Although Jack Gerber won the 2002 Virginia Special Olympics Coach of the Year award, he said his satisfaction comes from the athletes he works with.
"Watching them grow is quite satisfying and inspirational. That's what keeps you going," Gerber said.
Gerber was awarded the honor in Richmond last month at the annual Virginia Special Olympics awards banquet. The award recognizes not only his coaching ability, but his participation in Special Olympics for 11 years as a coach, player, local board member and fund-raiser.
Gerber became involved in Special Olympics because his son, John, is a Special Olympics athlete. He coaches basketball, softball and soccer.
"When I first started as a new coach, I was aware how responsive athletes were to coaches," Gerber said.
Gerber's responsiveness to his athletes in turn is what makes him deserve the recognition, said fellow Special Olympics volunteers. When Krishnan Swaminathan of Ashburn started coaching the Jaguars soccer team seven years ago, Gerber mentored Swaminathan and helped him in his coaching skills.
"The way he works with the kids, that's really helped me a lot," said Swaminathan.
Jake Jacobs, board president for the Council for Special Olympics in Northern Virginia, agreed. Jacobs said his interaction with his athletes has been an example to others. He not only coaches the athletes through one sport, he encourages them to continue through the next season.
"He starts in August with the soccer program and goes all the way in June, finishing up with track and field and softball," Jacobs said.
According to Jacobs, Gerber deserved to win the award.
"He's just one of those rare individuals who makes time for athletes in Northern Virginia," Jacobs said.
BESIDES COACHING, Gerber also raises funds for Special Olympics and serves on the board of directors for the Northern Virginia division of the Special Olympics. He's also in charge of the newsletter.
"He does everything: he raises funds, he recruits coaches and he coaches some teams," said fellow Special Olympics volunteer Pat Hammeke of McLean.
Gerber, a retired United States Army colonel, has lived on and off in Fairfax since 1976. The 56-year-old comes from an athletic family and he played football in high school and for two years in college. His 85-year-old mother still plays golf five days a week.
"I always knew he was a wonderful person. It was really gratifying to see him recognized," said his wife, Beverly Gerber.
As for Gerber, he's just happy to help.
"The satisfaction comes from the smiles and happy faces you get from the athletes," Gerber said.