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Coaches & Directors

We are here to support your needs. If your questions are related to workouts, meets, events, goal setting, and other swimming related needs, please contact one of the coaches. For all questions related to administrative, such as dues, safety, or policy issues, please contact our Office Manager at pumaswim@yahoo.com.

PUMA coaches come from many different backgrounds but we all have several things in common. We focus on the positive and bring out the best in those around us.  We love kids, swimming and fun.  PUMA is proud to offer the most consistent coaching program on the Central Coast.  Read about our coaching staff and get to know us at the pool.

Coaching Staff

Jud Clark

Puma Head Coach/Owner

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Coach Jud is enjoying his 15th year as the Head Coach and owner of the Puma Aquatic Team! Puma is his passion and the program has been develped based on the importance of goal setting. Jud received his MS Kinesiology degree from Cal Poly in 2011 and his BA degree in Engish and Education from the University of Redlands in 1993.

"If you're not willing to work hard today, how will you be prepared to work hard tomorrow" Coach Jud

"Where you invest your love, you invest your life"  Mumford & Sonds

Karen Neil

Atascadero Site Leader

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This is Coach Karen’s  seventh year with the PUMA Ohana. Karen grew up swimming competitively in Southern California. She studied kinesiology at UCLA and  Human Resources at LMU and UCDavis. Coach Karen has completed her ASCA Level 4 education.  She was first certified as a USS coach in 1990, when she became the head coach of Penguin Swim Team. The Neil family moved to the Island of Kauai in 1997, where they enjoyed surfing, swimming and paddling outrigger canoes. They relocated  to the central coast in 2004.  Karen has a love and passion for teaching and inspiring swimmers of all ages and abilities.

Rich j Firman

Arroyo Grande Site Leader

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Coach Rich retired from Cal Poly in 2006 after 19 years coaching the men’s and women’s swimming and diving programs. He came out of retirement in 2008 to join PUMA. While he was at Cal Poly, Rich coached many Big West champion swimmers and divers and twice earned Big West Coach of the Year. Check out the announcement of Rich’s retirement to learn more about his career. In 2011, Rich was nominated and voted Age Group Coach of the year for the Coastal Section of Southern California Swimming.  

Mitch Emerson

Arroyo Grande Coach

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Christian Strauli

San Luis Obispo Gold Coach

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Coach Christian is in his first year coaching at Puma.  He grew up in the Bay Area in the town of Mill Valley and swam competitively from the age of 5 until he finished high school. After graduating from UC San Diego with a degree in French Literature, Christian coached for the Strawberry Seals for four years, the last three as the head coach of the team. Since then he has pursued a career in education, spending the last four years getting a credential from SFSU while teaching fourth grade in San Francisco. Christian is excited to be back on the pool deck helping young swimmers realize their full potential and motivating them to push themselves in the water every day.

Christina Esola

San Luis Obispo Cub-Silver Coach

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Coach Christina is in her second year coaching with Puma and has many years of experience with competitive swimming and instructing.  She swam for 4 years under Coach Rich Firman while at Cal Poly, and upon graduating with a biology degree, she continued to swim and compete at the Master’s level.  She taught swim lessons for 6 years, and coached summer swim team for 2 years.  She is married with 2 boys and still has the opportunity to get in and challenge herself in the pool.   Now coaching with Puma, she loves watching the children, as well as her own son, develop into amazing swimmers with a great pride in themselves.

Mario Esola

Bronze/Silver Coach San Luis Obispo

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Coach Mario began coaching with PUMA in October of 2012.   Competitive swimming and swimming instruction has always been a big part of his life.  His swimming career started at age 8 with the Forest Park Flyers summer recreational team and continued with the Terrapins Swim Team through high school.  While at Cal Poly he swam for 4 years with Coach Rich Firman and was a volunteer Assistant Coach for a year, also with Coach Firman.  Upon graduating with a degree in Architectural Engineering he continued to train and compete at the Master’s level.  He taught swimming lessons through Forest Park Swim Club, the City of Concord Parks and Recreation Department, and the Terrapins Swim Team for 5 years.  His two sons are also PUMA swimmers and he is privileged to be able to share his love of swimming (and the pool deck) with his wife, Coach Christina.  As a PUMA coach he is focused on developing your child’s stroke technique, contributing to their overall fitness, and helping them to set and achieve their goals.  Creating a life long athletes is Coach Mario’s desire for your swimmer.

Andrea M Lorenzo

Atascadero Coach

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Amber Eckert

Arroyo Grande Cubs-Silver Coach

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         Amber was a club swimmer from 4 to 18 years old; beginning on 5 Cities Swim Team and later South County Aquatics. Amber also swam and played water polo for AGHS; with the 100 backstroke and the 200 freestyle as her favorite events. She began her swim coaching/teaching experience at 16 teaching swim lessons at the AGHS summer swim program. Currently Amber coaches for Puma and periodically still teaches lessons at the Avila Bay Club.   She is working torwards a BS in Chemistry from Cal Poly SLO. This is Amber's second year coaching for Puma and she enjoys being involved in the swimming community. Amber likes helping kids' gain swimming knowledge, learn to have fun in the water and have enthusiasm for the sport!