BY CHHUN SUN
It's not an easy assignment to name all the sports Ben Culala has coached at Turlock High over the years.
How much time have you got?
"I can't name how many sports he's coached," athletic director Anthony Belew said. "He's coached about every sport on campus."
This illustrates that Culala has always been a yes-man when it comes to Turlock High sports. He has maintained this attitude since he started teaching social science classes in 1975.
He continues to be this way despite retiring as a teacher after 34 years.
He's one of two longtime coaches to call it quits this past school year, as swimming and water polo coach Steve Feaver is the other. Culala, however, will maintain his role as the boys golf coach "until I can't coach anymore," he said.
"There's nothing more positive than high school," Culala said.
He enjoys golf, even though his true passion is football. He played football at Pacific Grove High before he started helping out with coaching the sport at Las Plumas High in Oroville. He then went on to become the kickers coach at Monterey Peninsula College. And finally, he landed in Turlock with the hopes of becoming the head football coach.
"This is my home now," Culala said. "I don't want to live anywhere else."
But he knew he had to play his dues. He coached every sport at Turlock High except for swimming and track and field. He knew he couldn't coach the former sport because Feaver held down the program. Culala wouldn't have minded taking up track, but the opportunity never came.
"I've pretty much got a taste of all of (the sports)," he said.
He wanted to eventually become the head varsity football coach, but he never got to that point. Instead, he found himself coaching sports like basketball, softball and wrestling, while holding onto the dream of becoming an old and legendary coach like Penn State's Joe Paterno.
He found himself as a wrestling coach during his first year at Turlock High. He only coached one year of the sport.
"I was turned into a pretzel by those little guys," Culala said about wrestling with his athletes. "But I loved it. Those were great kids."
Again, he never passed on an opportunity to coach. It helped that he had a lot of people who assisted in his growth. There were local figures like Atch Pedretti, Vern Pitau, Rod Hollars and Steve Feaver to help him along the way.
It also helped that Culala went to coaching clinics to help him understand whatever sport he got himself into.
And finally, he got his big chance. It wasn't the varsity football gig, but he knew he had a good opportunity to be that great coach in boys golf. Culala has helped the program become one of the best in the Sac-Joaquin Section, as the Bulldogs are the six-time defending Central California Conference champions. He played a role in developing the career of Sam Smith, the USC-bound golfer who is one of the best in school history - if not the best.
And Culala is glad that he was a part of it.
Class of 1966. All rights reserved.