Special Olympics pays tribute to Rutland coach

Robert Layman / Staff Photo Billy Pierce, left, of the Rutland Eagles Special Olympic Team stands next to his smiling coach Scott Crawford at the Balsam Barn in Mt. Holly, Thursday Dec. 7 2017. Crawford, who owns and operates the Balsam Barn said he wanted to design a business where he could employ people with disabilities. Not only was he able to give Pierce employment, but a housing opportunity too. Crawford coaches Pierce through golf, basketball, bocce, and soccer. “I never realized how complicated basketball was until I saw Billy try to learn it.” Crawford said it was hard at first, but now he’s one of the best players on the Rutland Eagles.

By Briana Bocelli

Behind every fine athlete like Brittany Corey is a coach who pushes for excellence.

Scott Crawford, of the Rutland Eagles, was named Coach of the Year by the Special Olympics.

He said he was shocked when he found out he won an award this year.

“I was like, wait a minute, I think there’s something wrong here,” Crawford said. “Then I called the coordinator, and she confirmed it. I was just absolutely thrilled.”

Crawford has been coaching Special Olympics for about eight years, but has worked with people with special needs for close to 50 years.

Crawford is the head coach of the basketball team, but he also coaches bocce and helps with golf sometimes, too.

He said when he first came to the Eagles, winning wasn’t a priority — having fun was.

He said he taught the athletes that victory and fun could both be accomplished if they put their minds to it.

“Our motto is, ‘Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt,’” Crawford said.

He added that the Eagles took the gold in soccer for the Unified Sports at a tournament at South Burlington High School in September.

That’s his most cherished memory of all the wonderful memories he’s made over the years coaching Special Olympics.

He said that game was special to him because his athletes came together when their goalie and back-up goalie could not make it to the game.

“We were basically taking people and putting them in the goal for seven minutes at a time,” Crawford said. “One of my guys came up to me and said ‘I want to be a goalie’ and I said ‘OK, do seven minutes and if you do good, I’ll leave you in for another seven.’”

Crawford said the young man played so well, he left him in the net for the rest of the game, and his athletes did the best they could to help protect the goal, too.

In the end, teamwork prevailed, and they went home with a gold medal.

“That was my proudest moment because we never played with high school kids before, we didn’t have a goalie,” Crawford said. “They dug so deep to win this tournament and they kicked butt while doing it.”

Crawford’s passion for working with people with disabilities stems from his high school years volunteering. He now opens his home to people with disabilities, as well as offering them work at his many businesses, such as wreath-making and landscaping. He lives with one of his athletes and workers — Billy.

When Crawford introduced Billy to the Special Olympics, he took to it fairly quickly.

“When Billy came into my life, we had nothing in common. I introduced him to the Special Olympics, and he loved it. So, because of him is why I’m doing what I do now. It is so seriously a passion of mine, it really is,” Crawford said.

He said having the opportunity to work closely with people with special needs means the world to him, and being named Coach of the Year is just a small perk when compared to the reward of working with such amazing people.

“It’s huge. I have a really good life. I love my life. It’s really just an amazing feeling,” Crawford said.