Special Olympics Maryland named bocce coach Steve Sutherland the Special Education Coach of the Year Jan. 25.
Sutherland led the team to a county championship Feb. 10; he previously coached other unified sports, such as track and field. Since he wasn’t notified of his nomination, Sutherland didn’t expect to win the award, he said.
“I was very shocked to hear it,” Sutherland said. “I didn’t even think my name was out there.”
Special Olympics Maryland chooses the winner based on nominations from students as well as coaches’ achievements in unified sports.
MCPS Athletic Director Jeff Sullivan believes Sutherland deserves the award, he said.
“He has an unwavering dedication to his student-athletes, no matter the sport,” Sullivan said.
Bocce player Harrison Carter agreed and said he thinks Sutherland’s coaching ability, as well as his competitive and supportive nature, makes him worthy of the award.
“He has a good balance of having fun and winning,” Carter said. “He’s really good to be around and is good with special ed kids.”
Sutherland thinks the most important part of coaching is promoting acceptance between the players who have intellectual or developmental disabilities and those who don’t.
“A lot of times, the students who are participating on these teams wouldn’t have the opportunity to wear their school across their chests and compete at the varsity level,” Sutherland said. “Seeing them compete against other schools is very rewarding knowing that they may not have had the opportunity a few years ago.”