FEBRUARY 22, 2018 - COVINGTON
Donny Yingst, a longtime youth coach in Covington, use to have a simple saying to keep things in perspective for his young players - "Smile".
Now, nearly six years after his untimely passing in May of 2012, one of Donny's former players, Sarah Hubbard, has plenty of reason to "Smile" after making her commitment to attend college and play softball for head coach Marissa Rush at Washington & Jefferson College in Pennsylvania.
Hubbard, who was joined by family, friends and coaches on her big day, made it a point to place a picture of Donny Yingst next to her as she made her collegiate choice.
"I played three years for Donny when I was younger and he's my inspiration,” said Hubbard. "He always made softball fun and inspired me to work hard."
And Hubbard, who is the daughter of Anthony and Stephanie Hubbard, has had a stellar career so far - with her senior season yet to be played. She already has three varsity letters and will likely receive a fourth as a senior. Hubbard has received first-team honors in the Cross County Conference and has also earned academic accolades in the league and the Southwest District.
The highlight to this point, however, hasn't come in a Covington uniform. Instead, it came due to an unexpected invite to be a part of the Queen of Diamonds softball team that competed in the EuroCup in the Netherlands.
"That was a great experience I will never forget," she said. "I went to a college recruiting camp at Akron University and they asked me to be on the team. We played the national team from the Netherlands and some junior olympic teams. We ended up finishing sixth."
Which made for a very busy few weeks as Hubbard had a decision she wanted to finalize before the start of her senior season of softball under first-year coach Phil Smith at Covington.
And that decision was committing to Washington & Jefferson College - a decision she knew she was sure of after several visits to the college.
"I liked it so much that I visited the college several times," she said. "I'm sold on this college, for sure."
Hubbard, who holds a 3.7 GPA and is a member of the National Honor Society at Covington, will receive financial help in the form of academic scholarships from the college - where she plans on majoring in Environmental Science.
"I like their academic program and the opportunities they provide both athletically and academically," Hubbard said. "It's a perfect fit."
Playing at the collegiate level is exciting for Hubbard considering she is following in the footsteps of many former Covington softball players who have went on to excel at the collegiate level.
"It feels good to keep the tradition going of Covington softball players going to college," she said. "Covington softball is all about working hard for the program and carrying on the tradition of excellence. I hope to do that in college."
And the opportunity to play in college wouldn't be possible without those who have had an impact on her life.
"My parents always kept me motivated and helped me believe in myself," she said. "Dean Denlinger (former Covington softball coach) showed me what it means to be a leader and helped push me through the issues I had as a player. Lee Meyer, my travel ball coach, he showed me how hard I can work to become a better player."
And, of course, there was Donny Yingst.
"He's the reason I kept playing softball all these years," she said of Yingst. "He's my motivation."
Motivation with a "Smile".