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Coaches & Directors

Coaches

Westside Aquatics employs professional coaches with a passion for swimming and water polo, and 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 SwimmingUSA Water Polo, and USA Synchro 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

Stefan Bechkovski

Pre-Team/Lessons

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Coach Stefan was born and raised in Bulgaria. He learned how to swim when he was six years old, and started swimming for Sport Club Lokomotiv Plovdiv when he was eight years old. He was the Middle School Regional Champion for the 100m and 50m breaststroke, and then swam for his college team. Coach Stefan became certified as a swim instructor in 2008, and starting teaching for Anne Arundel County Olympic Swim Center in Maryland. He moved to Los Angeles, and has since taught private and group lessons for the YMCA, LA County, Happy Swimmers and Sunsational Swim School. He has been with Westside Aquatics for three years, and is now a certified coach with USA Swimming. Stefan works with swimmers of all ages & levels, and focuses on detailed instruction and drills for proper techniques. It is exciting to see children progress from swim lessons to Pre-team and start to compete with Stefan’s guidance. 

Michael Bechtholdt

Head Coach Swimming

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Coach Mike is an ASCA Level 4 coach who has been with Westside Aquatics since 2014. While at Westside, Mike has helped swimmers reach thier goals of competing in college, and Westside swimmers have reached the National, Junior National, and Sectional level under his guidance.  Mike's swimmers have made Championship Finals at the Junior National, Futures, 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 had swimmers go on to become professional athletes and Olympic Team members, and Olympic medalists.  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

Pre Team/CEO

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Adam has been coaching swimmers and water polo players in California for over twenty-five years. He has taught athletes at UC Riverside, St. Monica's, Crespi, Chabot College, Santa Monica College and Palisades-Malibu YMCA. He has coached Senior, Junior, and YMCA Natinal swimming qualifiers. Coach Adam was named the 2012, 13, 14, 15, 16 LA CIF Water Polo Coach of the Year while leading Pali High to the LA City Title. Adam swam and played water polo at Santa Monica High and UC Riverside, where he graduated with a BA in History.

Daniel Colvin

Santa Monica Lead Site Swimming Coach

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Coach Danny Colvin is joining the Westside Aquatics staff as Lead Site Coach for our Santa Monica Site. Before Westside, Danny was the Director of Strength and Conditioning with the Mission Viejo Nadadores, His primary focus at Mission was coaching their 13-14 year olds but also branched out to other age groups. During his year and a half tenure at MVN, he helped to rehabilitate Cal Berkeley Freshman Katie McLaughlin (2015 Bronze Medalist 200 FLY at 2015 Pan Pacific Championships) after neck fracture. Danny also developed the strength and conditioning programing which complemented the water training for Ous Mellouli (World Record/Gold Medalist) 12 Rio Olympic Trial Qualifiers and Ous Mellouli (2012 Gold medalist 1500 FR and former world record holder). Before Mission Viejo, Danny started his coaching career with Buenaventura Swim Club as the Bronze Group Coach and quickly moved up to Senior Sprint Coach and Head Strength and Conditioning Coach. Danny also spent nearly three years as the Strength and Conditioning coach for the men's and women's water polo and swim teams at Ventura College.

Peter Fishler

Senior Coach / Director of Nutrition

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Peter is also our director of college swimming.

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)>

As a Palisades High School senior, Peter coached the Pali JV Women’s squad, where he helped lead the team to the Marine League championship with 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.

Peter has been the full-time Assistant Coach for Palisades Charter High School Swim Team since 2011. The Women's team have claimed the last 4 City Championships, won 20 events and turned in 46 CIF top 3 performances during his tenure. The Men's team have taken the last 3 City Championships, ending their 7 season title drought. They have won 22 events, been awarded 38 medals and broken 4 CIF City Section records.

Peter represented Westside Aquatics as a swimmer from 2004 to 2006, and began coaching for them in 2011. His swimmers have competed at the highest levels of Southern California Swimming, turning in meet record setting performances at the SCS Club Championship "Super JO" meet, as well as countless SCS Junior Olympic qualifying swims.

Matt Flanders

Director of Water Polo

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

Bart Gawboy

Coach - Water Polo

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Coach 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 on 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 B.E. 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. 

 

Miriam Margolis

Synchronized Swimming

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Coach Miriam has 8 years of competitive synchronized swimming experience, representing teams from Pennsylvania, New Jersey and California. Upon moving to Los Angeles in 2014, Miriam began coaching and performing. She is a USA Synchro CCP 1 coach, and also instructs adult fitness classes. She plans on competing in a Masters competition in 2016. 

Timothy James Murphy

Head Age Group Coach Swimming

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Coach Tim is an ASCA Level 3 certified coach in his tenth year in SoCal Swimming's Pacific Committee.  This is his second stint as a member of the Westside Aquatics coaching staff.

Coach Tim's philosophy is to keep things fast and fun, with a healthy dose of inspiration.  He encourages each athlete to be committed to the fulfillment of their potential.  His extensive and diverse coaching history has led him work with every level of athlete, from novice to Olympian.  Beginning way back in his high school days, in the Cincinnati Country Club League, his coaching career includes some time as an undergraduate assistant at Kenyon College, one season at the CIF level with Harvard-Westlake School, six seasons with Team Santa Monica and three seasons with Swim Torrance.  Counting the 2015-16 season, he has now been on deck for parts of four different seasons with Westside Aquatics.  Coach Tim has produced multiple Junior National qualifiers, Sectional qualifiers and Junior Olympic champions and, from 2008-2010, he was the primary coach of a 2016 U.S. Olympian.  Throughout his career, he has been fortunate enough to work with some of the sport's best athletes, which include an American record holder, NCAA champions, U.S. and Australian Olympic Trials qualifiers, Open Water medalists, World Junior Team members and numerous Junior and Senior National qualifiers.

As an athlete in his hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio, Tim was a U.S. Open qualifier, Junior National qualifier, NAG Top-16 qualifier and YMCA National Champion, while representing the Cincinnati Marlins and the M.E. Lyons YMCA, respectively.  However, it was his experience as a State Champion and All-American at Cincinnati St. Xavier High School that cemented his passion for the sport.
*Swimming World Magazine recently ranked the St. Xavier High School men's swimming team as the 3rd best high school program in history.

After graduating from St. X in 1998, he competed for NCAA Division III powerhouse Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio, where he was awarded All-Conference honors.  In 2002, he achieved a B.A. in History from Kenyon.


Coach Tim has given back to the sport as the Pacific Committee's representative to the Southern California Swimming Board of Review from 2011-2016.

Spencer Richards

Palisades silver/ Water Polo

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Coach 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, swimming age group and playing club water polo every summer from ages 7-18. His swimming career started at Indian Valley Swim Team where he continued onto the high school swim team at Las Lomas High and USA Swimming with the Walnut Creek Aquabears followed by Cuesta Community College. He also played club water polo for East Bay Water Polo and the 680 Drivers. As a senior at Las Lomas High, he was the water polo team captain and continued to play for two more seasons at Cuesta Community College. He recently graduated from Cal State Northridge with a Screenwriting degree and currently resides in the lovely San Fernando Valley.

Justin Vink

14U Girls Head Coach

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Coach Justin played at Granada Hills Charter High School and played club for ORWP for 3 years. He was awarded a full scholarship to play water polo and swim for Penn State. He was 3 time All-Conference and 2 time All-American while also currently in possession of the single season and career assists record. During his time in high school and college he played for the junior national and senior national teams for The Netherlands under Coach Robin van Galen. He played for the World Championship and European Championship contending teams as well as the FINA World League and World Cup squads. As a coach, he assisted the Penn State Women’s team before becoming the head coach for the Fairview high school women’s water polo team in Erie, PA. He landed 3 All-Conference players and was voted the Western Conference Coach of the Year for the 2015 season. Currently, he is the head men’s and women’s swimming and water polo coach at John F. Kennedy high school in Granada Hills, CA. He led the swim teams to their first ever League championship during the 2016 season and secured a first ever playoff berth for the women’s water polo team for the 2016-2017 season. As a coach, he appreciates the rewarding experience of mentoring and teaching players in the sport, and contributing to their growth and success. 

Connor Virjee

18/16U Girls

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Born and raised in the South Bay, Connor started playing a little over 10 years ago for Trojan Club and then at Palos Verdes High School. He was recruited to play at USC, where he contributed to the team's success of winning 6 consecutive NCAA championships. After graduation, Connorr played abroad in Newcastle, Australia and represented the US on the world stage with the Senior National team. He has helped coach several programs around the LA area and continues to compete as a member of the Los Angeles Athletic Club's National League roster.

Marc Vonderweidt

Head HS Water Polo

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Coach Marc is an experienced player with some remarkable achievements in the sport. A local Westside resident, he grew up and attended Santa Monica High School. He was named league MVP as a senior, and also played club for Los Angeles WPC. He was on the USA Junior National Team in 2009 and 2010. As a collegiate athlete he played for USC, and they were NCAA Men’s Water Polo Champions in 2011, 2012 and 2013. He was an All-American in 2014 as well as the Senior Captain of the team. In 2015, he was the student assistant coach. 

 

Marc is a hard but fair coach, as his coaching style is built on fundamental water polo & playing within a system that will inevitably build each player's knowledge of the game. Marc strongly encourages his players to become students of the game, and feels that his water polo experience and overall enthusiastic coaching style will motivate his players to challenge themselves at every practice. 

Valerie Williams

Synchronized Swimming & Lessons Director

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Coach Valerie has over twelve years of coaching experience. She previously coached 12&Under teams at Los Angeles Synchro and the Meraquas of Irvine. Her athletes have placed routines in Finals at US Nationals, and she qualified a swimmer to the 2011 U.S. National Team. She was the Assistant Coach for the 2012 12&Under U.S. National Team, and will be coaching the U.S. National team in 2016. She is a U.S. National Team consultant, CCP3 Certified coach, Grade Level Assessor, and a Regional judge. She is also the head coach of a local Masters team, and performs & choreographs for private shows and film/tv productions. 

Olivia Allen

14U Girls & Splashball

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Coach Olivia graduated from Santa Monica High School in 2016 and is currently studying at the University of Redlands. She played on the varsity team for three years while at Samohi culminating in a CIF championship win. She was named team captain, earned first team All League honors junior and senior year, awarded team MVP junior and senior year, and All League MVP in her final year at Samohi. She is currently on the Women’s Water Polo team at the University of Redlands where she was awarded newcomer of the year 2017.


Coach Olivia has worked with the U14 girls and the Splashball program at Westside Aquatics and has found a deeper appreciation for the sport through her coaching experience.

Katia V Alyabyeva

Bronze Director & Senior Coach

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 As a 2017 addition to Westside Aquatics, Katia Alyabyeva literally brings a whole new world of experience and expertise to the Westside Coaching Staff. Katia brings her skills to the team to help both our youngest and our oldest swimmers achieve new heights.

Katia's caoching experience began after college in 2014. Her last tenure was at Alpha Aquatics where she was the El Segundo Head Site Coach. At Alpha, Katia worked with all ages of swimmers, from 4 year-olds to senior athletes, to help them achieve their goals whether it be completing their first lap of butterfly, to qualifying for Junior Nationals, to achieving a college scholarship. Before coming to California, Katia worked in Fort Lauderdale where she coached club swimming as well as assisted special needs athletes at Bright Horizons.

Before coaching, Katia had an education that intertwined with excellence in competitive swimming. Graduating from Drury University in 2014 with a Business Management Degree, Katia also excelled in the pool. From 2010 to 2012, while at Drury, Katia garnered All American swims an incredible 18 times as well as setting 3 Division 2 National Records! These great performances helped the Panthers win 3 National Championships while Katia was on the team. Her time as a collegiate swimmer culminated with her qualifying for both the Russian and United States Olympic Team Trials in 2012. Before working on her American education, Katia completed coursework at Novosibirsk State Pedagogical University where she studied PE and Coaching.

Her success at Drury was preceded by over a decade of International level swimming with Russian Regional and National teams. Born in Siberia and toughened up by inhospitable weather conditions, Katia competed for regional teams as well as the Russian National Team. During her time in Russia, she won the Open Water Siberian Cup 5k in 2005 and 2006. In 2006, she added the 10K where she finished 3rd. After her competitive distance success she went on to Qualify for the Russian Olympic team trials in 2008. She made the semifinal heat in both of the Individual Medley Races but her best performance came in the 100 Breaststroke where she made the Championship Heat.

Westside is lucky to have a coach with such vast expertise and experience.

 

Julie Ann Wessler

Silver Coord / Open Water Coord

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Julie Ann comes to Westside from Illinois where she coached in various roles.  In 2017, she was an Assitant Coach at Lewis University outside of Chicago and a Senior Assistant Club coach for   Lemont Park District Dolphins.  In 2017 Coach Julie was named as an Assistant Coach for the 2017 USA Swimming Open Water Select Camp   in Fort Myers, FL.  Before her tenures in Illinois, she coached group and private lessons in Wingate, NC from 2013 to 2016.  Prior to finding her passion for the coaching profession, Julie had a successful career as a competitive swimmer.  She graduated from Wingate University with her Bachelor of Science Degree in Sports Management as well as a Master of Arts Degree in Sports Management and Administration.  She attended Wingate from 2011 to 2015 where she competed on the swim team.  For the Bulldogs, she was a 4-time All-American in all three distance events at NCAA's in 2013 and 2015 and won both the 1000 and 1650 at the BMC Conference Championships in 2015.  Before her college swimming career, Coach Julie competed in the distance freestyle events for her hometown club SG Essen in Essen, Germany.  There,  she qualified for the German National Open Water Team in 2008 and 2009.  She was also part of the National Champion   club team SG Essen  in 2008 and 2009 where she was coached by Henning Lambertz,   the current National Team Head Coach . Outside the pool, she enjoys researching about sports nutrition and psychology and  spends her free time with friends outside like going hiking