After nearly 40 years training Special Olympic athletes in track and field, swimming and even bowling, Bea Dougherty’s hard work was recognized by her peers, earning her the title of 2013 Special Olympics of Oklahoma Coach of the Year.
Dougherty, 66, of Tahlequah, Oklahoma, received the title in front of a standing ovation of more than 4,000 Special Olympic athletes, coaches, families and friends earlier this month during the opening ceremony of the Special Olympics of Oklahoma’s Summer Games.
“It’s a great honor; it really is. I coach because I like being around the individuals, but then to be recognized for something you like to do is really the icing on the cake,” Dougherty said in a Cherokee Nation press release. “It’s great to see them achieve something they work so hard for. To win a medal or a ribbon, it doesn’t matter. Just that they’re recognized. They just get so excited. It gives you such a good feeling.”
Dougherty has been involved with Special Olympics for 38 years. For 10 years she volunteered and coached the Outlaws for 28 years. She first started coaching when her son, Brian, now 46 and still competing, graduated high school with three of his friends and required a coach in order to continue participating.
This year she took 41 athletes to the Summer Games as part of the Tahlequah Outlaws team. Her team earned 14 gold medals, 19 silver, 14 bronze and 13 ribbons. More than 1,500 coaches were present at the games.
“We are proud of Bea and her well-deserved recognition as statewide Special Olympics Coach of the Year,” said Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker in the release. “She inherently embodies the values we hold in such high regard at the Cherokee Nation: dedication and commitment to youth, community and family. I respect the time and energy Bea invests in her athletes, encouraging them to set individual goals and train with them to attain their dreams.”
The Coach of the Year is awarded every year to a coach who goes that extra mile for his or her athletes. The coach is committed to quality training and challenges athletes to set and reach goals.
“Coach Bea is an outstanding coach who is committed to her athletes and who has shown her dedication to them in every way. She sets the bar high and continually challenges her athletes to work hard and push themselves to achieve greatness,” Special Olympics Oklahoma Vice President of Programs Teri Hockett said, according to the press release. “Special Olympics Oklahoma is proud to have a coach of such high caliber as Bea Dougherty. She is a true role model for fellow coaches and embodies the ideals of this organization.”
Dougherty works as a family social worker for the Cherokee Nation Child Development Center in Tahlequah, where she coordinates all family services for the children and families and oversees the Oklahoma Early Childhood Education Community Action Project. She also credits her success and that of the Outlaws to her husband, Billy, and children, Bronda and Joseph.