Caprice West Wins 2019 SONA Outstanding Coach

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Special Olympics Maryland is thrilled to announce that Caprice West, multi-sport Interscholastic Unified Sports coach from Southern High School in Anne Arundel County, has been named the 2019 Special Olympics North America Outstanding Coach.

Coach West has served as a Special Olympics coach for ten years, currently coaching bowling, bocce, and tennis for Southern’s Interscholastic Unified Sports (IUS) program. Throughout her education and coaching career, she has made a positive impact on countless students as well as on the atmosphere at Southern High School. As a special education teacher, West has dedicated her life to her students. The passion with which she leads her school is not only evident in the classroom and on the field of play, but in the impact she makes on her students’ choices. Each year, several students coached by West pursue further studies in the field of special education or seek out roles in which they can work with individuals with intellectual disabilities.

Coach West (far left) with her Southern High School IUS Bocce Team

In addition to her role as teacher and coach, West has demonstrated tremendous dedication in her efforts to improve and expand the IUS program at Southern. She was responsible for the addition of a four-court bocce area directly outside of the school, allowing for more students to play bocce year-round in a more easily accessible space. She established annual student/faculty competitions in each sport, and introduced inclusive team sports and dance for athletes classes; she continues to work to introduce new opportunities for the program to reach more students. West also works as a mentor to other IUS coaches, passing on her knowledge and building a stronger program. In addition to her work on the IUS programs, she captains the schools MSP Polar Bear Plunge team each year. In 2020, nearly 100 students made up the Southern High School ChillyDawgs Cool Schools Plunge team and raised over $16,000 in support of Special Olympics Maryland. West also serves as a volunteer on Special Olympics Maryland’s Games Management Teams for the community programs in both kayaking and golf, and regularly attends Annapolis Day and Capitol Hill Day, in which students and athletes advocate for the promotion of Special Olympics programs to state and federal lawmakers.

West’s efforts earned Southern High School the highest accolades in the Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools program; the school was named a Unified Champion Banner School this year, and is the only Maryland school to be named to the ESPN Honor Roll.

The impact that Coach West makes reaches beyond the walls of Southern High School. She constantly creates and implements ways to make athletes better competitors, better teammates, and better all-around people. The Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools program is aimed at promoting social inclusion through intentionally planned and implemented activities affecting systems-wide change. It builds on Special Olympics’ values, principles, practices, experiences and impacts to shape a generation that welcomes everyone. Coach West embodies these values, and advocates daily for them in support of her students and the future generation as a whole. She is a role model, leader, and champion for them in everything that they do.

James Schmutz, President & CEO for Special Olympics Maryland, spoke to Coach West’s commitment to the program. “Coach West uses Unified Sports as a living, interactive, inclusive unified classroom for life,” he said. “There are countless examples of how she has used Unified Sports and her unique leadership skills to transform students individually and the Southern culture and community as a whole. Coach West connects with and brings out the best in every single person. Her indisputable, holistic commitment to the mission is arguably the ripple effect that will continue to enhance Southern High School for many years to come.”

This article was written by Julie Oltmann