Tahlequah Daily Press


May 25, 2013

Bea the best

Local Special Olympics coach Bea Dougherty picks up Coach of the Year honors.

There are times when Bea Dougherty contemplates diminishing her role with Special Olympics. After being involved for 38 years, she toys with the notion of handing the reigns over to someone else.

“When I’m doing the paperwork, I’m thinking, ‘Am I getting all this right?’” she ponders. “Then I think, ‘Well, maybe somebody younger could do it better.’”

About that time, she reconsiders, and her deep-seeded passion for Special Olympics takes over again.

“There is too much satisfaction there,” Dougherty said. “You just have to be around it to know what it’s like. I can be very, very tired and go out to the track and just be boosted up.”

Dougherty’s tireless determination for nearly four decades placed her atop the Special Olympics coaching pantheon this season. The coach of the Tahlequah Outlaws was selected as the 2013 Special Olympics Oklahoma Coach of the Year prior to the Summer Games in early May.

“It was real exciting,” Dougherty said of the coveted honor. “It’s one of those things that you really don’t think of or are ever going to receive. And when you get it, it’s really special because you’re nominated for it by your parents, your volunteers and your athletes. It really was humbling, and it really is a great honor.”

To the best of Dougherty’s knowledge, she beat out more than 1,400 coaches for the distinction of the state’s top coach. The award is handed out after a committee reviews the résumés of all the candidates.

“There is an application that’s filled out, and then they attach letters of support. There is also a background for each candidate; for instance, how long you’ve been coaching,” Dougherty said. “There’s also information about what sports you coach. There’s just a lot of information that goes in about each coach.”

Dougherty’s coaching characteristics made her an easy choice for Coach of the Year, said Teri Hockett, Special Olympics Oklahoma vice president of programs.

“Coach Bea is an outstanding coach who is committed to her athletes and who has shown her dedication to them in every way. Her expectations are high for each of her athletes, representing the respect she has for them. She sets the bar high and continually challenges her athletes to work hard and push themselves to achieve greatness,” Hockett said in a release from Special Olympics Oklahoma. “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’s involvement in Special Olympics began when her son, Brian Crume, completed his high school education. Dougherty inquired about starting up a program that would allow athletes to participate in Special Olympics during their post-high school tenures.

“I just called Special Olympics and asked them what I needed to do,” she said. “They told me, and I just got [the athletes] together and we just did it.”

All they needed after that was a team name.

“I asked the boys, ‘What do you want to be called?’” Dougherty said. “And it was around the time that Tulsa had a football team called the Outlaws. We called them and asked if we could use their logo, and they said yes. So we became the Tahlequah Outlaws.”

It’s been a joyous ride ever since for Dougherty, who, at 67 years of age, is still overcome with emotion when she watches her athletes participate in the Summer Games.

“To watch them succeed and to get that medal or that ribbon, and they are so excited — it just flows over into you,” Dougherty said. “It’s like you won that medal, and you’re so happy for them.”

Dougherty isn’t just a coach, though. She also plays the role of team mom.

“She is known as ‘Mama Bea’ to all her athletes and their families,” said Angy Dodd, one of Dougherty’s assistant coaches. “...She is on the track or field with the athletes and practices with them, encouraging them to be their best. She is also a friend to them, attending their birthday parties, dances, talent shows and other events.”

The best part of Dougherty’s involvement with Special Olympics? She does it all in her spare time.

“All of it is my free time; I don’t get paid for any of it,” said Dougherty, who works for Cherokee Nation Head Start as a parent advocate.

“It’s all volunteer, it’s all free time.”

And while the work can be taxing at times, Dougherty says she wouldn’t give it up for anything. Her passion for her athletes keeps her coming back every year.

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