WILLIAM MCALLISTER (USA)
2005 Masters Diver
INTERNATIONAL HIGHLIGHTS: 142 GOLD MEDALS IN US NATIONAL AND FINA MASTERS WORLD DIVING CHAMPIONSHIPS: 1m, 3m springboard and 10m platform; Since 1974, he competed in six age groups (60-64 thru 85-89); Known as “Father of Masters Diving”;
Born in 1910, Bill McAlister became a living legend in the diving world before passing away in 2000 at the age of 89. He envisioned diving as a sport that should include members of all ages and was instrumental in the formation of Masters Diving in 1973. He was the Masters Diving Chairman from 1977-1981, and founder of the Masters Diving Newsletter. He competed in almost every U.S. Masters Championship since 1973, earning over 142 gold medals in national and international competition. Bill’s final year of competition occurred in 1998 when at age 89 he won gold medals in both springboard and platform competition.
Bill began his diving career after winning a membership to the Long Beach YMCA as a bonus from his paper route. YMCA coach Shorty Kellogg saw his talent in gymnastics and diving and took him under his wing. He coached Bill diving off a 1920-vintage wooden diving board, which was described as an “old chunk of wood.” Nearby, at the Coast Club, there was an indoor pool with both 1 meter and 3 meter wooden buck boards. The ceiling in the pool was so low that Bill was forced to hold his hands over his head so as not to bump the ceiling too hard. If lucky, he would get a good bounce and end up under the skylight, missing the ceiling.
At the age of 22, Bill competed in the Olympic Trials of 1932 placing seventh on the 3 meter springboard. He dove against the worlds best divers of the time, all of whom made up the US Olympic Team: Johnny Riley, Marshall Wayne, Al Green, Dutch Smith, Frank Kurtz and Dick Degener. It was during this time that Bill developed a new dive, a front somersault with a full twist, then ducking it in for a 11/2. The only twisting dive at the time was a required standing forward dive with a full twist. Bill asked Johnny Riley to watch him do the first one and it must have been quite a sight. Bill became one of the first to perform this new dive which became known as the “5132”.
Bill was an innovator in the use of the trampoline for improving diving. Under the coaching of Capt. J.D. Loop during Bill’s early diving career, he trained on a crude trampoline made with cotton rope, an old piece of circus equipment left over from Long Beach Harbor. It had a wooden frame and nets all around to keep people from falling off. Bill joked that you could do all your dives on the trampoline and “not get wet”. Bill introduced Marshall Wayne to the trampoline in 1932 and Marshall won an Olympic diving gold medal in Berlin four years later.
Bill worked at the YMCA’s in Fullerton and Fresno, before settling in Madera in 1958 where he was the swimming and diving coach at Madera High School. He also began an AAU program for swimming and diving. Although he retired from full-time teaching in 1973, McAlister stayed on as coach at Madera until 1989. He coached the High School team for thirty-one years and the pool there has since been named in his honor. Divers throughout the valley would come to his country home to learn proper techniques on the much-improved trampolines in his “Bouncing Barn” an old barn-type structure with a high ceiling located at his home. He loved working with children and helping them to develop their skills.
Bill’s family has also been involved in swimming and diving. His wife Carol coached him from the deck for his Masters diving and his five children all participated in swimming and diving. His daughter Barbara won seven Senior National titles in springboard diving, competed in the 1963 Pan American Games winning the 3m springboard gold medal and was twice an Olympic finalist (1964 and 1968). His youngest son Rick won the 1974 NCAA 3 meter springboard title while at the Air Force Academy. Son Donny was a four-time Valley champion and an All-American and Bob was a California state junior college champion at Fresno City College. Bill’s coaching and support lead to many successful finishes for most of his athletes over the years.
Bill was the foundation upon which Masters diving was built and grew. He is known affectionately today as the “Father of Masters Diving”.