Jaime Rutiaga was presented with the Special Olympics Southern California Floor Hockey Coach of the Season award Saturday during the Opening Ceremonies of the 2020 Floor Hockey Championship event at the Kern County Fairgrounds in Bakersfield.
A coach in the Santa Barbara County region for more than 13 years, Jaime puts his athletes first and is dedicated to improving their lives beyond just sports. Among his greater contributions, he has helped athletes find employment and housing.
“That was a huge surprise,” Jaime said after being honored. “I didn’t think it was going to be me. There are so many amazing coaches, and we get to know each other over the years.”
His connection to Special Olympics goes back to his elementary school days, helping out in School Games events.
“I remembered how much fun that was,” Jaime said. “I was excited to do it in Santa Barbara.”
In addition to floor hockey, the 45-year-old coaches bocce in the spring. He also serves as a clinician in both sports. When he’s not coaching, Jaime is a social worker at a regional center, but he sees his relationship with the athletes as more than just “work.”
“I work with people with disabilities as a living, so I know most of the athletes already,” he said. “It’s enjoyable for me to see them in a different light (as competitors), help them move toward their athletic goals. It’s amazing seeing them grow in their skill level.
“I’m invested in seeing them grow.”
In his spare time, Jaime enjoys playing ice hockey at Ice in Paradise in Goleta.