Larry Rogers, the iconic coach from Bellarmine aquatics passed in his sleep last night.
Friend, Mentor, Teacher, Legend. Hearing of the passing of Larry Rogers today hit home. It was heartbreaking. I came to the area as a coach at Los Altos High school in 1997, Larry already had over 20 years in, and he was just getting started.
He won two water polo titles at Monta Vista High School before moving over to Bellarmine College Preparatory. And that is where the legend was born. He won 25 water polo titles, he transformed the school into a swimming powerhouse, surpassing the glory of the Mark Spitz era and the legend of George Haynes, who led Santa Clara High School. That school won 16 consecutive titles. Larry went on to lead Bellarmine to 34 swimming titles, 31 in a row!!!
He amassed an amazing number of record holders, All Americans, West Catholic Athletic League titles, and nationally ranked athletes. His accomplishments in the Bay Area dwarfed those of the De La Salle football team in their hey day!! Pick the level, there will never be a coach at any level in the Bay Area to accomplish what this man did.
My years at Paly were spent getting to know this man better. As I held invitationals geared towards promoting the sport, he brought his iconic team. In those years we spent many a time chatting, laughing, growing and learning. We got to the point of calling each other for advice, questions or venting. To know that a man this successful respected me, meant the world to me.
Through an acquaintance, we had the joy of golfing together, and getting away from the deck and enjoying laughter, and memories. A side of him that only made him larger than life. His humor, his competitiveness and just the joy he could bring to the moment. Things that many never saw from him.
I cried today not just at his passing, but at the moment in time that came to my mind when I found out we had lost him.
At one point in 2014 this man was going for his 30th title, but this year, we had the team. We were going to be the one that broke the streak. And boy did we have our chance. Sadly his veteran club stepped up on day two, and reclaimed their title. It was heartbreaking. As I always do, I went to congratulate him. He looked at me and said, and I’ll never forget this, “If we had lost it would have been ok because it would have been to Palo Alto, if I’m ever going to lose I want it to be to you!!” This legend, saying those words meant the world to me.
After he retired, the next season we had a dual meet against Monta Vista High School. This man went out of his way to come to the meet to say hello. I turned the keys of the team over to my assistant so I could spend some quality time with him after he made the effort to come and say hello. He then left me to the coaching and stuck around to watch the meet for a while, then at the break giving me a hug and saying goodbye.
At the California Coaches Award ceremony in 2017, I won Girls Coach of the year, Larry was inducted into the Hall of Fame. I remember when he was getting ready to speak, I ran up and went to get a picture. He laughed and said,” Bet that’s going on Facebook.” I laughed and answered, “In about 30 seconds!”
When people can say that there will never be another one like you, you know you’ve made your mark. Larry, you’ve been someone who did it your way, succeeded, and have an endless number of student/athletes who will remember you for the rest of your life!!
Thank you Larry for all you did for the kids, the sport and for making a difference in my life. I am a smarter and better coach because of you!! And the impact you had in helping me to recognize how to be better will never be lost.
It’s my job now, to let your memory live on through what you have taught me. To continue to teach athletes to aspire to their dreams and beyond their doubts. To be leaders and teachers who create traditions that live on for years. Traditions that touch the heart!!!
Bless you Coach, the pool deck will never be the same!! You will be missed.