Alley ‘Cat: Retiring coach looking for 1 more title / Bowling

Oak Harbor High School bowling coach Jason Youngsman has a tattoo of the team logo on his right forearm, and the image is bracketed by a pair of bowling pins on each side.

Those pins represent the four state titles the Wildcats have won under his tutelage. There is room for one more.

Oak Harbor heads to the 53rd annual Washington State Bowling Proprietors Association varsity championships Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 17 and 18, at Tacoma’s Narrows Plaza Bowl.

Final Season

Youngsman and his father John Youngsman, who serves as assistant coach, are retiring after the tournament, bringing an end to their stellar careers.

Jason Youngsman led the Wildcats to state crowns in 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014 after placing second in 2010. Oak Harbor was the first Washington team to collect three consecutive titles and the first in the country to win four straight state championships, according to Jason Youngsman.

John Youngsman was the head coach when Oak Harbor won the title in the first-every WSBPA championship 53 years ago, and since then he has worked off-and-on as the head coach or as an assistant for “at least 20 of those years.”

His last head coaching stint came in 2016 when Jason took the year off, and he guided Oak Harbor to second place.

The Wildcats won one other state title, that came in 1991 when Jason Youngsman was a sophomore member of the team.

Oak Harbor qualified for state every year since Jason Youngsman took over in the early 2000s, and the team has a string of 16 straight berths.

Jason Youngsman was inducted into the WSPBA Coaches Hall of Fame in 2013, and he was joined by his father in 2015.

Jason said he is disappointed that CJ Johnson, an assistant during the four-year title run, wasn’t included.

“He is really, really important to me,” Jason Youngsman said. “He was our fundamental guy and a big reason for our success.”

League Champs

This year, for the second year in a row, Oak Harbor came from behind on the last weekend to claim the Whatcom-Skagit-Island Travel League championship. It’s been so long, the Youngsmans can’t remember the last time Oak Harbor didn’t win the conference title.

Jason Youngsman realized his program had the chance to be one of the best in the state when the 2009 team placed eighth: “That really got the juices flowing.”

He said the 2011 team was his most dominant, blowing away the competition at state.

“We were so far ahead, we didn’t even need to bowl the last round,” he said.

Jason Youngsman said he has coached a slew of memorable athletes over the years, many going on to bowl in college, but the one with the greatest impact was Chris Cooper.

“I started coaching him when he was 11,” Youngsman said. “He changed the whole thing for me; I knew he had it.”

Cooper died in an accident several years ago, and his bowling ball is incorporated in Youngsman’s tattoo.

Youngsman said his goal as a coach is to “take a bunch of kids who are not accepted in a lot of sports and find a sport they can excel in and give them a sense of winning. I also want to help keep them out of trouble.”

Time to Retire

Jason Youngsman is stepping down after this season because of work responsibilities and to spend more them with his children.

He works and lives part time in Everett and missed many of the meets this season, noting his father “held it all down.”

“I still want to work with the kids, but it will be on a more individual level,” he said.

Before he retires, he has one more obligation, this year’s state tournament.

Although his team isn’t favored, it has a good shot of surprising the field, he said.

“This team has worked harder than most teams,” he said. “The kids really want it really bad.

“I am as proud of this team as any I have coached.”

The squad includes seniors Daniel Johnson, Earl Angeles, Niko Hawkins and Devin McCardle and junior Megan Flood.

The seniors were all part of the team that placed fourth at state last year. Angeles earned a spot on the all-state team with a tournament average of 198, third best during the meet.

Hawkins said this year the team has the potential to win it all. McCardle concurred, noting the key will be which team makes its spares.

Coach’s Influence

Johnson credits Youngsman for his success, pointing to the more than $3,000 he has won in scholarship money in various tournaments.

“We also learned a lot of colorful phrases from him,” he added with a laugh.

“He kept us inspired,” McCardle said. “He helped make us better people, inside and out. He helped keep some of us in school through bowling.”

Hawkins was 8 years old when he first met Youngsman, and his coach helped improve his average from 60 to the 190s.

“I want to thank him for giving me an outlet,” he added.

McCardle summed up Jason Youngsman’s impact: “He can work miracles.”

Time to grab the ink gun.