January 19, 2018
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Longtime Volunteers Becker And Larkin Keep Green Hornets Thriving

Colin Murphy
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January 10, 2018

Youth sports are so much a part of life in Severna Park that it can be easy to overlook how much goes into running an organization like the Greater Severna Park Athletic Association.

The GSPAA, more commonly referred to as the Green Hornets, operates year-round and provides opportunities in 12 youth sports to more than 3,500 families and 8,000 local kids every year.

Over the years, the GSPAA has thrived under the leadership efforts of longtime volunteers Charlie Becker and Drew Larkin.

Becker has served as president of the Green Hornets for 21 years, and Larkin has served as the executive vice president for 20 years, both 100 percent volunteer roles. Prior to and concurrently with those roles, Becker headed the Green Hornets baseball program and coached Green Hornets and American Legion baseball, and Larkin ran the Green Hornets boys lacrosse program and coached lacrosse. Both men have been involved with the Green Hornets for 35 years as coaches and volunteers.

In the 20-plus years Becker and Larkin have held their current leadership positions, the GSPAA has grown to become the standard of excellence for youth sports opportunities in Anne Arundel County and perhaps in all of Maryland.

“We like what we do,” said Becker. “Drew and I just want to make sure everything’s right and the kids are treated right. It’s a great organization.”

That is true now, but the GSPAA faced sizable challenges when Becker and Larkin took leadership positions in 1997 and 1998. At that time, the GSPAA had no monetary reserves to dip into, and it had significant costs associated with maintaining the fields and operating the sports leagues.

Seeing the need to evaluate costs and better manage finances, Becker brought in Larkin, a self-proclaimed “numbers-oriented” person, to help.

“Over the first five years, it was an education,” said Larkin. “The long and short of it is, we just had to balance the budget of each sport in such a way that each sport had about a 3-percent surplus on a year-to-year basis, so we could build up a surplus for the organization in the event anything happened.”

In streamlining costs and slowly building up a surplus, the organization has been able to grow and thrive. Today, the Green Hornets bring in annual revenues of almost $2 million from registration fees, which allows the organization to offer a wide range of sports at the lowest possible cost and maintain the playing facilities at Kinder Park.

“Charlie and I would both say, I think that we deliver a really, really good product for the price,” said Larkin. “We are probably the least expensive sports organization [in the county], and I think we deliver the best product. We have nice fields and a nice park in which kids can participate in all their sports.”

In addition to upgrades to field lights, installation of dugouts at the baseball fields and other proactive measures — like spurring the county to require background checks for all coaches and implementing a lightning-detection system at Kinder Park — a crowning achievement in the duo’s tenure at the helm of the Green Hornets was the installation of the two turf fields at Kinder Park in 2014. Through smart financial planning over the past two decades, the GSPAA was able to put $300,000 of its own money toward the $2 million project.

The return on investment in the turf field comes not just financially via reduced maintenance costs for natural grass fields, but in the ability of more teams to practice and play on the field in all weather conditions throughout the year, further expanding opportunities for youth sports in Severna Park.

Visit Kinder Park on a spring or fall evening nowadays, and the boost provided by the turf fields is clear: A symphony of youth sports is in motion, softball and baseball bats pinging, the thump of soccer balls echoing, the chatter of lacrosse drills buzzing as kids enjoy the park’s incomparable spread of playing fields.

Becker and Larkin both cite the work of Executive Director Josh Banks and Registrar Louise Gilmore as invaluable to the success of the organization. Banks is in charge of day-to-day operations, and Gilmore is deeply involved with managing the GSPAA’s finances.

“Those two are really the backbone of the organization,” said Larkin. “We have the board members, and everybody pitches in, but Louise and Josh are really the unsung heroes.”

Banks said the leadership of Becker and Larkin has been a huge part of creating equally excellent opportunities across all sports.

“The two of them together, I don’t think people realize how much they do without getting credit for it. It’s amazing,” said Banks. “The two of them have both helped boys and girls sports more so than probably anyone.”

Larkin was proud to say that the organization is set up well for continued success.

“We feel at the present time without hesitation that the financial footing of this organization is as strong as it could possibly be,” he said.

Becker praised the hundreds of volunteers who help the Green Hornets through their work on the board, by coaching in leagues or helping with uniforms, equipment and tournaments. He said in addition to feeding into the tremendous levels of athletic success achieved at Severna Park High School, the greatest aspect of helping the Green Hornets thrive is contributing to the enjoyable upbringing of so many kids and families in Severna Park.

“We have a lot of volunteers, and you can’t do it without volunteers, and the volunteers we have are unbelievable,” said Becker. “We put all the money back into the organization, and the improvements are unbelievable. It’s a fun time. It’s great when you can stand up there and see all the kids playing and know you had something to do with it.”


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