Naya Higashijima Hired as SMU Associate Head Coach

naya-higahijima
Naya Higashijima was hired as an associated head coach at SMU. Photo Courtesy: SMU Athletics

Two-time NCAA All-American Naya Higashijima has been named SMU’s women’s associate head swimming coach, head coach Steve Collins announced Monday.

“I am looking forward to being a part of the SMU family and the tradition of excellence,” Higashijima said. “I would like to thank the head coach, Steve Collins and his wife, Toni for welcoming me to Dallas.”

Higashijima brings a wealth of coaching experience to the Hilltop, including most recently serving as associate head coach at UCLA.

“It is very exciting to welcome Naya to SMU as our associate head coach,” Collins said. “Naya has had great success at both UC Santa Barbara and UCLA where she helped recruit and develop numerous All-Americans and US National Team members.

“Naya is a great communicator, coach and mentor. Her coaching style enables her to help the team make positive improvements in their swimming, academics and life. I am very excited to see the progress of our team this season and beyond working with Naya at SMU.”

More college news here.

In seven seasons with the Bruins, the team posted six top-25 NCAA finishes and five top-five finishes at the Pac-12 Championships. In the classroom, UCLA also earned Scholar All-America Team honors.

Individually, she helped guide student-athletes to 53 All-America honors at the NCAA level, while mentoring 13 U.S. Olympic Trials qualifiers, six U.S. National Team members and one Olympian.

Prior to her time at UCLA, Higashijima served as an assistant coach for six seasons at UC Santa Barbara.

Higashijima mentored 13 men and women to qualifying standards for the 2008 U.S. Trials, including a pair of semifinalists, and 12 All-America honors were earned under her watch.

Overall, she helped the men’s and women’s teams to seven Big West Conference team championships and the women to a top-25 NCAA finish in 2008.

A standout swimmer at Oregon State, Higashijima was a two-time All-American in the 200-yard butterfly. She earned her highest placement of eighth at the 2003 NCAA meet, which also saw her team earn its first top-25 finish in program history. In 2002, she placed 10th in the event. Overall, Higashijima set five individual records and one as part of a relay.

A native of Kawaguchi, Japan, Higashijima graduated from OSU in 2004 with a degree in liberal studies with a concentration in multi-media communications and a minor in Chinese.

Coming from a long line of swimmers, her father, Shinji, was a National record holder in the IM and currently works for FINA. Mother, Kaoru, was a National Champion swimmer in college and still coaches. Her brother, Issei, was also a National record holder in the 5k and the team manager at Michigan (2005, 2006), while brother, Sho, was part of the National Championship basketball team at Pima Community College (Ariz.) in 2010 and is currently a coach for a professional basketball team in Japan.

What they’re saying about Higashijima

“I couldn’t be more excited for Naya to be the associate head coach at SMU! Coach Collins will be a wonderful mentor, and while they have different strengths, they have similar values, philosophies and work ethic.

“Naya thrives in a ‘people first’ environment, which is what Coach Collins and SMU provide. She brings extensive coaching experience to SMU, and a humble and creative approach to coaching. She will continue to empower women and bring out the best in the student athletes she coaches.” — Cyndi Gallagher, Retired UCLA Head Swim Coach

“Naya, like many exceptional coaches, is able to connect on a personal level with her athletes and works hard at developing the whole person.  Having coached alongside Naya, I know she loves to win and is not afraid to put in the necessary work to make a team move from good to great. She brings world-class experience both as an athlete and coach and the Mustangs will benefit greatly.” — Jeremy Kipp, Director of Swimming & Diving – Northwestern

— The above press release was posted by Swimming World in conjunction with SMU. For press releases and advertising inquiries please contact Advertising@SwimmingWorld.com.

34 comments

  1. Jim Bowser

    Congratulations!

  2. Chuck Batchelor

    Naya Higashijima this is fantastic news! Normally in Nov we go to a meet just North of Dallas and the last 2 years have swum at SMU on Thursday before the meet. I even more look forward to this next year!

  3. Leslie Scott

    Exciting Samantha Smith!

  4. Sheila Scheve

    Way to go Naya!!!!!!!!! They are so lucky to have you!!!!

  5. Rick Embertson

    Congrats to a super coach!

  6. Arianna Shwer

    Fantastic news! Go Naya!

  7. John Dussliere

    SMU just hired one of the best swimming coaches in America. Great choice!!! Wooohooo Naya!!!

  8. Kathrine Jenkins

    Fantastic! Naya is a wonderful coach and person!

  9. Scott Shea

    Congratulations Naya! She’s going to do great work there!

  10. Diana Goodwin

    Hi Naya! We miss you in our lives. Congrats to you! Gg!

  11. Madison Cho

    Congratulations Naya!!!

  12. Kristin McKay

    That’s amazing! Congrats. Very lucky team.

  13. Sam Levinson

    Naya is great! I swam with her at UCSB Masters for a little bit, and she’s a wonderful coach. She’s going to do great things at SMU.

  14. Sachiko Yamada

    なやさん
    おめでとうございます😊😊素晴らしいです😍

  15. Aya Fujimura

    おめでとうございます!🤩

  16. Miho Fujimura

    すごいよ、Nayaさん、おめでとう!!!😘

  17. Kim Holmes O

    Wow—best wishes to you over in Texas, Naya!

  18. Setsuko Shimbashi Yamamoto

    Congratulations, Naya! Wishing you all the best at SMU! They’re fortunate to have you there!