If they ever start a hall of fame for Carroll County youth basketball, Bo Yingling may be its first inductee.
The late Finksburg resident, who passed away on Feb. 3 at the age of 80, was a pioneer in youth recreation sports in this county.
Born in Baltimore County, he was a three-sport athlete at Towson High, lettering in soccer, baseball and basketball. Yingling moved to Carroll County in 1966.
Seeing the need for a basketball program in Westminster, Yingling and his friend Larry Baker started the St. John boys basketball program in 1971. Yingling would ultimately work there as a volunteer for 47 years. During almost five decades, he served as both a coach and administrator for the program, holding every office there was at one time or another.
Every Saturday during basketball season, he spent all day at the St. John’s Church gym refereeing games, working with scorekeepers and coaches, and doing whatever else needed doing.
He worked at for the Dewberry/Davis Engineering/Beavin Company for 55 years. Considering that he averaged around 30 hours a week on volunteering during the peak of the basketball season, you could say — without exaggeration — that he held two full-time jobs during that time of year.
The program began with just 37 boys on four teams. But it didn’t stay down there for long.
“It just grew from that point. Everybody heard about this wonderful basketball program at St. John's, and people came from all over the county," said Tom Scott, who has headed up the program for six years.
In fact, players still come from all directions, some from as far as Pennsylvania.
At the time they started the program, Both Yingling and Baker were members of the Westminster-based St. John parish. The church had its own gymnasium which made it the ideal base.
Yingling though, quickly found he had to meet a lot of requirements, not only for the Westminster Area Recreation Council but, because he was using a church facility, the Catholic Archdiocese of Baltimore.All had standards for certifying coaches, safety, insurance and other factors.
However Yingling and Baker were able to navigate these waters successfully, and the program began to expand.
From its modest beginning, it has grown to 500 players and 42 teams with boys from kindergarten through the ninth grade. There is also a St. John girls basketball program run by other volunteers.
Scott explained that part of the reason for his program’s success were the guiding principals that attracted families in the first place.
He notes that Yingling himself had always said, “one of the reasons we're so popular is we get everyone involved.”
Scott writes, “All kids, regardless of skill level, are involved. That’s the message Bo wanted sent out continually to the coaches and community. All kids get an equal opportunity to play. By Bo’s guidance, coaches in the program were led to make the experience a memorable one for their players by teaching them the fundamental basketball skills and good sportsmanship, giving every player an equal opportunity to succeed on the court and build self confidence.”
But like an iceberg, a lot of Yingling’s commitment lay beneath the surface and was unseen by most people. His efforts on behalf of the program extended far beyond those 47 years worth of Saturdays he spent at St. John’s gymnasium.
One of those less-visible duties was the onerous job of scheduling games and practices. Because his basketball program quickly spread beyond the St. John’s gym to other schools, he had to coordinate with many principals and vice principals so he could keep up with the schedules in all of the gyms he used. When a gym was being used for a school function, he had to move that game or practice elsewhere.
As the program expanded to more gyms, this part of the job became ever more demanding. Presently, it uses virtually every school facility in the Westminster area, roughly 10-12 locations.
Of course much of a season’s work is done before the first basket is ever made. Registration, assembling teams, scheduling and a horde of other details must be completed before the season ever starts. And there, always, you found Bo Yingling.
A big chore was recruiting and organizing volunteers. Many important jobs need filling. These include not only coaching but also a host of support functions such as score keeping and time keeping, registration, ordering uniforms and supplies, opening and closing gyms for games and practices, and then cleanup afterward. Each school the program used needed its own set of volunteers to run things, and he had a big hand in putting these groups together.
Oftentimes, he’d be at those places himself cleaning up after games and practices and then locking up.
Among his key recruits were his son Andy and wife Lila, and they still work in the program.
Andy coordinates the teams in two age divisions. Lila handles coordination with the Baltimore Archdiocese and also works with finances and other administrative matters.
One thing Bo Yingling never liked was looking at standings and seeing one team 15-0 and another, 0-15. So, he did his best to make sure that they were evenly matched, at least on paper. Scott explained the interesting manner in which he did that.
“Bo always kept the stats from the previous year, and he put the teams together based on the previous years’ stats,” Scott said. “He wanted to create parity. It was really remarkable how even the teams were because of the time he’d put in before the season.”
And once the season was underway, Yingling was readily accessible to local media wishing to cover his program.
He also helped start a scholarship program which was open to all participating players. Everybody who applied usually got at least a small amount of money to put toward college.
Program officials raised the money by adding a couple of dollars to the registration fee and through fundraisers.
In the 22 years the scholarship program has operated, it has awarded about $100,000.
Yingling did receive the Westminster Area Rec Council’s Volunteer of the Year award once. Scott though, noted, “he was worthy of winning it about 45 years in a row. The time the gentleman put in was simply remarkable.”
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