Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Dale Christensen

My girlfriend called me a week ago to tell me she found a story on about a high school football coach who faked his own shooting death in front of his team to motivate them before a playoff game. She remembered me saying that the former coach Dale Christensen retained his employment with my alma mater and taught freshman physical education for years after the incident, which must have happened in the early 1990s. I was his student during the 1998-1999 school year.

Christensen was a burly, old man who I can best describe as a combination of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Santa Claus. He spoke in a low, gruff voice that complemented bushy white eyebrows and often broke into soldier marching songs while we patiently sat around him. He frequently told his innocent freshmen war stories about his personal war hero, Roy Benavidez, and then digressed into explanations of why men like himself could not "live on bread alone." At the end of the semester, he traditionally gave each student a physically uplifting bear hug. I was no exception. The man was cashews, almonds and peanuts.

Anyway, his weirdest act was faking his own murder in front of the entire Libertyville High School football team. I remember attending the game and reading the shocking story in the newspaper the next day. One of the players mentioned that Christensen's motivational message was lost in the team's concern of being shot in the school cafeteria with their coach.

As a high school student, I never thought it was strange for him to keep his job. He obviously had tenure, which was a more unshakable contract than I previously thought. In the late 1990s he was considered a colorful figure, a person unlike anyone else. He seemed to be an alien on Earth who we were allowed to observe each weekday.

Libertyville lost the game.


  1. I remember Dale Christensen too. I am LHS Class of 1975. The Coach Dale I remember was much younger, of course. He was physically strong and quite intimidating. I believe he actually built the obstacle course in the woods behind the school (it was called "The Man Maker"). I did not play football, but I did get to know Coach Dale through the FCA organization he helped lead. I enjoyed reading your article about Coach Dale from three decades later. Dave from LHS Class of 1975

  2. he taught me to drive in drivers ed there at LHS in 1985- I LOVED him!!! and im a very very tuff teacher critic- but yes, this guy belongs working w HS students- oh btw I was a "troubled student" but not in coach Christiansen's drivers ed class!! no no no- I was super student in his class- he changed me for the better and only a handful of teachers ever managed to do that. and he did it all w out ever calling me out personally- he did it all thru the ways he treated and taught us all as a group. what a man.