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Wasatch High Unified coach gets groundbreaking honor

WHS wasatch high school coach sami graham coach of the year
Sami Graham
Wasatch High School
Moments after learning she was named the UHSAA 5A Coach of the Year, Sami Graham is congratulated by family, her athletes and the Wasatch High School student body.

A coach at Wasatch High School was recently recognized with the Utah High School Activities Association 5A Coach of the Year award.

Sami Graham is the head coach of the Unified athletics program at Wasatch High School. On Friday, November 19, she learned she was the first Unified coach to receive the honor in Utah.

“I got this announcement in an assembly, and I had no idea that was coming,” Graham said. “They started telling about the coach of the year and tried to have some of the student body guess who it was, and of course nobody guessed me, because I didn’t even expect that. When they announced my name, I was so shocked, and they started chanting my name, the student body. I went down on the floor, and my family came out, my team. It was awesome.”

Graham, who lives in Wallsburg now, grew up in Heber City and graduated from Wasatch High School. She’s taught there for the past 16 years and coached students with special needs in soccer, basketball and track for 10 years.

Her student-athletes compete with each other and other students at school, as well as in tournaments with other schools. This past year, her team took second place at a soccer tournament in Rio Tinto Stadium, where Real Salt Lake of Major League Soccer plays.

Outside of coaching and teaching, she does administrative work and manages other coaches among much else outside regular work hours as part of her job.

In September, Abby Cox, wife of Governor Spencer Cox, came to another assembly at the high school to invite Graham and the team to represent Utah in the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games. This June, they’ll travel to Orlando, Florida to compete in basketball alongside teams from all 50 states.

The announcement for that honor was another big moment in a school-wide assembly for the team.

“Jazz Bear, Jazz dancers, the whole student body was there. We got to play a little scrimmage game, and it was just awesome. The whole student body were cheering on our kids, they were making shots I’ve never seen them make before - it was really cool, and there wasn’t a dry eye in the room when they got told that they get to go,” Graham said.

She credited other coaches and student peers for their help supporting the athletes in having fun and meeting their goals.

“They warm my heart all the time,” the coach said. “Especially the peer athletes working with these kids. I’ve seen them take a lot of sacrifice to do this - that’s always so awesome to me to see, and just to see them progress and succeed is so awesome. They work hard, and they get so excited. Like other sports, Unified is more than just getting good and playing a game. They learn to be a good team member, they’re loyal, responsible. Sportsmanship is big on my list of teaching kids, and then just meeting new people and friends.”

For more on Graham’s Unified sports program, visit wasatchhighathletics.com.

Wasatch High School Unified USA special olympics
Sami Graham
Wasatch High School
Wasatch High Unified basketball players stand with Principal Justin Kelly (far left), Abby Cox (pink shirt), Jazz Bear and Coach Sami Graham (black shirt, far right) after learning they were chosen to represent Utah in the Special Olympics USA Games.

Ben Lasseter reports for KPCW in Wasatch County. Before moving to Heber City, Ben worked in Manti as a general assignment newspaper reporter and editor.
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