Coach Holder continues to swim upstream after 48 years

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Legendary Coach Hosea Holder is the Head Coach of the Pittsburgh Stingrays, a competitive, year-round swim team that sends kids to regional and national competitions every year. He has been coaching swimming for 48 years.

Holder moved from Birmingham, Ala. to Pittsburgh when he was 9 years old in 1945 and fell in love with swimming.
“I seen all the kids swimming in the Ammon Recreation Center pool and after that swimming is all I wanted to do,” said Coach Holder.  “That’s where I learned to swim.”

Holder, a 1955 graduate of Westinghouse High School, was drafted into the Army after graduation. He was stationed in Germany and the Germans loved swimming.  When he came back from Germany, he began lifeguarding and became a swim coach in 1965.

Coach Holder realizes that nothing in life is handed to you.  It’s only through hard work, dedication and perseverance that you will achieve your goals.  His swimmers are hard work personified and living testimony to its intrinsic value.

“We were denied AAU membership because of racism,” said Holder.  “I believe you have to stay and fight the fight.”

Today, the Pittsburgh Stingrays are a  competitive youth swimming team that caters to kids between the ages of 6 to 18 years.

The Stingrays compete under USA Swimming, which is the national governing body for the sport.  Regionally, the Stingrays contend as a part of Allegheny Mountain Swimming which administers competition in parts of Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia.

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COACHING—Coach Hosea Holder coaching three young swimmers. (Photos by J.L. Martello)

Holder is the oldest African-American coach registered with USA Swimming and is the 2nd oldest coach associated with AMS Swimming.

“Quit” is a word that simply is not in Coach Holder’s vocabulary.  His swimmers show their greatness not when they win, but how they deal with adversity and loss.  It has taken Holder years of blood, sweat and tears to get the Stingrays to their elite level.

“Swimming is a sport where you can develop your body as well as your mind without putting damage as some of your contact sports,” said Holder.  “It is a skill that they can maintain for the rest of their lives.”

Coach Holder has been coaching swimming champions for 48 years, and he’s well aware of the challenges the program faces every year.  He often has to work with a limited roster.

“The significant part of the Stingrays is that we do not reject any individual that comes and wants to try out,” said Holder.  “We specialize in helping to develop children who are non-swimmers up to competitive swimmers.”

The Pittsburgh Stingrays will continue to shine a light on many stellar swimmers from the club, but nobody expects a large increase in swimmers anytime soon.

“In this part of the US, it’s football and basketball that African-Americans want to do,” said Holder.  “Swimming don’t get the exposure like football or basketball.  The children cannot see the value in swimming in terms of a way to earn money.”

After African-American swimmer Cullen Jones won a gold medal in the Olympics, we could see a new generation of swimming talent on display in the Black communities.

“I’m hoping to see an African-American from this area standing on the starting block at the Olympics,” said Coach Holder.  “If that happens then you’ll begin to see a lot of parents encouraging their kids to get involved with swimming.”

Coach Holder is a stroke enhancement specialist whose strong philosophy of dedication, commitment and hard work has created champion swimmers for more than 40 years. So don’t be surprised if a gold medalist springboards from this area.  Then, we will truly be the city of champions.

 

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