Coaches and Board

Coaching Staff
John Fodell Head Coach

Head Coach John Fodell has been with the Grosse Pointe Gators for nearly as long as anyone can remember there being a club. His swimmers have won numerous State, Sectional, NCSA and Junior National titles, and dozens have continued their swimming careers at Division I, II and III universities and colleges throughout the country. 

In 2016, John had two swimmers qualify for the Olympic Trials, and one of those swimmers went to the semi-finals in the 200 Breast and moved on to swim for Team USA in the 2016 Junior Pan Pacific Championships, winning the 100 breast. 

As Head Coach of the Gators, John has grown the number of JO/Regional, State, Sectional, Junior National and National level swimmers each year and was named Michigan Swimming Coach of the Year in 2016.

With a coaching career spanning more than a decade, John has served as the head coach of the Grosse Pointe Shores Sharks in the LFSA League, where he was also the Parks and Recreation Director and then moved on to Head Coach at the Grosse Pointe Yacht Club in the MICSA League. He worked with Andy Montague in the early years of the Grosse Pointe Gators, eventually taking over as head coach in 2006 and adding the head coaching duties for both the girls’ and boys’ swim teams at Grosse Pointe South High School in 2018, after assisting those teams for ten years. That same year, he was named MISCA Coach of the Year for the South Girls. 

John earned his master’s degree in adaptive physical education from Western Michigan University in 2007 after completing his bachelor’s degree in Physical Education from Albion College the year before. While at Albion, he earned four varsity letters in swimming [along with three in tennis], held five school records, served as a team captain and was named MVP for the 2005-06 season. He was a three-time, All-MIAA swimmer and was honored as a NCAA Division III All-American swimmer in 2006. John also served as a graduate assistant at Albion, teaching college recreation classes as well as overseeing the healthy lifestyles program for the developmentally impaired.

A Grosse Pointe South High School graduate, John was a member of the National Honors Society and was Student Athlete of the Year in 2002. 

John is the Lead Coach for our Masters, Carbon, Ultra and Elite groups.

Stacy Malinova Age Group Coach

A USA Swim Coach since 2012, Stacy joined the Gators in 2019 and has been coaching intermediate swimmers how to bridge from stroke development to racing. At the same time, she also served as a Michigan Zone and Mid States [Team Michigan] coach in 2019 and 2020. 

Stacy started swimming when she was eight years old in Plovdiv, Bulgaria [if you’re trying to pin down her accent, now you know] and continued there for most of her swim career, earning a bachelor’s degree in Physical Education from the University of Plovdiv. 

Throughout her career, Stacy has developed numerous State, Zone and Sectional qualifiers, including Top 8 finalists and overall champions. Her daughters, Darina and Nicole, also swam for Gators, and Darina has continued her swim career at Wayne State University. 

Stacy has two goals as a coach: competence in all strokes and mental health. She wants her swimmers to train and compete in all events, including the individual medley, but she also wants them to build confidence in themselves. At the end of the day, what’s most important to this coach is that all of her swimmers are enjoying every moment in the water. 

Stacy is the Lead Coach for our Supersonic and Carbon Pro groups.

Benjamin Van Vechten Assistant Age Group Coach

Ben has grown through the ranks of the Gators, starting as a swimmer when he was 13 and becoming an assistant age group coach when he graduated from high school in 2019. He started his swim career when he was eight, swimming for the St Clair Shores Sea Serpents in the Lakefront Swimming Association, where he finished second in 2016 in the 14U Boys 100 IM and 50 Fly. 

In other coaching assignments, Ben has been a lead age-group coach for the CCD Stingrays in the summers of 2020 and 2021, helping them finished 4th in the 2021 MICSA Finals. In 2022, he became the head coach of the Parcells Middle School swim team, where they placed 2nd in the Middle School Finals, the highest finish in seven years. 

Ben enjoys helping others understand more about the sport and loves seeing hard work and dedication pay off. He can be spotted on various pool decks in the area, cheering on and having his picture taken with swimmers he has coached throughout the year. He is currently working toward his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering at Wayne State University. 

Ben is the Lead Coach for the Sonic group.

Patrick Wagner Assistant Age Group Coach

Patrick returned to Gators in the spring of 2022, as he spent two years on staff from September 2013 to September 2015. But that’s not all! Patrick was one of the original Gators, swimming for the team under Coaches Andy Montague and John Fodell when the club was started. 

Patrick started swimming when he was eight years old as a Grosse Pointe Farms Barracuda in the Lakefront League. After swimming with the Gators, he swam for Grosse Pointe South High School and continued his career at Albion College where he specialized in the 100 and 200 breaststroke, and “somehow” ended with the 1650 free. 

As if swimming wasn’t enough of a water sport, Patrick was president of Albion’s Canoe Club and was an American Canoe Association national collegiate champion in the OC2 [open canoe, two person] in 2013. 

After college, he came back to Grosse Pointe and was an assistant coach at the Country Club of Detroit in the MICSA league in 2014. 

While at Albion, he earned at B.A. in physics and math while minoring in Spanish, graduating in 2013. He earned a B.S.E. In electrical engineering from the University of Michigan - Dearborn in 2016 and is currently back, working on his M.S.E, also in electrical engineering. His career path has taken him all the way to Japan, where he lived for 1.5 years working for DENSO as an application engineer. 

Patrick is the Lead Coach for the Pink group.

Khalib Rahmaan Assistant Age Group Coach

Khalib is a long familiar face on the pool deck at South. He may have seemed like a new one when he started coaching for Gators in 2022 as an assistant age-group coach, but he actually joined the team as a swimmer in 2011 at the age of 12.

An All-State Swimmer at Grosse Pointe South, Khalib was also a member of a 400 Freestyle relay team that set a school record. You might think it’s still up there, but his little brother Keiran [also K. Rahmaan] was later on a team that broke it.

Before and during high school, Khalib swam for the Grosse Pointe Park Mutants in the Lakefront Swimming Association and was the 12U Boys Breaststroke Champion in 2013. He went on to coach the Mutants and was part of the team that won back-to-back championships in 2018 and 2019, the latter also being an undefeated season.

Khalib earned a bachelor’s degree in biomedical sciences from Grand Valley State University in 2022. When he’s not on deck coaching for Gators, he can also be found on deck - officiating high school meets.

Khalib is the Lead Coach for the Green group.

Andy Montague Age Group Coach

Andy began swimming at age 5 at the GP City Park (they were not known as the Norbs and nobody wore goggles). During the winters he swam for All Pointes Swim Club and later The Grosse Pointe Swim Club.

He moved away from Grosse Pointe right before high school and graduated from The Mercersburg Academy (a boarding school in Pennsylvania), where he was co-captain of the varsity water polo team and an All-American swimmer his junior and senior years.  As a team, Mercersburg was named Mythical National Champions his senior year. 

He graduated from The University of Michigan where he swam for two years. He was a Big-Ten finalist in the 50 free, 200 fly and Medley Relay and a B finalist in the 100 fly.  He represented Club Wolverine at U.S. Nationals and helped set state records in the 400 and 800 free relays. 

While finishing college, Andy coached the Brighton Eels Swim Team and the Brighton High School Boys’ and Girls’ teams. After college, he taught at Monroe Jefferson High School and helped establish and coach Jefferson’s high school swimming teams from 1987-94.  Three years after the team’s inception, Jefferson won their league title four consecutive years. He also assisted with the Trenton Swim Club during the summers.

He moved back to Grosse Pointe in the mid 1990s to teach at North High School. He assisted GP South’s Girls’ team for one year, helping a new coach get his feet wet, and in the early 2000s he helped establish The Grosse Pointe Gators Swim Club.  He was head coach of the Gators during years 3 and 4 of its existence and then handed the reins to John Fodell.  

He recently retired after 34 years as a high school English teacher, the last 27 at GP North, and his wife Kim has graciously allowed him to return to the pool to do what he loves.  Two sons, Chris and Jacob, were both original Gators and GP South swimmers. Jacob is a member of the Gators’ Hall of Fame.

Liz Nelson Age Group Coach

Liz Nelson is a USA Age Group Developmental Swim Coach with over 40 years of professional coaching experience. During her 43+ yr tenure, Liz has trained and developed numerous State and Zone Qualifiers, Finalists and Champions as well as Junior National, Senior National and Olympic Trial Cut Qualifiers.

She specializes in assessing new swimmers and establishes progressions and criteria for advancement to higher groups. She implements the latest in technical drills and provides full season workout planning, meet preparation and taper training for age group swimmers up to 18 years but especially for swimmers 12 years and under.

She maintains on-going professional training with coursework from USA Swimming and has a wide network of seasoned USA Swimming Coaches as peers and advocates.

Her philosophy of coaching involves firm but loving support in helping swimmers to challenge themselves with more complex techniques, speed and endurance training.

Encouraging the love of swimming is something Liz has perfected, and she attributes her affinity for age group developmental swimmers to her experience as both a mother a Grandmother.

It’s not uncommon for her to surprise a young swimmer with the fact that she coached their mother or father – and sometimes both!

Chris Dirkse Assistant Age Group Coach
Coach Dirkse came to us after four years as the Head Coach of the Dearborn Dolphins. He was a four-year Varsity Letter winner and Senior Captain at East Kentwood in High School. Coach Dirkse began his swim coaching career in 2003 as a volunteer assistant for the East Kentwood Boys High School team. From there he moved on to a Varsity Assistant Coaching Position at Rockford High School where he met his wife, Mrs. Dirkse, the Principal at Pierce Middle School. He swam with the Western Michigan University Swim Club in College. Coach Dirkse’s first USA Swim Coaching experience was with the Rockford Riptide as an Assistant Coach in 2005. He has been the Head Coach of the Kentwood Aquatics Club, as well as the Byron Center Dawgs in the Grand Rapids area. Coach Dirkse has recently relocated to the Grosse Pointe Area from West Michigan and is looking forward to getting to know and working with the families of the Grosse Pointe Gators.
Board of Directors
Matthew Angelocci President
Wendy Ching Vice President
Katy Chapman Treasurer
Beth Newhart Secretary
Jessica Bryan Board Member, Social Media
Peter Gusmano Board Member
Tish Hasting Board Member
Alison Hobson Board Member, Social Committee
Jennifer Sherman Board Member
Katherine Stepulla Board Member
Janel Nugent Past President