Three sports, two championships, one man, and his name is Alex Satterfield.
Alex Satterfield has worked as a Special Educator at Oyster River for the past eight years. In those eight years, he has not only inspired students, coworkers, and everyone around him, but also coached three Unified sports teams all school year. This November 2021, the Unified soccer team went up against Dover High School in an intense championship game. While Dover played well, Oyster River took home the Unified soccer championship for the first time in Oyster River history. In the spring of 2021 as well, the Unified volleyball team won the state championship again against Dover.
Satterfield started his career working with the Oyster River Unified teams’ rivals, the Dover Green Waves. However, Satterfield’s passion for helping others dates back even further. “I had a friend growing up that had Muscular Dystrophy, and so we always had to kind of do things a little differently, which is kind of something that I liked. I liked the challenge of figuring out the problem and the coming up with a solution that worked out.”
Satterfield spent five years at Dover High School as a Special Educator, where he discovered the program of Unified sports in 2008. “Unified really did not exist [at Dover before]. I was the first coach that started it at Dover. There wasn’t another program before that, so it was just kind of up and coming…but now it’s really taken off.” Even if he did not create the program, without Satterfield, it might not be as big of a deal as it is today. “I was a part of starting the program. You know, you need a coach to have a team,” jokes Satterfield.
Once Unified was introduced to Dover, some sports stayed while others went. “Unified soccer was the first [sport] that came about and Unified Basketball followed pretty closely after that. There was a Unified track and field team that kind of started up in the spring session, and then that changed and then became an option whether it was Unified track and field or Unified volleyball.”
When talking about the different sports, Satterfield mentions his love for Unified volleyball. “I definitely prefer the volleyball. I think that the volleyball is just the epitome of what Unified sports should be because everyone can do everything. Everyone can hit the ball over the net, anyone can pass [the ball] to anybody, anyone can score a point which I like because I think it just promotes that inclusivity even more.”
When starting the Unified program at Dover, only 12 people joined the team, a number which has now doubled this past 2021 Unified soccer season here at Oyster River. This could be for many reasons, but to the students of Oyster River who participate in the Unified sports, they chalk it up to the amazing coach who has taught them along the way. However, Satterfield humbly disagrees: “I would say the students make up the team and the program. I create the framework and with great partners and facilitators of the different activities brings great results and relationships between students… It really is who is involved in the program. That’s why it’s important to get quality partners who are dedicated and supportive and there every day working hard, sacrificing to really make it work.”
While Satterfield was not wrong about the amazing partners who work on these Unified teams, helping and supporting, they also owe a lot of the team’s success to Satterfield and the amazing coach he has been. Megan Moody (‘23) returned to Unified soccer this year as a junior after previously playing her sophomore year. Last year was the first time she had met Satterfield, and he made sure to make a good first impression. “He was just a super nice guy. He has a good sense of humor and he just wants the best for everyone on the team.”
Moody also talks about how Satterfield was able to make smart and strategic decisions when it came to different components of the game, such as subbing. “I know Unified isn’t all about winning, but the teammates want to win and so I think that he put a lot of thought into that this season.”
Alex Gruden (‘23) first learned about Unified teams when he moved here this year. He joined Unified Soccer and so far, he has liked the friendly environment that the team offers him. “I think [Satterfield’s] attitude positively affected [the team]. He was able to motivate us.”
Satterfield’s impact on his teams is not just noticed by the students who played for him, but also by the staff including Andy Lathrop, Oyster River High School’s Athletic Director. Lathrop has known Satterfield for five years now. They started at Oyster River together and immediately Lathrop brought him on to coach the Unified sports. Clearly, that was the right choice. “The players love playing for him. I think he just has a great temperament, he takes it seriously but also knows when to have fun. I think the players enjoy coming everyday and enjoy being around him.” Lathrop continues his compliments on Satterfield saying, “He helps to create that energetic vibe at the games and the practices.”
Satterfield is now starting the 2021-2022 Unified Basketball season. As he starts the season with two new championships under his belt, it’s no surprise that the students of Oyster River can expect their school to have three Unified teams that all come out champions, and it couldn’t be done without Satterfield.