Cranbrook’s Misty Pagliaro was recently announced as the winner of the 2020 Howard Carter Award for coaching excellence with Special Olympics BC (SOBC). Pagliaro is the head coach of the SOBC Kimberley/Cranbrook alpine skiing and golf programs, as well as the Local’s Fit Families and Friends program.
According to a news release from SOBC, Pagliaro has been coaching for the organization for the past 12 years, “providing support, guidance and encouragement to push athletes to achieve many personal bests and develop as both athletes and individuals”.
Pagliaro explained that she first started working with the Special Olympics in her home town of Nakusp back in the fall of 2008.
“I was approached by a few ladies to start a local chapter in Nakusp, they were looking for someone with skiing experience and I ended up on the Board of Directors,” she explained. “I started coaching bocce, skiing and curling in 2013, when I moved to Cranbrook. That’s when I started with the Special Olympics there, too.”
Pagliaro explains that she grew up competitive swimming and competitive hand-gun shooting, along with being involved in many other sports.
“I hated schoolwork growing up so anything to do with sports, I was all over it,” she said. “I have a learning disability, and I’m dyslexic so I’ve adapted a lot of my programs to be based on visual learning. Working with the Special Olympics is the most rewarding experience I’ve ever been involved with. There is so much love and appreciation from everyone involved, and the encouragement you give the athletes is received with so much positivity.”
When the pandemic hit, Pagliaro lead the charge to continue to connect with her athletes by offering virtual learning opportunities. She started connecting with athletes via social media and leading Facebook live sessions to show athletes different golf skills that they can work on from home.
“Every video demonstrated not only Misty’s knowledge of the sport and her ability to remotely teach skill development, but her personality also shines through and provides athletes and volunteers alike with the connection that we are all missing during these physically distant times,” said her nominators in the SOBC news release. “She is creative, innovative and passionate when it comes to helping our athletes develop new skills.”
Pagliaro says she really looks forward to the Facebook live events, every Thursday at 7p.m.
“With everyone on lockdown at the beginning of the pandemic and sports being cancelled, I was feeling a huge void in my own life,” she said, adding that she misses all of the athletes so much. “I decided to do virtual lessons for the golf program and researched all kinds of ways that they could continue the sport from home in an inexpensive way. We used everything from erasers to exercise mats to putt on. I also challenged them to send me videos of the skills that they learn and develop at home.”
She adds that she decided to go live on Facebook (rather than pre-recording her sessions) to show the athletes that it’s okay if you make a mistake.
“Just keep going,” she said.
Susan Wang is a Special Olympics BC athlete and a member of the provincial Board of Directors. She was on the committee that decides who receives the Howard Carter Award and says that Pagliaro deserves to be recognized.
“We rank all of the nominees that we get and then we choose from the top three ranked. We look at how long they’ve been with SOBC, the roles they play and their accomplishments,” Wang explained. “Misty connects really well with the athletes. She has good qualifications and has been to many BC games and competitions.”
She adds that Pagliaro has been outstanding during the pandemic.
“Misty is very passionate about what she does,” Wang said. “Everyone who nominated her had so many good things to say. She’s an amazing coach and she truly deserves this award.”
Now that some restrictions have been lifted for outdoor sports, Pagliaro is also running a golf pilot program that could determine how other programs can run going forward.
“I was chosen by Special Olympics BC to run a golf pilot program. There are eight athletes attending, and the pilot is based off of COVID guidelines and protocols,” she explained. “We’re running the program at Mission Hills, and they have been very accommodating around the guidelines. They even set up a range time just for us, along with golfing a few holes at 7a.m.”
The first four weeks of the program are complete, and there are two weeks left to go. The recommendations from this program will be considered when setting guidelines for golf programs across B.C., as well as other outdoor sports such as track and field and bocce.
Lastly, Pagliaro says she is honoured to receive the Howard Carter award, and encourages anyone to volunteer with SOBC.
“I highly recommend volunteering with the Special Olympics. You don’t have to have any special sports background. They need all kinds of people from all kinds of backgrounds, including admin support. It’s a truly rewarding experience,” she said. “It’s a huge honour to even be nominated. There are so many astounding coaches involved with the Special Olympics. I have great admiration for the other coaches who have received this award in the past, it means a lot. I have big shoes to fill.”
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