Last June, Port Washington Youth Activities (PYA) held its 18th annual Hall Of Fame Dinner Dance at North Hempstead Country Club. More than 320 participants attended the organization's largest fundraising event of the year, which serves as the culmination of PYA's sports year. That evening, PYA honored Todd Higgins as a former athlete who came through its programs, and Joe Gil and Tom McNamara, both current board members and key volunteer contributors. All three of these men, in their own way, have helped establish, solidify, and grow the organization since its inception in 1963.
State Senator Craig Johnson presents citations to
Tom McNamara, Bob Higgins
(on Todd’s behalf), and Joe Gil.
In addition, the evening was a huge success thanks in no small part to the generosity of PYA's friends and local business owners who contributed to the silent auction and raffle during the evening's event. PYA would like to thank all those who attended, as well as those who contributed.
Todd Higgins is among the finest athletes to come out of Port Washington. PYA exposed Todd to sports at an early age and helped jump-start an exceptional athletic career, which culminated in his contributions as a member of the 1992 and 1994 Princeton University NCAA national championship lacrosse teams.
Todd participated in PYA during the 1980s, first in baseball and later in lacrosse. At Weber Junior High School and Paul D. Schreiber High School, Todd excelled in football, basketball and lacrosse (three years on the varsity in each sport), and also found time to get back down to Lions Field and referee youth football games, too. At Schreiber, Todd was a two-time All County football player, All-League in basketball, and a two-time All-American lacrosse player. He helped lead the Vikings to the 1990 Nassau County Championship, where he was named the game's Most Valuable Player. During high school, Todd was also a two-time member of the Long Island Empire State Lacrosse team.
After graduating from Schreiber, Todd attended Princeton University, where he was a four -ear starter on the men's lacrosse team and a member of two national championship teams. Todd earned First Team All-Ivy and First Team All-American honors in 1994 and 1995. He was captain of the team in 1995 and received the William Winston Roper Trophy, which is awarded annually to the "Outstanding Princeton Athlete of High Scholastic Rank," He also was awarded the 1995 Higginbotham Trophy for the most outstanding Princeton lacrosse player.
In addition to playing lacrosse at Princeton, Todd represented the United States on the Under 19 U.S. Lacrosse team, where he helped lead the U.S. to a gold medal in 1992. He was awarded the World Games' Most Valuable Player Award. Todd has also appeared in Sports Illustrated's "Faces in the Crowd" and has been inducted into the Paul D. Schreiber Hall of Fame.
After his collegiate playing days ended, Todd was a member of the New York Athletic Club lacrosse team, and the North Hempstead Lacrosse Club.
Todd currently resides in Manhasset with his wife Margaret, 5-year-old twins Catherine and Charles, and three-year old Thomas. He is an equity trader for Quad Capital Management.
In the early years of PYA following its inception in 1963, PYA was run by a small group of dedicated volunteers who parlayed a modest budget into very effective, basic sports programs for boys only - tackle football, basketball, baseball, and lacrosse. Joe Gil -- who grew up in Manhasset, played in that town's various youth programs and participated as a high school varsity athlete in basketball, cross country, and track and field -- arrived in 1991 at the cusp of great change in the organization.
That year, Joe registered his oldest daughter Danielle, then age 6, for the inaugural season of PYA girls basketball. Joe joined too, first as an assistant coach, then as a head coach for two years, and then served as the sport's commissioner for 7 years. In all, Joe spent 14 years mentoring the program, which broke ground as PYA's first organized sport for girls. That program grew from 20 girls that first season to 180 players within 6 years. This past year nearly 300 girls participated in the basketball program.
That type of progression was noted by the PYA Board of Directors, which Joe joined in 1993. A father of 6, Joe has followed his children up the ladder of PYA's burgeoning programs. In addition to his roles with the girls basketball program, Joe has coached boys basketball, flag and tackle football, and baseball for countless seasons. Joe also was commissioner of the boys basketball program for eight years, commissioner of the flag football program for two years, and commissioner of baseball for six years. Joe has shown similar dedication to the St. Peter's CYO basketball program, coaching both boys and girls from 1994 to this day. These CYO teams won two Long Island championships in the late 1990s, and were also cited for sportsmanship awards 3 times in that era. Joe even managed to find time to coach his children's soccer teams.
As the PYA girls' programs continued their exponential growth, Joe was there assisting with softball and lacrosse. This type of dedication was noted by the board, which elevated Joe to the position of treasurer in 1995, a position he still holds today. This responsibility has provided Joe with his greatest sense of satisfaction and accomplishment. As a Certified Public Accountant with a local practice, Joe has helped impose and modernize the appropriate financial controls for an organization the size of PYA. These controls were instrumental in allowing PYA to procure the private and public government funding for the "Field of Dreams" Lions Field project. From its modest budget of the early 1990s, PYA now has $1.4 million in assets including an endowment fund, and an annual operating budget of $800,000. The 4 boys' sports PYA started with in 1963 in turn have morphed to a total of 16 for boys and girls, serving over 3,000 children annually.
Amazingly enough, Joe has found time to give even more of his time to PYA as a member of the Finance, Field, and Dinner Dance (he was the Master of Ceremonies for 11 years) committees.
In addition to his daughter Danielle, almost all of Joe's children - - Joseph, Thomas, Suzanne, and Sean, have participated in PYA sports, or are currently active. Once his youngest child Sophia steadies herself with her first steps, you can bet that in a short time, Joe and his wife Pamela will have her on the fields and courts of PYA too.
Tom McNamara has been one of PYA's leaders for the past 13 years. Starting as a girls basketball coach in 1995, Tom has held numerous vital roles for the organization, including serving as PYA's president from 2004-2006. Tom's steadfast dedication to PYA and to the youth of our community culminates today in his induction into the Hall of Fame.
Tom coached girls basketball for a total of four years. Concurrent to that stint, Tom served as commissioner of boys basketball from 1997 - 2004 for the kindergarten to seventh-grade programs. In addition to basketball, Tom served as flag football league commissioner for two years, deputy football commissioner to Harvey Cohen for fourth- and fifth-grade tackle football for two years, and baseball commissioner for two years with Hall of Fame co-inductee Joe Gil (who recommended Tom as a member of the PYA Board of Directors, which he joined in 1996).
Tom's legal background brought to the PYA board a strong sense of administrative procedure, and he took a leadership role in drafting the original fundraising proposals for the "Field of Dreams," Lions Field redevelopment project in the late 1990s. His expertise also came into play as he led an ad hoc committee which updated and revised the organization's bylaws.
In addition, he has served on or chaired various other board committees, including those focusing on legal and finance matters, special events, fundraising, and disciplinary issues. In 2001, Tom was elected to the position of secretary of PYA, and served for three years. Following his term as secretary he was elected president in 2004 and served a two-year term.
While president, Tom emphasized sportsmanship and positive sports parenting, and arranged a symposium which brought in a prominent, well-known sports psychologist to speak to Port Washington parents and coaches.
Since stepping down as president, Tom has remained a PYA director, and has been involved in projects such as the replacement of the old roller hockey rink at Manorhaven Park, and spearheading the yearly holiday Champions For Charity fundraising event at the Americana Manhasset shopping center.
Tom's community involvement extends to his coaching CYO basketball for the 12th year in a row. Included on his high school-age team are some of the same boys to whom he imparted the fundamentals of basketball when they were starting out at PYA in kindergarten, first, and second grades.
In his 12 years with PYA, one of Tom's favorite memories is the second grade boys-vs.-moms basketball game he established. "It was a perfect age to do it," Tom said, additionally noting that "the talent level was about equal." It turns out that Tom did not have to ask any mother to play. He simply told the boys that if they wanted to play in that game they had to bring their mothers. The recruiting took care of itself!
Tom and his wife Rosemary, a psychotherapist, have lived in Port Washington for 21 years. He is a litigation partner with the law firm of Certilman Balin Adler & Hyman, LLP. They have two children -- their daughter Dana is an accounting major at Molloy College, and their son Sean is a senior at Paul D. Schreiber High School.