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U.S. Olympic Committee Names 2011 Coaches of the Year

June 19, 2012, 7 p.m. (ET)

Rick Bower
Snowboard coach Rick Bower poses with halfpipe snowboarder Kelly Clark at the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games

INDIANAPOLIS – The United States Olympic Committee today announced James Hrbek (judo; Schertz, Texas), Neal Henderson (cycling; Boulder, Colo.), Tom Waqa (rugby; Provo, Utah), Dave Denniston (Paralympic swimming; Colorado Springs, Colo.) and Rick Bower (snowboarding; Park City, Utah) as the recipients of its 2011 Coach of the Year honors. The winners were recognized here tonight at a reception during the 2012 National Coaching Conference at the NCAA Hall of Champions.

Hrbek was named the Developmental Coach of the Year, while Henderson took home the Doc Councilman Science Award. Meanwhile, Waqa was awarded Volunteer Coach of the Year and Denniston was recognized as the Paralympic Coach of the Year. Finally, Bower was named the Olympic Coach of the Year.

“These five coaches have impacted countless athletes throughout their exemplary careers,” said Alan Ashley, USOC chief of sport performance. “They are shining examples of the team behind the team and their efforts have encouraged athletes of all levels to strive for excellence.”   

National Governing Bodies selected their 2011 Coaches of the Year as part of the USOC Coach of the Year Recognition Program. The three finalists in each category were chosen by a panel of coaching and sport education professionals. 


Olympic Coach of the Year – Rick Bower
During his six seasons as coach of the U.S. snowboarding halfpipe team, Bower has played an integral role in advancing women’s snowboarding. In 2011, he led his athletes to 31 major event podiums and took snowboarding to new heights after helping Kelly Clark become the first female to land a 1080 in competition. This achievement, at the pinnacle of snowboarding events for the year, had a monumental influence on up-and-coming female athletes and the progression of women’s snowboarding. For his efforts, Bower was recognized as the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association International Coach of the Year and USSA International Snowboarding Coach of the Year in 2011.

Paralympic Coach of the Year – Dave Denniston
In his second year as a U.S. Paralympics resident swimming coach at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., Denniston was selected to lead Team USA at the Pan-Pacific Para-Swimming Championships. In 2011, 14 of his 16 athletes were selected to major international teams, where they consistently exceled on the world stage. Among his athletes, Jessica Long collected nine gold medals in nine events, while shattering four world records. A 2008 U.S. Paralympian, Denniston also conducts speaking engagements to share his journey form an able-bodied Olympic hopeful to a Paralympic athlete turned mentor. His experience has allowed him to integrate his team practices with elite able-bodied team practices, helping assist athletes on both teams reach higher goals.

Developmental Coach of the Year – James Hrbek
Devoted to building the sport of judo in the United States, Hrbek scours the world to find unique judo tournaments and training opportunities for young Americans to gain international experience. In 2011, he coordinated the entire junior program for USA Judo, which fielded U.S. teams for dozens of national and international tournaments and assembled U.S. contingents of more than 50 people. As chairman of USA Judo's Junior Athlete Performance Committee, Hrbek created a database of parents, coaches and athletes that can be used in various judo activities. It is his belief that if properly educated, U.S. junior athletes will have the knowledge to one day become successful coaches themselves, an essential step in building the sport nationally.

Volunteer Coach of the Year – Tom Waqa
Now in his sixth season as the head coach of Brigham Young University’s women’s rugby team, Waqa has played a key role in molding an unsponsored and formerly unrecognized team into a nationally ranked formidable force. The Fiji native has helped produce All-American nominees in each of his seven seasons, highlighted by 2011 honorees Kristi Jackson, Monica Jackson and Rebekah Siebach, who propelled the Cougars to the Final Four. He also helps identify young talent to compete in the Under-20 National All-Star Championships, which routinely produce scouting opportunities for U.S. national teams. In addition to coaching at BYU, Waqa also volunteers as the Humless men’s rugby coach.

Doc Counsilman Science Award – Neal Henderson
For years, Henderson has been at the forefront of applying scientific principles in the lab and on the field to improve athlete performance in the world of cycling. During the 2010-11 season, he formulated additional tools and protocols for aerodynamic drag analysis, which helped determine the specific power required for cyclists to attain a given speed. The results helped pace Team USA to a silver-medal finish at the 2011 UCI Track Cycling World Championships. Later that summer, Henderson continued aerodynamic testing to help identify the best wheel combinations for U.S. cyclists competing at the London 2012 Olympic Games. A rare, dual-certified elite U.S cycling and U.S. triathlon coach, Henderson has been instrumental in establishing training methods based on exercise physiology, including supplemental oxygen training and a computrainer program for junior cyclists at the Boulder Center for Sports Medicine.

Hosted by the USA Coaching Coalition – comprised of the USOC, NCAA, National Federation of State High School Associations and National Association for Sport and Physical Education – the annual National Coaches Conference focuses on enhancing coaching knowledge and disseminating the latest research, trends and innovations in order to develop beginner to elite athletes. USOC, National Governing Body, university and sport professionals present on topics based on the National Standards for Sport Coaches.


Olympic Coach of the Year

1996 Tara VanDerveer, U.S. Olympic Women’s Basketball Coach
1997 Frank Carroll, Olympic Figure Skating Coach, Coach of Michelle Kwan
1998 Ben Smith, U.S. Olympic Women’s Ice Hockey Coach
1999 Chris Carmichael, Cycling Coach, Coach of Lance Armstrong 
2000 Richard Quick, U.S. Olympic Women’s Swimming Coach
2001/02 Pete del’Giudice, U.S. Snowboarding Coach
2003 Lloyd Woodhouse, USA Shooting National Team Coach
2004 Mike Candrea, USA Softball Women’s National Team Coach
2005 Eddie Reese, USA Swimming Men’s National Team Coach
2006 Bud Keene, U.S. Snowboarding Coach
2007 Guy Baker, USA Water Polo National Team Coach
2008 Hugh McCutcheon, USA Men’s Volleyball National Team Coach
2009 Bob Bradley, U.S. Men’s National Soccer Team Coach
2010 Brian Shimer, U.S. Men’s Bobsled Head Coach
2011 Rick Bower, U.S. Snowboarding Halfpipe Coach

Paralympic Coach of the Year

2004 Mike Hulett, USA Women’s Sitting Volleyball Team Coach
2005 Randi Smith, U.S. Paralympic Archery Team Head Coach
2006 Julie O’Neill, U.S. Paralympic Swim Team Head Coach
2007 Adam Bleakney, U.S. Paralympic Wheelchair Track Coach
2008 Ken Armbruster, U.S. Paralympic Women’s Goalball Head Coach
2009 Scott Moore, Denver Judo Coach
2010 Ray Watkins, 2010 U.S. Paralympic Alpine Ski Team
2011 Dave Denniston, U.S. Paralympic Swimming Head Coach

Developmental Coach of the Year

1996 Jeff Shaffer, University of Southern California
1997 Dianne Holum, Speedskating
1998 Mike Stafford, Millvale Golden Gloves Gym (Cincinnati)
1999 Tom Healy, Northbrook (Ill.) Speedskating Club
2000 Fred Zimny, Luge (Lake Placid, N.Y.)
2001/02 Mike Eaves, U.S. National Under-18 Hockey Team
2003 Bob Fraley, Fresno State (Calif.) University Track & Field
2004 Dwayne Miller, Norfolk (Va.) Real Deal Track Club
2005 Tammy Gambill, U.S. Figure Skating
2006 Mark Mitchell and Peter Johansson, U.S. Figure Skating
2007 Paul Yetter, USA Swimming
2008 Rajul Sheth, Table Tennis (Milpitas, Calif.)
2009 John Wingfield, Director and Head Coach of USA Diving National Training Center
2010 Michael Nyitray, Bowling (Miami, Fla.)
2011 James Hrbek, USA Judo

Volunteer Coach of the Year

2003 Carol Hardemon, Metro Dade (Fla.) Track Club
2004 Barry Hunter, Washington, D.C. Boxing Coach
2005 Cindi Hart, IndySpeed Sport Club Head Coach (Speedskating)
2006 Booker Woods, LA JETS Head Coach (Track)
2007 Sherman Nelson, USA Taekwondo Coach
2008 Rita Gladstone, Area Tennis League Coordinator (Volusia County, Fla.)
2009 Brian McCutcheon, Taekwondo Coach and Oahu Taekwondo Center Instructor
2010 Dave Farmer, Aurora (Colo.) Saracens Rugby Club Coach
2011 Tom Waqa, Brigham Young University Rugby Coach

Doc Counsilman Science Award

2004 Joe Vigil, Track & Field
2005  Dr. Kyle Pierce, USA Weightlifting
2006 Kate Arbour, U.S. Figure Skating
2007 Sean O’Neill, U.S. Paralympics Table Tennis
2008 Dave Bennett, USA Wrestling
2009 Heidi Thibert, U.S. Figure Skating and Edora Pool and Ice Center Coach
2010 Dr. Grant Schaffner, Skeleton
2011 Neal Henderson, USA Cycling