Harry Rapenske, or “Mr. Rip” to the students and athletes he taught and coached began his career at Liberty in 1956. He proudly taught students from grades K-12, served as director of physical education, coached numerous sports including football, basketball and baseball and was Athletic Director from 1974-1984. Today, you can find him in the stands, cheering on today’s athletes, supporting their efforts and championing the school district he loves, as he has done for many years since his retirement.
Mr. Rip himself will tell you that the keys to his success lie in the following: discipline, firmness, fairness, loyalty, enjoyment and preparedness. As a teacher, he realized that traditional sports weren’t for everyone and he included alternatives so that everyone had the opportunity to enjoy his classes. He included adaptive physical education into the curriculum before it became a state mandate because he wanted all students to develop and succeed.
Mr. Rip’s ability to energize and motivate students to learn and succeed in school and life made up the core of his educational and coaching style. As a coach, his record is beyond impressive. Three championship football teams (two others tied), seven baseball championships, three in basketball. During his term as Athletic Director, Liberty won 18 championships and earned the reputation of always being competitive and respected in all sports throughout their section.
One would be hard-pressed to find an athlete, student or coach who didn’t recall their time with him with great fondness. Many cite him as the one who taught them discipline or help instill in them an unparalleled work ethic. One student credits his lessons with helping him survive Vietnam, where he was awarded two Bronze Stars.
It is a testament to his abilities and his approach to teaching and coaching that so many of his students have chosen to coach and teach physical education as a career. The statements “it was because of his influence that I became a teacher” and “I wanted to be like him” appear in letter after letter in his Wall of Fame nomination packet. By making students believe in their abilities and not just push them to be athletic machines he earned their respect and admiration. He demanded accountability from his students, players and coaches while, at the same time, supporting and encouraging their best efforts.
During his time at Liberty, Mr. Rip led by example and treated people with the respect he expected in return. Over the years, numerous students and colleagues have not only become close friends, they have become a part of his family.