Coaches and Directors

Coaches and Directors
Coaching Staff
Adam Blakis Owner

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.

Aly Arsenault Assistant Coach (Art swim)

Coach Aly grew up in North East Massachusetts. She started swimming at age 5 and joined synchronized swimming at age 8. She swam year-round through age 18 competing in summer leagues, winter leagues, and all four years of high school.

Aly represented New England for two years as an athlete representative her junior and senior year of high school, attending USA Aquatics Convention, working/training with elite swimmers/coaches, and helping vote on legislation for USAAS athletes at grass root levels. Career highlights have been qualifying for the USAAS East Zone All Star Team, placing top 8 at USAAS Junior Olympics in 2009, and turning her own passion into a resource for the next generation of swimmers. She eventually swam for a DIII college and graduated with a BSE in Elementary Education and double major in Psychology-Child Development.


Coach Aly has been coaching swim and teaching swim lessons for over nine years. She has taught every age and skill level from 6 months to 99+ years, from those who fear the water to elite levels! As a coach, she says it has been especially rewarding to watch her synchro swimmers get their own national qualifications. She is a lead instructor with our learn to swim and precompetitive levels, and assistant coach for Preteam and Artistic Swimming.


Aly enjoys painting, teaching preschool, traveling, and hanging out with her cat Aurora! 

Annabelle Sipos Assistant Swim Coach (Preteam)

Coach Annabelle is from Los Angeles and started swim lessons at the local YMCA at age 2. She joined the local swim team at age 7, and competed in swimming, water polo, and synchronized swimming. She joined Westside at age 12 and is now a member of the Senior Elite group. She mostly swims the 50, 100, and 200 freestyle and the 100 butterfly. Some career highlights include competing at WAGS in the 200 butterfly, and placing at CIF Championships in the 100 butterfly, 200 freestyle, and 100 & 200 freestyle relays! Annabelle started as a swim lessons instructor in 2021 and now also coaches Preteam. She is very passionate about everyone learning about water safety, getting comfortable and faster in the pool, and developing everyday skills through swimming!

Catharine Damon Assistant Swim Coach (Preteam)

Coach Cat is originally from Ohio, but spent summers in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. She learned to swim in the Albemarle Sound & the Atlantic Ocean, and has had a love for water ever since. Her first job in high school was lifeguarding and teaching swim lessons. She went on to get her Bachelor's degree in Art Education. Starting in 2016, she worked as an Ocean Rescue Lifeguard in Kitty Hawk, NC for six years. She received multiple awards for being the best teammate and mentor to new lifeguards. Though she is new to swim team coaching, she brings a love for swimming and a willingness to learn! 

Christiana Butera Assistant Coach (Art swim)


Coach Christiana has been involved in synchronized swimming since the age of nine. She began her synchro career in San Diego, CA with the San Diego Sweetwater Dolphins and achieved many years of successes at the national level in Age Group and Junior categories. She attended Wheaton College and was a 2-year captain of the team there, a Collegiate National finalist every year, and received the Collegiate Athlete of the Year Award at National Championships in 2012. She competed with Team USA in the 2011 FINA World Championships. Since then she has continued swimming as a masters athlete with numerous clubs, and as an artist/performer for Aquabatix USA.


She has years of experience coaching teams, leading clinics, choreographing routines, and coaching private lessons for athletes in all levels of skill and competitive brackets. She has held the following positions over the past 10 years: The New England Synchro Clinic Lead, San Diego Sea Stars Clinic Lead, Wheaton College Assistant Coach, Cambridge Synchronized Swimming 13-15 Head Coach, La Mirada Unsyncables 30-39 Head Coach, Los Angeles SeaStars Assistant Coach, Westside Aquatics Assistant Coach. Christiana works with the 13/over student athletes. 

Jax Tatro Silver & Assistant Coach (Swim)

Coach Jax grew up in Topanga Canyon, and spent many hours at Topanga Beach swimming & surfing. She joined swim team at age 8 and swam for Pali High & the Palisades YMCA. Jax began swimming in open water events about 10 years ago and has completed dozens of marathon swims all over the country. Some notable swims include swimming the width of Lake Tahoe and circumnavigating Coronado Island. Jax has over 10 years experience as a private swim instructor for pool and open water training, working with all levels. She has been a swim coach with Pali High since 2019. Jax is a beekeeper and an avid hiker. She has summited Mt Whitney and Mt Kinabalu in Malaysia. She loves to travel…especially if there are places to swim!

JJ Amis Head Coach Swim

Coach JJ is from Culver City and was active in several sports since the age of 7. He competed in judo, basketball and swimming, but realized his passion for swimming in high school. He was a Sectional, YMCA National and Junior Olympic Qualifier while representing the Westside YMCA and Pacific Palisades High School. His achievements include MVP and LA City Champion in 100 and 50 free. As a student at UC Santa Cruz, he was a Division III athlete placing 3rd in the 100 breast at the SCAC Championship and earned a top 3 spot in the UCSC Top 10 All time list in the 100 breast.

He graduated with a BA in Biology, and coached for Slug Aquatics during his time in Santa Cruz. He has additional experience coaching judo and basketball, assisting English classes in Japan and working as a summer camp counselor.  Coach JJ believes there is greatness within each of his swimmers, and emphasizes having a positive mindset to become well-accomplished individuals both in and out of the pool. His main goal as a coach is to help guide the athletes to develop a strong work ethic and confidence in their power.

Joseph Vernaza Water Polo Program Director & Girls u18

Coach Joe is a Granada Hills resident, having played at Kennedy High School. Joseph took a red shirt year at LAVC and then transferred to Pierce College, where he competed on the swim team earning a 2017 Western State Honorable Mention. He started The Brahma’s water polo club and served as team captain and club president. While still at Pierce, Joe helped coach the very first girls water polo program at Kennedy High School and helped with the boys & girls swim program, earning a Mission League title for the girls and second place for the boys. After Pierce, he played at Santa Monica College and was mentored by Coach Eskridge. Next, Joe became the head coach for the boy’s program at Kennedy getting them their highest seeding ever in City Section. After the boy’s season, Joseph started coaching the girls at Calabasas High School, became a coach on the CSUN club team, and was the gold team director & 18U coach girls coach for SFV water polo club. His most recent position was the boys youth director at Pride Water Polo Academy. He is currently the Goalie coach & Video Analyst at Oaks Christian, Video Analyst for the women’s and men’s program at Occidental College, women’s coach at Santa Monica College, Head girl’s coach at Marymount High School, and on the coaching staff for ODP girl’s Coastal Zone. Coach Joe is the Program Director for Westside Aquatics and head coach of U16/18 girls.

Kevin Basurto Water Polo Coach (u12/14)

Coach Kevin grew up in Culver City. He started swimming by age 4 at a local YMCA and then joined the LA84 summer swim program. He started water polo at age 8 with LA City at Venice Pool. Kevin swam and played water polo as a goalie at Culver City High and Santa Monica College. He currently coaches JV boys and Varsity girls at Pali High. Kevin attended a private school for Audio Engineering & Music Production. He loves to produce, dj, stream and travel. He is an avid tea lover, game board connoisseur and PC gaming enthusiast.

Lola Balestra Varsity & Senior Development

Coach Lola grew up in Pacific Palisades and started swimming at age 4. She joined Westside Aquatics at age 10, and swam with both Westside and Pali High through graduation. One of her highlights is placing 5th at Cities for the 500 free. She is attending Mount St. Mary’s University as a Liberal Studies Major and concurrent Elementary Teacher Program to get credentialed. She started teaching swim lessons in her junior year and was the assistant coach for PreTeam in her senior year. Her goal in coaching is to develop confidence in the swimmers both on the pool deck and outside. Lola enjoys walking, swimming, being with friends & family, and playing with her dogs!

Luis Urias Water Polo Coach (u12/14)

Coach Luis was born in San Salvador, El Salvador and came to the US at age 6. He started swimming at age 3 and playing water polo at age 8. Luis played for four years on the Pali High Varsity team, winning 4 CIF Championships and 1 state regional championship. He has also played one season at SMC. Luis has been coaching water polo (12u mixed, 14u boys & girls, 16u boys) with Westside for five years and coaches the Pali High girls team. He likes to surf and golf, and travel the world with friends.

Miriam Margolis Assistant Coach (Art swim)

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 coaches the LA Sea Stars (Masters team). She continues to perform as a professional synchronized swimmer with AQUABATIX and plans to compete in Masters Championships. 

Valerie Williams General Manager & Head Coach Synchro

Coach Valerie has over eighteen 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. Valerie joined Westside in 2014 to start the artistic swimming program, and is the general manager for the club and oversees all programs. 

Board of Directors