‘I wonder if they got there because of me, in spite of me or maybe to spite me.’
Rolfe Rahl was comfortable as the winning B team football coach at Taft High School in Woodland Hills. The day they made him girls’ gymnastics coach, he became a little nervous. Rahl teaches driver’s education at Taft. He and his wife, Norma, live in Northridge.
I never had any goals. I just did things. I played football and participated in track in high school, and I had some scholarship deals, so I thought, “I’ll go to college.” I started as a P.E. major because I just didn’t think of anything else. You get involved in it, and you just start something. If I’d started something else, I’d probably ended up someplace else.
I played football a year at UCLA, but after I got married, it was a hassle just trying to stay alive and get through school and support my wife. Of course everything was relatively cheap then. We had a little house for $27.
After the Army, I finished graduate school at UCLA. I taught P.E. at Pacoima Junior for about six years and then I came to Taft. The B football job opened up here in about ’68. So I started coaching B football, and I just quit this year.
At one time, the kids here were just outstanding. If you were carrying something, some kid would say, “Coach, can I carry that for you?” They were just wonderful kids, talented kids. We had a great record for about 12 or 13 years.
I had a couple of years when we did all right win-loss, but I didn’t like the kids’ attitudes. Then this year I got about 60 kids that were just marvelous. They were pretty good athletes, and they were just great kids. And we won the championship.
I thought, “I might as well quit now while everybody thinks I know something.” I had a good relationship with the team and I thought, “This is the way to finish.”
I don’t like to get real close to kids. I have difficulty verbally kicking a kid in the butt for doing something wrong and then putting my arm around him and then yelling at him again. I think they like me, but they don’t ever get too close to me because I don’t allow them to. This year after the last game, they hugged me and so forth. I didn’t say anything, but this was a big deal for me.
A few years ago, the girls’ gymnastics coach quit, and I got stuck with it. I had never seen a gymnastics meet, and I had no idea how to handle girls.
You’re with boys all your life, and now I walked into the first gymnastics practice, and I got about 30 or 40 girls. They’re beautiful kids, girls with leotards on, upside down, and you’re grabbing them and spottin’ them and I thought, “This is terrible. I’m embarrassed.” The next thing I know, somebody’s bumping into me and I thought, “I’m not going to make it.” The first couple of days I was afraid to touch them.
Finally I just told myself, “Look, I’m not grabbing anybody in the wrong place on purpose. I’ll just do what I think is right and if I happen to hit ‘em, they’ll know that’s part of it.” That relaxed me and I don’t think I ever had a kid feel that I was taking advantage of her. That made me feel good.
I had talented kids, and the only gymnastics team that could beat us was El Camino because they had a talented coach. Well about six years after I got divorced, she got divorced, and I met her at an officiating thing. So we got married. If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. Norma’s real good. She knows what I’m talking about because she coached teams. You come home upset, and she knows why.
I don’t think a month goes by that I don’t get a couple of phone calls or a letter from kids that I coached. I get letters from New York, I get Valentines, I get birthday presents.
I think I have influenced people. I’ve coached enough of them. But I wonder if they got there because of me, in spite of me or maybe to spite me.
That’s what’s wrong with being a teacher. You see, a carpenter builds a house, and he can come back 10 years later and say, “I built that house.” But a kid’s a success or he’s a failure; you have no idea how much you had to do with it. You don’t have a product that you can say, “I did that.”