Awards Presented During State Basketball Tournament Ceremony
Louisville athlete Dallas Derringer and Stewart Home School coach Michael Ghant were honored as the 2017 Special Olympics Kentucky Athlete and Coach of the Year during a ceremony prior to the start of the State Basketball tournament on Saturday, March 10. The awards, which are presented each year to the athlete and coach who best exemplify the ideals of Special Olympics, had been scheduled to be presented at the State Leadership Conference in January before that event was cancelled due to bad weather.
Derringer, 20, has been a Special Olympics athlete for 9 years. He has competed in basketball, bowling, flag football, soccer and softball. He also participated in Unified basketball and bowling programs as a student at Southern High School from which he graduated in 2017. In addition to competing Derringer, who was non-verbal until he was six years old, serves as a Global Messenger for Special Olympics Kentucky speaking on behalf of his fellow athletes at events in Louisville and throughout the state.
The Athlete of the Year award caps off a decorated 2017 for Derringer. In February, he became the first Kentucky High School State Unified Bowling Champion when he and his partner, Nathan Burnett, claimed the title for Southern. It was the first year that the Kentucky High School Athletic Association sanctioned Unified bowling as an interscholastic event. In June, Derringer was named Special Olympics Male Athlete of the Year by the Courier-Journal at the Courier-Journal Sports Awards, which honors high school athletes from across the Kentuckiana area.
Laura Hagan, who is a coach with the Louisville Royals program that Derringer competes in nominated him for the award, saying, “I have always been impressed by Dallas, and as I have come to know more about him, and the other athletes of Special Olympics as a whole, I can’t think of anyone who better exemplifies what Special Olympics Kentucky is all about. Our team has a mix of ages and Dallas is one of our older athletes. He has been nothing but encouraging and helpful with the younger athletes, many of whom look up to him and his leadership. He’s respectful as a player and has always treated his coaches respectfully, asking questions, following directions and taking on a leadership role. I am proud to know and work with Dallas and wanted to nominate him for this award so that other could see what those of us who know him are already very aware of – he is a great example not only for Special Olympics athletes, but his coaches and others he interacts with as well.”
Ghant coaches basketball, bowling, flag football, softball and track and field at Stewart Home School. He has been involved in Special Olympics for nearly 15 years. At Stewart Home, a residential school for people with intellectual disabilities in Frankfort, Ghant has received numerous honors, including the John P. Stewart Award of Excellence in 2014 and the Above and Beyond Award in 2008 and 2010. While he coaches several sports, bowling has clearly been Ghant’s passion. He serves on the state sport development committee and has assisted with bowling coaching clinics, helping his fellow coaches better teach the sport. He also competes as a Unified partner in the program, teaming with one of his athletes. He has represented the state at the National Unified Special Olympics Bowling Tournament six times.
Edwin Shouse, the former Special Olympics Director at Stewart Home and still a coach there, nominated Ghant for the award. In the nomination letter Shouse said, “When I started coaching, Michael was the one who showed me the ropes and emphasized to me the importance of coaching Special Olympics and the athletes. When I took over the (Special Olympics) program at Stewart Home, he was a coach who was always willing to help and who I wanted other coaches to learn from. His coaching philosophy has remained constant over time, that the athletes and their needs come first and one should always build each athlete up so they can succeed. He always finds a way to make it fun for his players and he never puts winning above lessons or at the expense of his athletes. Michael has won a lot of games and he has lost a lot of games, but no matter the outcome you will see he and his players smiling, joking and having a good time. That is what Special Olympics is all about.”
Ghant’s athlete bowling partner Steve Pankey said of Ghant in his letter of support, “I think Michael Ghant deserves to be Coach of the Year, because he has taught me to be a better bowler. He is a great partner because he teaches me and other bowlers how to bowl. I am so lucky that he is my coach and my partner.”
Ghant, who also runs the Stewart Home music program, is a 1999 graduate of Kentucky State University, where he holds a Bachelor of Arts in music education.
Nominations for the 2018 Athlete and Coach of the Year Awards will open in November and be due in early December. For more information about the awards or about how to nominate a deserving athlete or coach, contact Kelli Firquin at 502-695-8222 or [email protected].