Side with Gaston Collins in this one

Indeed, my blog has been neglected for the better part of three months since I left The Sanford Herald as sports editor and moved on to a media relations position with Fayetteville State University athletics. Sorry about that. It is my hope to keep it updated when I feel it is necessary.

And after seeing Sunday’s article in The Herald regarding Gaston Collins, now it is necessary.

I don’t have any problem with the story, the fact that it was written or the balance of it, etc. Good story, and well done by Alexa Milan. All the bases were covered (I’ll get to that in a minute).

And when a parent comes forth with an accusation or a problem, working those concerns into a balanced article is what good reporters do. Done and done. No problem.

It’s just that I’ve been burned by one of the sources in the story in the past, so I happen to be a little leery.

But it’s more than that.

A lot more.

Because Gaston Collins doesn’t deserve this.

The crux of the story is that Collins, the Southern Lee basketball coach, has been requiring his players to attend church services on Sundays as a team, and if they did not do this, there would be repercussions. And honestly, if that were indeed the case, I think I would have a problem with that as well.

But I don’t have a problem with what Coach Collins is doing. And it’s because I’ve literally heard Collins speak to his team following a practice about this proposed team-building exercise. And the actual quote I remember is, “This is not required, but requested.”

Now, granted, maybe I dropped the ball on a potential story when I heard Collins say this and bring up the idea with his team. I do remember being taken aback by it, because it was something I had not heard of a coach doing. And on their surface, perhaps Collins’ words could be construed to imply potential repercussions if players didn’t consent to attending church.

That’s until you consider the source, which is important in this matter — on a couple of levels.

Go ahead, find someone else who would disparage Gaston Collins in any way. Go ahead and try. Speak to former coaches at Southern Lee. I’ve spoken to three of them in the last two days — coaches who have left the area and would face no repercussion for any sort of statements. Go ahead and see if any of them have any problems with Gaston Collins.

They don’t. They won’t. And it’s because of the widespread respect they each have for Collins not as a teacher, or a basketball coach — but as a man.

Personally, I wish I was half the man and person Gaston Collins is. And so is just about everybody else who has met him or dealt with him for any significant time. Knowing what I knew about Collins as a person, I knew that his words — “not required, but requested” — simply meant what they mean. That’s why I didn’t have a story when I heard them. Gaston Collins, lie? Not on your life. As for futher background, consider how much more community service Southern Lee basketball does compared to any other team in the Lee County area.

A couple more things: I am thrilled that Lee County Schools Superintendent Jeff Moss commented to The Herald about this matter. Considering how rarely LCS comments on  potential controversies surrounding varsity athletics, this should tell you everything you need to know. Also, kudos to LCS for allowing Collins to defend himself and comment in the story. This is clearly not always the case, either.

Clearly, Collins should face no sanction against these accusations. Let him continue to teach and coach kids in Lee County. He’s one of the best role models our area has.

And if someone can’t see that, then he must have an agenda of his own.

It wouldn’t be the first time.

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Filed under Alex Podlogar, Prep sports, Southern Lee High School, The Sanford Herald

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