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The most dramatic successes often have been pupils who had been considered unathletic. "I'm probably the least competitive member of my family, but I take volleyball twice a day," says one coed. "It takes my mind off everything." A classmate, breathing easily after a rock-climbing drill in which he clambered up a 15-foot wall using just knobs, ledges, rocks and sidewalls—but no ropes—said, "I only do competitive sports for fun. I hunt and fish most of the time, and rock-climbing seems to go along."
While most electives strain the muscles, others, such as Frisbee, strain credulity. " Frisbee can be taught," says Arevalo. "We make it interesting by creating golf courses. There are skills involved, and, of course, it's a lifetime sport. We're interested in the whole person."
By every significant criterion—skills, teamwork, self-control, sex roles—rock-climbing is probably the most interesting course. "We originally drew people who didn't want to be involved with team sports," says Monti, a San Rafael graduate who started the course upon his return as a teacher in 1963. "In fact, it's more of a team sport than any other because it can involve life and death. It teaches stress and responsibility."
Monti has since branched out into sailing, and rock-climbing now is taught by Bill Ranney, who squeezes in his classes when he is not coaching the swim team, climbing mountains, taking pictures and training for walking races. "We have almost as many girls as boys now," he said. "At first there were just boys. I tried to recruit girls with a poster showing you can do it and still be cute. It's important to have girls, because they're more flexible."
As Ranney spoke, a coed was casually dangling from a rope halfway up the 30-foot gym wall. She was a member of Ranney's advanced class, which on that day had been told to work on direct-aid climbing, rappelling and traversing. The students not only understood the terms but also knew how to perform the maneuvers, because they had studied about them for 4� months before attempting them. Now they climb local slopes and gym walls, and on rainy days use a simulated slope in the wrestling room.
"I go to a camp where they do a little rock-climbing, but nothing like this," said the girl. "We do mountaineering, rescue work and first aid. It's really safe, if you go by the rules. You need strength, agility and flexibility.
"I've taken two semesters of sailing and two of rock-climbing, and I may get into scuba diving. I also take volleyball, Softball and badminton. These courses may not help my studies, but they're too good to pass up. San Rafael is the best thing that ever happened to P.E."
And the 23 varsity teams are not suffering because of it. "One program doesn't rule out another," says Basketball Coach Mike Diaz. "We had 353 of our 2,009 students out for extramural sports in 1972; that has increased to about 500 now." According to Football Coach Bob Muster, the fact that he has lost only half a dozen players to injuries during the last three years is the result of his players' P.E. sessions in weights and aerobic running during the off-season.
The major change in extramurals—coed teams—is less related to P.E. than to Title IX. Yet it somehow seems appropriate that, in addition to several girls on the boys' swim and tennis teams, there has been a female wrestler at San Rafael. A junior varsity regular at 127 pounds last year, Dana McCoy lost the six matches she wrestled (three others were forfeited to her), but surprised almost everyone by surviving every first period—and three entire matches—without being pinned. She also made points by being, in Arevalo's words, "tall, slender and very attractive—not the way you might picture a female wrestler."
It would be heady indeed to leave San Rafael on the quintessentially reformist idea of coed wrestling, but that would ignore some problems. Teachers who have undergone traditional training elsewhere have complaints about the free-form decision-making at the school. The scuba program once was suspended when the equipment was stolen. And most distressing to the physical education department, despite the excellence of its program, even San Rafael has not been able to eliminate all the old objections to mandatory gym classes. The school board last year used a local-option clause in a new state law to make P.E. optional for juniors and seniors.