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
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.
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.
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”.
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.
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.
was the foundation upon which Masters diving was built and grew. He is known
affectionately today as the “Father of Masters Diving”.