BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - WAFB's Hand It On Team met with a Baton Rouge sports organization where the coach is grooming kids for a better tomorrow.
Wanda Thomas' 12-year old boy plays baseball for the Baton Rouge Bulls Association.
"My child needed the guidance of a male role model," explained Wanda, who is a single mother. "He needed that one person that could whisper in his ear to tell him that you never should quite, you know, to try your hardest."
Coach Ricky Collins, along with other community members, saw a need for some type of organization that would work with youth just like Wanda Thomas' young boy. So Coach Ricky with others formed the Baton Rouge Bulls Association.
"They maybe started with 30 little kids, and now we're up to maybe over a hundred kids," Wanda said.
However, Coach Ricky, as they call him, does not restrict his coaching to just Monday through Wednesday on the field. Nor does he restrict his coaching to simply baseball, basketball, or football.
Wanda Thomas explained that Coach Ricky doesn't "sugar coat" anything. He tells these young people the way of the world and in no uncertain terms either.
"He talks to them. He talks directly to them," Wanda explained. "He doesn't, you know, whisper or whatever. The talks with that authoritative voice."
He talks to them about life, values, and faith. Coach Ricky is instilling in these young people at an early age why self-respect is so important. Why they need that discipline in order to respect others and in order to stay off the streets and stay off of drugs. Coach Ricky is teaching them to respect authority, whether it is mom and dad, teachers, or law enforcement.
And the coach goes out of his way to recruit young people whose parents have not even contacted him yet.
"Coach Ricky takes his vehicle and goes through the neighborhoods just asking children if they want to play sports," Wanda explained. "He picks up about five to 10 children, d rops them off at the park and goes to get another load just to make sure everyone is at practice."
Coach Ricky's passion for the health and welfare of our community's youth is unstoppable. He always encourages them with their home environment, school, and sports. He feeds children after a hard practice using his own money. And he will keep children at his home, sometimes throughout a weekend, to insure they are able to get to practice.
The team's motto is "One Team, One Dream." Coach Ricky stresses that theme at every practice, game, and function.
There was no doubt when we read Wanda's account of Coach Ricky Collins, he was indeed a candidate for WAFB's Hand It On.
We met Wanda one afternoon at the practice field across from the BREC Rec Center on North Sherwood to surprise Coach Ricky with the Hand It On recognition.
"Hey Coach," Wanda called out as kids gathered around Coach Ricky. "I just wanted to tell you thank you for everything that you do for the boys. I mean, you let them spend the night; you take them out. You're on your time. You do whatever it takes to keep those kids out here. So I nominated you for Hand It On. So this is for you."
As Wanda finished, she handed Coach Ricky three crisp, new $100 bills!
"Well, I really appreciate that," said Coach Ricky, trying desperately to maintain his composure. "Again, I couldn't have done it, all this, without my coaches. They do a great job. I really appreciate it. This is all for the kids."
But the celebration was short-lived.
"Now c'mon everybody. Let's get back to work," the coach instructed.
The youth of our community are going to be alright thanks to Coach Ricky Collins and many, many others like him. We thank you too Coach Ricky.
To nominate someone for WAFB's Hand It On program, please send an e-mail to us at HandItOn@wafb.com. Make sure to include your contact information especially your phone number.