year 5 times including this year. He also had the honor of coaching Olympic gold medalist  Lydia Jacoby of Seward Alaska who joined our team to boost her training opportunities during the pandemic and beyond.
 
Coaching started early for Ben. As a Senior in high school he moved from a powerhouse team in Kansas City to a small team in St. Louis Missouri.  That season he helped his coach who was an inexperienced coach (excellent algebra teacher), coach the team.  Ben’s coach won Coach of the year at the Missouri State high school championship that year, an award he admits willingly belongs to Ben.
 
After a successful club and college career swimming, he moved to Alaska and started teaching lessons for Northern Lights to make some spare change while finishing up some studies. The rest is history.  He stuck around after falling in love with the state, producing many collegiate swimmers. As a high school coach he has won 9 state titles and counting for Service High School in addition to his work with Northern Lights.
 
With 35+ years experience in the sport of swimming Ben gets to work with some of Alaska’s best swimmers. “It never gets old, helping kids seek and become the best version of themselves.”
 
Ben and his wife of 21 years, Vanessa are raising two boys Gavin and Duncan who are both on the swim team.
Grant Gamblin Head Coach - Adult Training Squad

Coach Grant Gamblin was born in Anchorage, Alaska and began swimming competitively on NLSC in 1991, and continued through High School. After starting his coaching career in 2005 as the Service High School Assistant Coach, and realizing coaching was a serious passion, he joined the NLSC coaching staff in 2006 and started coaching adults in 2007 at The Alaska Club South.

Taking the Head Coach position of KNIK Aquatics, Eagle River High School and Bartlett High School in 2014 he continued to grow as a coach, developing learn to swim programs for all ages, age group and adult competitive programs.

Returning to NLSC in 2016 to build a dream of his, NLATS (Northern Lights Adult Training Squad)! Within the first year of NLATS creation it was top 10 for growth in U.S. Masters Swimming, bringing the team to just over 100 members. Grant brings a plethora of adult coaching experience, tremendous energy, and passion to our program.

If you’re reading this and are curious about adult swimming please contact Coach Grant to find out which practice best suits you. ALL skill levels are welcome!

Jerry Godden Gold Coach - Mat Su
Jerry Godden is the Mat-Su Gold Coach. Coach Godden has been with NLSC since May of 2017. He started out with the Bronze group for 2 years and moved to the Gold group in January of 2019.
 
Jerry began coaching youth soccer in 2001 when his oldest daughters U8 team needed a coach. He continued this annual volunteer soccer coaching until Fall of 2009 and his middle daughter joined Palmer High School Swim and Dive team. At this time Palmer high school was in need of a diving coach; having been a swimmer and diver in high school himself he volunteered to coach their dive team. In from 2011 thru 2020  he was co/head coach for Palmer High School and from 2016 thru 2020 he was the Region III Swim and dive coaches representative for ASAA.
 
After watching the 1984 Olympics Jerry decided to join the Palmer High School swim and dive team to try out diving. To be able to Dive, the coach required him to swim also. He competed in diving, freestyle and fly events and eventually came to enjoy swimming. His swimming and diving career ended for a while after he graduated High school in 1988 until 2009 when he started coaching at Palmer High School.
 
Jerry was raised in Lowell, Michigan until age 13 when he moved to Palmer, Alaska. He graduated from Palmer High school and traveled around the east coast returning to Palmer in 1990. He met his wife, Carrie, in 1991 and they were married in October of 1993. They proceeded to have three children Taneisha, Katarina, and Reed. Katarina and Reed both swam for Palmer High School. In the Godden’s spare time they enjoy the great Alaska outdoor experience of hunting, fishing, camping. He is active as the Region III coaches representative for the ASAA.
Ryan Chastain Age Group Coach

Ryan Chastain is the current coach of the Bronze/ Iron groups as well as the assistant coach/ Lifeguard for the Silver group.

Ryan was born in March of 2000 and spent his childhood in Palmer Alaska where he began swimming competitively in the third grade. After a short stint on the Wasilla Waves Swim Club, Ryan transferred to the Northern Lights sister program in the Matanuska- Susitna valley. Ryan started out in the bronze group and over the years worked his way up to gold, competing in both local and out of state championship meets. Ryan also swam for Colony High, the local high school team, where he made state all 4 years and his senior year competed in the 50yd Freestyle and the 100yd butterfly, as well as helping to break the school record for the men’s 200yd Freestyle relay and the men’s 400yd Freestyle relay.

During his sophomore year of high school Ryan began to teach swim lessons for the local pool, he then progressed to coaching the Bronze/ Iron group in the valley by his senior year of high school (2018). After taking a short break from coaching to attend Arizona State University Ryan returned to Alaska and began coaching the Bronze/ Iron group at UAA pool and later Service pool. Ryan is now living in Anchorage and is currently attending University of Alaska Anchorage with a major in legal studies with intent to practice comparative and international law. 

Kenny Fox Coach

Kenny Fox grew up in Juneau, AK and swam for Glacier Swim Club since he was 6 years old and Thunder Mountain High School. After high school, Kenny attended Denison University in Granville, OH. Him and his team were able to win 3 Division III National Championships, and was individually recognized as an All-American 11 times. In college he swam the 100 Butterfly (his favorite), 100 Breaststroke, 100 Freestyle, and for kicks, the 100 IM. He also graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Health, Exercise, Sport Studies (HESS) in 2019.

Kenny’s coaching career began in the fall of 2019 as an assistant coach for both Glacier Swim Club and Thunder Mountain High School. Kenny just joined NLSC in July of 2021 and is super excited to meet everyone and to be a part of one the best swim clubs in the state. Being able to witness other swimmers accomplish their goals after seeing all that hard work has always been one of the main reasons he loves the sport of swimming.

Samantha Wicks Dryland Coach

Coach Sam Wicks is an alumna of NLSC - graduated in 2012. She started swimming at 8 years old for Alaska Pacific Swim Club, which is no longer around. She became a NLSC athlete after her freshman year of high school, also working as a Learn to Swim instructor. 

She swam for Coach Cliff while at East Anchorage High School, and Coach Ben in the Gold group. Both encouraged her to work hard in both school and swimming, she ended up swimming at Boise State University. She primarily swam backstroke and sprint freestyle, but occasionally dabbled in IM - her favorite events were the 100 backstroke and 100 IM. She competed at Division I NCAA 3 of her 4 collegiate years, and those were some of the coolest experiences - to see so many fast and dedicated swimmers all under one roof. The only topper to that was competing at the 2016 US Olympic Trials in the 100 backstroke. 

She completed coursework at the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities for their Doctorate of Physical Therapy program. Since graduating from PT school in June 2020, she started working as a physical therapist at Providence Hospital in Anchorage. Throughout the years, she has dealt with a fair amount of injury (knees, shoulders, ankles) and believes her understanding of the mental side of this + her PT knowledge will allow her to be a valuable asset to athletes she works with. 

She is now the Head Dryland Coach for all practice groups - from Iron to NLATS. She is excited about the dryland training program she's created in the hopes that each athlete will get a little bit stronger and improve some each day. Occasionally, she is on the pool deck working mostly with Silver, but enjoys coaching athletes of all ages. 

Best advice she's ever received? In the words of one wise 6 year old patient of hers... "It's okay to do new things, even if they're hard". 

 

Aneesha Bruce Learn to Swim and Stroke School Director
Melinda Greig Sports Psychology Consultant
Board of Directors