First year CHS swim coach looks to grow program

by Andrew Alonzo |

Over the last decade, Christian Watts has had several titles, including college athlete, military police officer, probation officer, and master’s degree student. He picked up his latest — Claremont High School varsity swim coach — in November.

His love for swimming started early — at 5 — when he began swimming for the Exeter Eels, in the San Joaquin Valley. He stayed with the Eels through high school and began to coach youth teams in his downtime. He graduated from Exeter Union High School in 2012 after competing on its varsity swim team for four years.

He swam for one year at College of the Sequoias in Visalia, California, before departing for the United States Coast Guard Academy.

“My goal during that one year of college was to go to the coast guard academy, transfer there and eventually become a rescue swimmer officer after graduating,” he said. “I got pretty far in the process, then they disqualified me for asthma when I was younger.”

Seeing his passion, a United States Navy recruiter enticed Watts to join the navy’s rescue swim program. “I just jumped on board with that,” Watts said.

Christian Watts, Claremont High School’s new varsity boys and girls swim and dive head coach, at the pool February 23. Courier photo/Andrew Alonzo

In 2013, he traveled to Pensacola, Florida for training. Eighteen months later he started as a military police officer, eventually achieving the rank of specialist E-4.

“It’s very intense jumping out of helicopters in the storming ocean,” Watts said. “It was tough but I loved it.”

After his navy stint was up he enrolled at San Diego State University, intending on pursuing a career in law enforcement. He earned bachelor’s degrees in criminal justice and sociology in 2020.

“From there I did a various amount of security, law enforcement type jobs,” Watts said. He worked for the federal government as a probation officer while living in the San Diego suburb of Clairemont.

“It’s actually kind of funny because I lived in Clairemont down in San Diego for a long time,” he said. “But my grandma has lived in Upland her whole life.”

His mother attended Upland High School as well. “There’s a little bit of connection around here,” Watts said.

Though he recently earned his master’s degree in criminology from Arizona State University, Watts said he has no intention on joining any local agencies.

“I kind of did a full career revamp last year and got back to my love of swimming,” he said. “After my law enforcement career didn’t go as planned I kind of just took a shot in the dark at reapplying back in the swim coaching field and have landed two great positions already.”

In 2022, Watts received his coaching credentials and set out to teach youth swimmers at local clubs.

Watts moved from San Diego to Claremont that same year. Shortly thereafter he took a job at the Claremont Club, replacing John Rief, the club’s former senior swim team coach.

Though his coaching career is in its infancy, in April he’ll take his first-year group from the Claremont Club’s swim team to the Western Zone Sectionals in Washington state.

“Our goal is to see improvement every meet,” Watts said of the Claremont Club team. “The team as a whole has been dropping time at every single swim meet, so to me that says something’s working, not just with me but my assistant coaches as well. Because obviously I couldn’t do it on my own.”

He hopes to replicate his Claremont Club success at CHS, and has an early advantage in that he coaches many of the same athletes at both locations. Watts and his staff are working to develop the strong class of freshman CHS girls who recently joined the varsity team, and hope to rebuild the boys team over the next few years.

In his first meet with Claremont on February 22, both teams came out ahead of Covina, the boys 114-35, and the girls, 126-32.

Watts said parents and fans can look forward to some stability in the program.

“They can expect a lot better,” he said. “My assistants that are coaching [junior varsity] are amazing coaches so hopefully they get those JVs up to speed so they can move up to varsity the next few years.

“Hopefully we get a lot of spectators and fans coming out to watch because we’ve got a good team building.”

Claremont hosted Upland Wednesday, winning 81-73. The girls lost a close one, 85-84. The boys are 2-0, the girls 1-1. The team travels to Glendora on Wednesday, March 8 for a 3:30 p.m. meet.


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