Bill Lynch, second from left, giving Richard Guevara, third from left, of the Police Athletic League, and his staff, Luis DeLeon, far left, and Jasmin Lawrence, far right, an appreciation plaque for their support for Lynch’s youth programs. Photo by Pasha Farmanara
BY PASHA FARMANARA | As a referee, coach and league manager for 30 years with the Department of Parks and Recreation, Bill Lynch has made a lasting impact on the youth and adults who participate in Parks’ sports leagues.
Every April to November, Lynch puts together about 11 basketball tournaments. He has also started running youth flag-football leagues at Hamilton Fish Park from September to November.
Lynch, who grew up in Chelsea, started at Parks in 1985 officiating youth basketball games.
“I used to be the guy who they sent place to place to referee,” he said. “I am not mobile anymore, so I began making tournaments.”
In 1992 a police car struck Lynch, immobilizing him, and forcing him to give up refereeing.
Although fulfilling, Lynch’s coaching career was brief. Due to his disability, travel to games was too great a chore.
Instead, he began organizing and running youth and adult basketball tournaments at Hamilton Fish, at Pitt and Houston Sts., as recreation director, the position he still holds.
As rec director, Lynch has shaped up the park’s basketball tournaments, getting them to run in an orderly manner and punctually.
“Here, we are set up 30 minutes prior to the game,” he said. “We double-check and we keep everything organized. We are on time.”
The men’s and women’s leagues have an entry fee, but the youth leagues are free — which is important to Lynch.
“What I really like doing is providing tournaments for those who can’t afford it,” he said. “I try and recruit the Boys’ Clubs and nonprofit things. We try to make them affordable, and we try and keep it in the city.”
In addition, Lynch gives inner-city kids the opportunity to work, and get paid, at his events. Kids can help “run the tables,” as in the scorekeeper’s table and game clock.
“It’s not a lot of money but it’s something,” Lynch said. “We choose kids who have come up through the program.
Ed Auguste, Ham Fish’s manager, has worked alongside Lynch for years and seen his impact.
“Without Bill, there would be no sports programs in the Lower East Side,” Auguste said. “He is truly a blessing to the community and well known as a great league commissioner because he makes sure everything is always organized, on time and that everyone is playing fair and having fun.”
Over the years, funding has increasingly become an issue. Lynch funds his leagues with help from various local organizations, but one in particular stands out.
“Sometimes it’s hard to raise money for the tournaments, but P.A.L. and the manager here have really helped,” Lynch said. “Without their help, we wouldn’t be possible.”
The Police Athletic League, 95 years old, is the city’s largest, independent, youth-development, nonprofit organization.
A long-term goal for Lynch is to gain access to his own indoor facility.
“I always wished they put some sort of dome-like bubble so we can do this year-round,” he said.
When it gets cold outside, Lynch helps run the Millennium Basketball League, a 200-team, indoor league in Chelsea, for girls and boys ages 8 to 17. Registration closes Jan. 10. Games tip off Jan. 25.
Auguste said Lynch’s impact on youth sports can’t be underestimated.
“His work ethic and dedication is remarkable,” Auguste said. “I have been truly fortunate to work alongside such a great man like Bill, and experience how his leagues have a tremendous impact on everyone who participates in his programs.”