The UCLA Bruins are set to hire former Oregon State All-American Naya Higashijima as the new assistant coach for their women’s-only program, according to sources. An official announcement is pending the completion of paperwork surrounding the visas of the Japanese citizen, but are not expected to be an issue.
This move continues head coach Cyndi Gallagher’s history of supporting female coaches in a sport dominated by men, as Higashijma replace former assistant Kelli Stein.
Higashijma is a graduate of Oregon State, where she was one of the most decorated swimmer in the school’s history. In 2002, as a junior, she finished 10th at NCAA’s in the 200 fly, and the following season she scored a 1st-team All-American honor by touching 8th in the same event.
Her previous coaching stops include a season spent as an undergraduate-assistant for the Beavers in 2004-2005, where that team finished 20th at NCAA’s, and then 6 season as an assistant for the women of UC-Santa Barbara. She coached there alongside Jeremy Kipp, who has gone on to become an assistant at USC. While with the Gauchos, she worked primarily with the breaststrokers and sprint freestylers, but her history as a butterflier shows the versatility she can bring to this UCLA program as a coach.
The Kawaguchi, Japan native actually majored in Chinese and athletic administration in college, so her ability to tap into a new, potentially huge, recruiting base in Southeast Asia could be monumental for this program.