Squirrel Hill-based coach making a splash for 50 years
Al Rose might be a swimming coach, but his role model comes from outside the pool.
"I'd like to be like Joe Paterno, still coaching into my 80s," said Rose, 73, in his 51st year as coach at the Squirrel Hill-based Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh.
He shows no signs of slowing and may yet equal the longevity of Paterno, the legendary Penn State football coach.
Three of Rose's swimmers are WPIAL defending champions headed to NCAA Division I schools next year: Gateway senior Luke Nosbisch (University of Pittsburgh) and Shady Side Academy seniors Broderick "Brody" Kelley (Notre Dame) and David Paulk (Princeton).
They are among hundreds of champions he has produced. His former swimmers include a U.S. Olympic team member and WPIAL, PIAA and USA Swimming Junior National champions. He is certified at the highest level by the American Swimming Coaches Association.
The Jewish Community Center offers year-round training to swimmers of all denominations throughout the area. Rose said there are 100 swimmers college-age and younger training there.
"I began coaching 33 years ago, and Al was considered the dean of area coaches even back then," said Bethel Park girls coach Bill Kennedy. "You respected him the way you do now."
Peter Williams, a member of the 1968 U.S. Olympic Team who swam at Michigan State, trained briefly under Rose in the 1960s. Others he has coached have come close to making the Olympic team, including Pat Mellors, who finished seventh in the 400-meter individual medley at the 2004 U.S. Olympic Trials.
A 2004 graduate of Central Catholic High School, Mellors, 25, trained for 15 years under Rose, starting when he was 8. He was a member of the 2002-03 National Junior Team.
"I had some disappointments, but Al never was disappointed in me," said Mellors, who swam at Virginia. "He encouraged me to keep swimming, to be positive and put it in the past. He believed in me."
"I'm never disappointed in my swimmers if they do their best," Rose said.
Jewish Community Center assistant coach John Lynch admires Rose's dedication.
"If you want championship swimmers, you can't do it on the cheap. You have to put in the time," Lynch said. "You have to get each kid ready. Al's still willing to put the energy into doing that."
Rose now coaches the children of his former swimmers. Ali Kozlina, 11, is the daughter of Melanie Buddemeyer, an Olympic Trials finalist from Penn Hills who trained under Rose in the 1980s.
"When my daughter became really serious about swimming, I knew that I wanted Al to coach her," said Buddemeyer, an NCAA all-American in the 100 and 200-yard butterfly at North Carolina from 1985 to 1989. "Al gets to know you not only as a swimmer, but as a person.
"He encouraged me to do other activities like academics, cheerleading and soccer. He wanted me to be a well-rounded person, not only a great swimmer."
Rose, who lives in Squirrel Hill with his wife, Diane, considers learning new things as key to his longevity.
"I go to (coaching) conventions and try to stay current as much as possible," he said. "You have to keep up with what's going on."