Berkshire Township resident Larry Mull, 68, has spent decades coaching and organizing youth sports. That lifetime of service to the community has earned him a spot as one of this year's 20 Jefferson Awards finalists.

Berkshire Township resident Larry Mull, 68, has spent decades coaching and organizing youth sports. That lifetime of service to the community has earned him a spot as one of this year's 20 Jefferson Awards finalists.

The awards "recognize individuals who do extraordinary things in their communities without expecting a reward," a press release said.

Mull was nominated by Scott Puderbaugh of Springfield. Mull coached Puderbaugh in the 1960s.

"Mull has been involved in Columbus youth sports for 50 years, serving as a coach and a program organizer," Puderbaugh said in a written statement. "He helped form North Columbus Sports in 1973, creating a safe and fun environment for kids to play baseball and softball. What started as an empty field on the city's northwest side is now a complex with seven baseball diamonds, concessions stands and support buildings, all built and maintained by volunteers. NCS is now a thriving organization serving almost one-thousand youngsters ages 5 to 18 and more than 60 teams."

Mull also has spent countless hours maintaining the fields and buildings, scheduling games, and running concessions, Puderbaugh said.

Though he stopped coaching in 2002, he remains active in the program and coordinates umpire training and scheduling.

"It's an honor (to be nominated)," Mull said. "You don't think that you deserve it in the sense that this is something you do anyway. It's volunteering, but it's also volunteering for the enjoyment of coaching and watching the kids grow. Getting better not only in the game but growing up.

"Sports is a great teacher," Mull said. "You can teach an awful lot with sports - how to accept losses and take wins, that life isn't always fair, and a whole lot of things. If you allow the youngsters to grow within that experience, they do."

The coaching advice he would give is "keep your cool. Stay off the umpires and don't yell at the kids. Treat them like they're somebody as you challenge them.

"You want to stay away from too much regimentation and you want to emphasize a dedication for personal excellence and a concern for other people, too," Mull said.

Mull said sometimes people think youths shouldn't be pressured in sports, but that's not true.

"Whether it's sports or other activities, you want to emphasize that you do the best you can do. Practice doesn't make perfect - perfect practice makes perfect. Dedicate, commit yourself to doing the best you can do," he said.

It's important for people to step up to coach, Mull said.

"It's much better if you could have one person who would remain to coach youngsters who is not part of a family, but you don't get that very often. Most the time, it's a parent who coaches the team and moves up with their youngster, coaching them all the way through to where middle and high school coaches take over."

Mull has volunteered for many other youth sports, including the Clintonville Boys Association and St. Timothy's Catholic Church.

"(Mull's) positive influence lives through generations of kids," Puderbaugh said. "Tireless and selfless in his service, never seeking attention, always wanting others to receive the recognition. He is an unsung hero, and truly deserving of the award."

WBNS-10TV received 195 Jefferson Awards nominations, director of community affairs Angela Pace said.

The top five winners will be announced at a ceremony Thursday, April 5. The award winners will be featured on the 2012 Jefferson Awards special that will air on 10TV at 7 p.m. Saturday, April 28.