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Coaches & Directors

Our Team

Westside Aquatics employs professional coaches with a passion for the sport of swimming and water polo. Our coaching staff is here to support your needs. If you have any questions regarding workouts, meets, events, goal setting or other topics related to aquatic sports, please contact your coach directly. All coaches are members of USA Swimming or USA Water Polo as well as American Swim Coaches Association (ASCA), and everyone has completed multiple background checks as an extra measure of safety for our athletes.

Coaching Staff

Michael Bechtholdt

Head Coach Swimming

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Coach Mike is an ASCA Level 4 coach who has been with Westside Aquatics for over a year. While at Westside, Mike has helped swimmers reach thier goals of competing in college, and many Westside swimmers have reached the sectional level under his guidance and made Championship Finals at the SCS Club Championships, Junior Olympics, June Age Group Championships, and Winter Age Group Championships.

Before joining Westside Aquatics, Coach Mike coached at Canyons Aquatic Club in Santa Clarita for over ten years, working with the senior level swimmers. During that time, he also had a 5-year stint as the Head Coach at Valencia High School, which culminated in the team's 25th (boys) and and 31st (girls) places nationally. Prior to joining Canyons, Mike was the head coach at Riverton High School, where he coached the Riverton Aquatic Team and was selected as the North 4A Coach of the Year. Before coaching, Mike was a collegiate swimmer at the University of Wyoming, and he swam in high school at Cheyenne East.

Throughout his career, Mike has held an unparalleled record in advancing swimmers to their next level of competition. Swimmers under Mike's guidance have achieved Junior National, National and Olympic Trial qualifying time standards. Mike has also been part of the North American Challenge Cup coaching staff for the 2008 and 2007 seasons as well as Pacific Coast All Star Coaching Staff and Southern California Zone Coaching Staff. He has also been invited to travel as a "host" coach to the Olympic training center with his athletes for both the Diversity Select Camp and the Junior National Select Camp.

Adam Blakis

14U Boys Water Polo/CEO

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Adam has been coaching swimmers and water polo players in California for over twenty-five years, and he has taught athletes at a variety of places including UC Riverside, St. Monica’s High, Crespi High, Chabot Community College, Santa Monica College and the Palisades-Malibu YMCA. He has coached numerous Senior, Junior and YMCA National swimming qualifiers, and Coach Adam was named the 2012,13,14 LA City Water Polo Coach of the Year after leading Palisades High School to the LA City CIF tiltle. He swam and played water polo at Santa Monica High and then later at UC Riverside, where he graduated with a BA in History. 

Robert Bowie

Samohi site manager/12U Water Polo

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Rob was born and raised in Oxford, Ohio, where he began his life in aquatics at age 11 after joining a local swim team. By the time he reached high school, the water polo bug bit him and he never looked back. As a high school athlete Rob received First Team All-State honors in his senior year. He went on to play for Miami University at the collegiate club level, serving two terms as  Club President while earning All-Midwest Team recognition in his freshman and senior years.

Before moving to California in 1999, Rob coached age group swimming and high school water polo for four years, taking his teams to the state playoffs in each season at the helm. After landing on the west coast, he was hired as Beverly Hill High School’s Head Boys water polo coach in 2003. A year later he was in charge of the entire BHHS Aquatics Program, heading both boys and girls water polo teams, as well as the swim team. After spending 11 years at Beverly, Rob was offered a coaching position at Brentwood school where he currently serves as the Assistant Varsity/Head JV water polo coach and Head Swim Coach.

Peter Fishler

Swim Coach

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With no prior competitive experience, Peter began swimming for Palisades Charter High School in 2003. By his senior year, he had helped Pali achieve three City Championships, scoring each year at the City Championship in the top 10. He was recognized as All-Los Angeles City Team (1st and 2nd place per event) on 6 separate occasions. While attending Franklin & Marshall College, he was selected to the All-Centennial Conference team on 15 occasions, with individual titles in the 100 and 200 freestyles in 2008 and 2009. During his time there, he broke 3 school records, 2 Centennial Conference records and attained 2 NCAA "B" cuts.

Peter coached the JV Women’s squad at Palisades High as a senior in high school, where he helped lead them to a Marine League championship and an undefeated season in 2006. While attending Franklin & Marshall, he helped coach the Trident Swim Club’s senior squad, leading 2 men to the 2009 PIAA state finals. He has been a full-time Assistant Coach for Palisades Charter High School since 2011.

Matt Flanders

Director of Water Polo

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Coach Matt Flanders has been the head coach of Santa Monica High School's water polo and swim programs since 1996. During that time, Santa Monica teams have won 20+ league championships and reached the conference playoffs 20+ times combined, including one conference finals appearance. During this time, Santa Monica High has also had more than 75 athletes named to all-league, all-area, or all-conference teams. 

Coach Matt attended Santa Monica High and graduated from UCSB and UCLA. He played water polo at UCSB from 1989-1994, earning all MPSF honors, the McCormick Leadership Award ('93 & '94), and the MPSF Student Athlete of the Year award.

Coach Matt is currently in charge of goalie development for Westside, and he also assists with the under 12 teams.

Lani Fu

Director of Swim Lessons

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Born and raised in Los Angeles, Lani Fu joined Westside Aquatics as a teenager to compliment her tennis skills. She quickly fell in love with the sport of swimming and her caring, fun-loving nature emerged, which led her to begin teaching swim lessons with Westside Aquatics in 2009. Lani's ability to get along well with children, combined with her high level of expectations for her swimmers, has made her transition into both a swim team coach and a director of swim lessons for Westside Aquatics an easy one. She is currently a Political Science major at UCLA.

Bart Gawboy

Coach - Water Polo

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Bart swam and played water polo from a young age in Minnesota, and he represented the midwest for a 14U National Junior Olympics showing. Bart attended Dartmouth College, where he swam and founded the water polo club. He stayed to coach for a year after graduating in 1978. While coaching the Dartmouth Water Polo players, he also coached the Hanover age group swimmers, finished an extra BE degree and earned an Ivy Player honor in spring '79 club water polo. He swam Masters in the early '80s while also training as a dancer, and he continues to play Masters water polo, having played with coaches Dean and Kirk on the SM n' Bay team to win the first Masters championships in 1988. 

 

Mohammad Khadembashi

Head Coach-Santa Monica

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Salaam (Farsi for Hello!)

Originally from Tehran, Iran, Coach Mo moved to Los Angeles almost eleven years ago, on July 4th! He learned to swim on the shores of the Caspian Sea and was an instant fan of the sport. As swimming was not a huge sport in Iran, Mohammad did not swim competitively until he began at the Santa Monica YMCA in 2005.

He joined Westside Aquatics after his sixth year of coaching swimmers ranging from beginners, to JO qualifiers, college swimmers and masters swimmers within his program at the Santa Monica YMCA. He has also had the pleasure of woking with both USA and YMCA National qualifiers.

Mohammad is currently an ASCA Level 2 coach, and he would love to take some of his swimmers to the Olympics one day. His joy for swimming is unparalled, and he hopes to transfer this joy to his swimmers during every practice. Mohammad believes that every athlete can reach their potential through hard work and goal setting, and he pushes and challenges his swimmers to do so in the pool as well as in their personal lives.

Iman Khadembashi

Head Age Group Coach- Santa Monica

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Born and raised in Tehran, Iran, Iman moved to the US in 2003 at the age of 11. After moving to the US, he focused on learning English and doing well in school. At the age of 16, Iman started teaching swim lessons at the Santa Monica YMCA, and soon after he started coaching. Because he hadn't been a competitive swimmer, he completed numerous courses and clinics to become a better coach. Being a very competitive person, he always wanted to be the best and help others to become better as well.  He became the Aquatics Coordinator, Swim Lessons Supervisor and Swim Coach at the Santa Monica YMCA, where he helped increase the lessons program from 60 swimmers to over 220 swimmers in one year. He also assisted with growing our swim team from about 35 swimmers to 120 competitive swimmer and increased our JO qualifiers from a handful to over 20 swimmers.

Currently, Iman is ASCA Level 2 certified, and he has been coaching for nearly six years. He has been fortunate enough to coach various levels of swimmers including novice, JO qualifiers, national qualifiers, college swimmers and masters swimmers.  Coaching is his true passion, and he believes there is not such thing as "talent." With dedication, discipline, practice and hard work, anyone can achieve anything, and he does his best to help his swimmers fall in love with the sport, motivating them to do their best not only in swimming, but in every aspect of their life.

Mitchell J Kim

Splashball/Swim Lessons

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Griffin S Koffman

Water Polo Coach

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Kirk Lazaruk

Coach - Water Polo

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Coach Kirk has been playing water polo since age 10. He started out as a goalie and continued playing at Santa Monica High School. During his college years at Santa Monica College and UCSB, Kirk was both a starter in the goal and field, earning him an All-League Honors. Kirk was one of the founding participants of Masters Water Polo and a multiple All-American. He continues to compete for the Olympic Club of San Francisco in both local and national tournaments. Coach Kirk is a two time Maccabiah Olympian (Silver Medals). He considers himself fortunate to have been able to continue as a post-collegiate international and national water polo player since 1983.  

James Mumma

Varsity Coach/Lessons Instructor

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Born and raised in LA, James joined TSM and swam competitively for 8 years before joining their lessons program where he worked for a year. He then began coaching and teaching lessons at Westside Aquatics in 2013. James is the head lessons instructor for Westside, and he is currently attending Cal State Northridge, where he is pursuing a degree in Kinesiology with an emphasis in Applied Fitness. He is also a member of the Army ROTC program, which is based out of UCLA.

Luke Pechmann

Age Group Coach

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Luke Pechmann is a 2012 graduate of the University of Arizona with specializations in Biochemistry, Nutrition and Swimming.  Luke's coaching experience includes working as an assistant coach at Fargo South High School and working as a personal trainer.  Luke has attained valuable swimming experiences under the tutelage of Frank Busch and Rick Demont, which he shares with his colleagues and swimmers at Westside.  As a competitive swimmer, Luke has received many accolades.  He was the Minnesota High School Champion in the 50 Free in 2008, and he swam one of the fastest 50m LC times in US history (ranked 48).  In 2010 he  attained a top 100 FINA world ranking in both the 50m and 100m Freestyle.

Luke works with swimmers individually using Westside's video software. He also coaches bronze groups, and he works with our new Masters Program.

Spencer Richards

Bronze Coach

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Spencer was born and raised in Walnut Creek, California where he began swimming and playing water polo at a young age. He has been around aquatics his whole life as he swam age group swimming and played club water polo every summer from ages 7-18. He swam for Indian Valley Swim Team, all four years at Las Lomas High School, USS with the Walnut Creek Aquabears, and at Cuesta Community College. He also played club water polo for East Bay Water Polo and the 680 drivers, played 4 years and was captain his senior year in high school, and played 2 seasons at Cuesta Community College as well. He just graduated with a degree in Screenwriting from Cal State Northridge and currently resides in the lovely San Fernando Valley.

Alex Tungland

Head Age Group Coach - Swimming

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Originally from Phoenix, Arizona, Coach Alex's passion for swimming began at the age of nine, when she joined her local club team, Desert Aquatics, to stay cool during the summertime. She continued to swim year-round for Desert Aquatics through high school, where she was an All-American and State Champion team member. It was during high school that Alex began coaching the 8 and under group for her club team, and she really found coaching and helping others to be personally rewarding.

After high school graduation, Alex moved to Los Angeles in search of a milder climate. She attended Loyola Marymount University, and competed all four years at LMU under Bonnie Adair and Clay Evans. She was captain during her last two years, and during college, she also worked for a novice swim lesson program, Aqua Pro Aquatics, that was run by her coaches Bonnie and Clay. After graduating with a degree in English, she stayed in Los Angeles and began coaching for Team Santa Monica in 2005 (in addition to running the Aqua Pro program). As Head Age Group Coach for Team Santa Monica from 2006-2010, Alex coached numerous nationally ranked 12 and under swimmers (including a number one ranking) and from the USA Swimming All-Time Top 100 lists. She also represented Southern California Swimming as the 11-12 girl’s coach at the North American Challenge Cup (NACC) meet for 3 years (2006-2009). In addition, Alex coaches master’s swimming at UCLA and Southern California Aquatics. In her free time, she enjoys swimming, pilates and playing with her puppies.

Dean Heck

Founder/Coach - Water Polo

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Coach Dean was a competitive swimmer from age 7 to 18. He started playing water polo in 7th grade in Newport Beach, and he played for the Corona Del Mar High School team from 1973 to 1977, during which time they won the 1974 CIF championship, AAAA division (highest level at that time). While attending UCLA, he was a three-year varsity starter for UCLA's water polo team. From 1985 through 2003, he remained an active water polo player on various masters teams. Dean's been married for 22 years and lives in Brentwood.

Nila Ward

16/18U Girls & Splashball Director

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Nila Ward started playing water polo at Santa Monica High School, and she fell in love with the sport.  She continued to play in college at UC Davis and then transferred to UC Santa Cruz, where she became an All-American who helped her team to consecutive third place finishes at the DIII Nationals.  When the water polo team was cut from the athletic department due to budgetary reasons, she founded the club team at UCSC, which continues to thrive.  After college, Nila followed water polo abroad, playing 4 seasons of professional water polo in Greece (G.S. Iraklis, 3rd place finish), the Netherlands (S.G. Amersfoort), and Australia (UWA Torpedoes, Fyfe Adelaide Jets).  
 
Hoping to share her passion and knowledge of the game, Nila has been coaching the girls summer program at Santa Monica High for 5 years.  She also coached a season at Harbor High School in Santa Cruz, as well as multiple age group teams while abroad. She is now the head coach at Louisville High School.  She would love to see the sport of water polo grow in the US and become a more popular and sustainable sport like it is in other parts of the world.  In addition to coaching water polo, Nila has been a LA County Jr. Lifeguard Instructor for four years at Venice Beach, where she hopes to help create future ocean lifeguards.

Valerie Williams

Synchronized Swimming

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Valerie has ten years of coaching experience in Southern California, including lead coach for the 12 and under team with the Meraquas of Irvine. Her athletes have placed routines in Finals at US Nationals, and she qualified a swimmer to the 2011 11-12 National Team. She was also the 2012 Assistant Coach for the 11-12 National Team and a certified regional judge.