Montana joins the PUMA Aquatic Team

Montana joins the PUMA Aquatic Team

AG High School Pool. Early Saturday Morning

There are so many sports a parent can get their kids involved in. Swimming, for me is always one I have loved.

Since we live on the coast it was an obvious choice early on. Safety was our number one concern. A couple of years back we took both kids to a pool party, and quickly realized that our kids needed to learn how to swim. Sure I could have taught them, but we both thought professionals would have a much easier time than I would have. Another recommendation for swimming came from Montana’s speech therapist, so the decision was made.

We enrolled both Montana and Eddie at 5 cities swim in Arroyo Grande

Fast-forward a couple of years and Montana showed an interest in competing as the commercials for the Olympics started to peak her interest. We did some research and found a local swim team that she would be able to join (PUMA Aquatic Team).

Montana’s competitive nature

Montana has always been a bit on the competitive side, and definitely a bit of a perfectionist. Lets see, she always cried during Kindergarten if she didn’t get in line first before school started. There was the time she couldn’t stand on one foot when asked by a Dr. to do so, she then spent the next month or so practicing until she was the best “stander on one footer” there was. Then there was the time she spent months learning to whistle at age 4, and of course another two months learning to blow bubbles with gum.


Montana Leaves Five Cities

We left it up to Montana to decide if she wanted to join the PUMA. We asked her if it was something she was interested in and she said sure, happily. We set up an assessment one evening, and she did ok. Her strokes were decent enough for her age, but her stamina needed a bit of work the coach stated. They then let her have a trial week to see if she liked it.
At the same time, she was still enrolled at 5 cities.

She instantly loved PUMA and when asked after the week trial was over if she wanted to switch, she said yes.

I don’t think Montana would have developed the skills she possessed nor the ability to pass the PUMA assessment without the great instruction she received at 5 Cities, which made the transition that much easier.

(Eddies still enrolled until he’s proficient enough, and wants to move up to PUMA, but only time will tell.)

Montan's Swim Assessment

Montana after a fun mini competition

The program

They have numerous levels at PUMA, the beginners are Cubs, then there is Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum, Junior, Senior and High School. Cubby’s swim for 30 minutes, which was the standard at 5 Cities, then they increase practice time and days of training on the higher levels.

Montana is still a Cub after several months but has progressed quickly under excellent coaching.

Her coaches over the last few months: Rich Firman, Mitch, David, Claren and Gabby. The coaches she has worked with the most have been Mitch and Rich..

Mitch has a way of having fun, and always has a smile on his face. He jokes with the kids, and they get totally involved all while he’s pushing them to improve with each stroke.

I love the way he gets the entire group to listen and doesn’t move on until each one is paying attention. Inevitably with kids this age, sometimes things get lost in translation and an expected backstroke turns into a freestyle, a mid lane traffic jam occurs, or goggles get lost. No matter the issue, he is always smiling even when things don’t go completely according to plan.

Rich, who has been coaching for years, is the AG site leader. He has a level of caring that is quite honestly amazing.
No matter what he is doing, he stops everything and I mean everything to speak with every swimmer that wants to talk. Regardless of the subject, he talks.
He remembers their names, and with a great deal of energy and enthusiasm walks the deck, coaching one lane while encouraging kids as he calls out names on another.

I have been on the sidelines watching for the past few months and am impressed by their enthusiasm.

The other thing that caught my attention was how well they know each swimmers abilities. There are a BUNCH of kids swimming, and somehow they know the names and abilities of each one.

Recently I spoke with Rich and asked if Montana was able to enter PUMAS 9th annual “Cancer Can Eat My Bubbles” Cancer Awareness Meet". He was able to discuss at length what her strong points were, and what she needed to work on. What’s crazy is that he has not been coaching her one on one recently, Mitch has. Yet he knew in detail how she was doing, amazing.

I really don’t know what system of communication the coaches use, but whatever it is, its impressive.


The costs

We pay $80 (With Auto Pay) a month for the lessons, but it is so worth it. We look at it this way.

1. Montana loves it.

2. Her speech therapist recommends swimming.

3. She gets to compete each day in her own little way.

4. It’s great exercise, and she’s part of a team.

She has dreams of grandeur, but only time will tell, she only just turned seven.  Regardless of what she wants to do, whether swimming, or some other thing she falls in love with, we’ll support her. We just want her to be happy. 

Because she has a tendency to be hard on herself we reinforce something prior to each practice. We ask her what the number one rule is, and she responds…

To Have fun!

My theory is that if your not having fun, you won’t stick with it. Ultimately it’s her choice to be on a team, because she has to do all the work. We just drive her, sit on some seats, eat some snacks and drinking coffee.

I hope she still has the desire to swim a year from now and continues, because regardless of where it leads, the folks at PUMA seem like great role models. Plus swimming is something the whole family can get involved with.

Funny story

PUMA has Saturday practices and a couple of week’s back we asked if she wanted to go. She woke up early, got to the pool, and began warm up. They were doing something new and she just wasn’t getting it. Near the end of practice, she just stopped and hung on the lane line near the center of the pool. We could tell she was upset.

I walked to the other side of the pool, Rich approached and the other coaches seemed concerned.

I had spoken to Rich recently about nutrition because she complained of being hungry half way through practice, and tends to get upset when she is, so he offered her a granola bar.

That was not the problem though.

She was upset that she was not getting things right and to quote her “I’m training for the Olympics, and I think I missed my shot”.  I mean seriously, as a parent what do you say to that? That was not in the manual. Internally I was smiling, because it sounded cute and ridiculous at the same time, but it was really affecting her.

After a bit encouragement that she was doing fine, she finished and did great.

That has been her personality from very early on. From being upset for not tying her shoes right the first time, to crying to when she couldn’t blow bubbles we’ve seen it all. Sometimes we have to explain that some things are just not that important.

Regardless of what she chooses to do or where life leads her, we will always be her greatest fans.

Go Montana!

I seriously encourage any parent that wants their kids to be involved with a sport to look into swimming. If you live on the Central Coast look no further than PUMA or check out USA Swimming to find a local swim program in your area.

You won’t be disappointed.

See you at the pool,



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