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BBOWS History

The Baltimore Board of Women’s Sports wouldn’t exist without the vision of Brenda Gelston, who led the organization from its inception until her retirement, 36 years later, in 2006. The following history was compiled and presented at her retirement celebration on June 16, 2006:


Once upon a time, some 50 years ago, a certain Towson graduate had to take an umpiring class in order to get her degree in Physical Education.  Little did anyone know it was going to be one of the longest, caring, productive, service-oriented, whistle-blowing careers the Baltimore Area has ever known! Just as the Egyptian Pyramids were built one block at a time, so did the Baltimore Board grow one step at a time as this fair-minded individual began getting involved in the officiating/assigning without which very few organized sports can operate.


How did it come about? That's like asking how does a rose bloom. Many, many people, ideas, and hours contributed to the organization over its 36 years with an assigner in order to produce the well-respected and efficient operation it is today. Through it all, there was one caring individual who guided it all…Brenda Bradley Gelston! She was one of the driving forces who helped stimulate the growth of the Board and bring it to its present-day position.

B Gelston.jpg

Brenda Bradley Gelston won the Distinguished Service Award from the Maryland State Athletic Directors Association in 2006

How and When Did It All Start?

Looking back, there are some significant events that appear to have impacted this development. Back in the days when gym classes were required, women’s basketball had a mid-court line, and only boys played soccer, a young girl in Federalsburg (Caroline County), Maryland was soaking up the beauty of her life on her parent’s farm.  Horses, dairy cows, chickens, melons, tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers all figured prominently in the family’s life. Come harvest time it was “load the truck with straw, ride with the melons, and sell at auction.” From such a beginning was the basis of value sytem of Brenda Bradley Gelston shaped.


1959:  She set off for Towson State after graduating from Federalsburg HS.


1963:  Brenda Bradley listed as a graduate of the college with a B.S. degree in Physical Education, a requirement of which was taking Margo Ver Kruzen’s course in Officiating.


1963-1970: Marriage and Family. Brenda married Hugh E. Gelston (himself an alum and the long-time AD of Boys’ Latin School) and had 4 children.  Several years of teaching at Rodgers Forge ES, Hannah More Academy, and Villa Julie College (now Stevenson University) intermingle with child-rearing and ‘spot’ officiating in volleyball and basketball.


1960’s: The Baltimore Board of Women’s Officials has been in existence for some time and in 1970 is the oldest organization in the greater Baltimore area concerned with the procurement and training of officials. Through the years before an assigner was established in 1971, such people as Joanne Murray (long-time AD at RPCS), Jo Fiske (Goucher College), Anne McCloskey (Maryvale and then Loyola), and Flo Bell among others, served as Chair.  The Board is part of DGWS (Div of G&W Sports) which is a Division of AAHPER – American Association for Health, Physical Education, and Recreation.


1970:  Eva Scott, AD, and Breezy Bishop at Western HS and Joni Scholwin at Northern HS continue asking how to get officials. Most schools get their own officials through coaches and AD’s on a first-come, first-served basis.  Brenda Gelston starts helping AD’s to get officials for their games.


1971:  Baltimore Board of Officials takes on Brenda Gelston as a scheduling coordinator for VB, BB and SB.  The Board’s first handbook is printed.


1972-73:  Baltimore City, Baltimore County, Independent and Parochial schools come on board with having Brenda Gelston assigning their officials.


1974-75:  Advisory board established and meets three times annually and by 1979 includes a Junior College Rep (Carol Eustis), a Div. III Rep (Carol Fritz), and a Div. I Rep (Kathy Zerrlaut).  Mildred Murray represents Baltimore County.  The Board establishes policies and sets fees. Mildred Murray is instrumental in helping equalize fees for men’s and women’s sports officials.


Other important policies the Advisory Board developed included:

  • The need to meet standards.

  • Training and testing.

  • Officials had to go where assigned. They couldn’t pick and choose.

  • All athletes, in all areas, were to have quality officials.

  • Everyone needs to contribute in order for goals to be reached.

The Advisory Board continued until 1994.


1975-76:  Field Hockey and Lacrosse included in the Commissioner’s duties.


1976:  First male officials added.  Board changes name from Baltimore Board of Women’s Officials to Baltimore Board of Officials for Women’s Sports.


1979:  Commissioner of Maryland Intercollegiate Board of Officials (MIOWS) added to Brenda’s duties.


1980: Executive Committee formulated. Barb Day, Jan Welsh, Kathy Zerrlaut oversee Board business as Chairs through most of the 80’s.


1989-2006:  Brenda Gelston appointed Supervisor of Div. I College Officials Colonial Conference.


1988:  Kathy Campbell becomes Board Chair, starting her long-standing term up to President of BBOWS.


1990:  First meeting of the College Council for Women’s Athletics.


1991:  Board re-organizes its structure, Brenda assumes role as Executive Director. Assigning begins to be picked up by others.  First blue Handbook is assembled and distributed.


1993:  Annual meetings are started.  The first one was at what is now the Notre Dame University of Maryland. Over the years it was held at various locations including Essex CC, St. Timothy’s School, The Hilton, Loch Raven HS, Days Inn, Oregon Ridge, and Liberty Christian School.


2006:  Brenda Gelston retires as Executive Director.  Barbara Moore takes over as Executive Director.


2008:  Nan Hambrose takes over from Barbara as Executive Director.


2010:  Fran Trumbo assumes the role of Executive Director. Under Fran’s leadership, the Board increases its training and rating opportunities, updates the Handbook, removes certain annual fees, and increases membership.

2017:  Karen Scarlett becomes BBOWS President.

2019:  BBOWS announces Annual Fran Trumbo Achievement Award at the 2019 AGM

2021:  Brenda Bradley Gelston, driving force behind Baltimore Board of Officials for Women’s Sports, passed away.


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