Robertson’s idea turns into a fruitful one

Published 11:59 pm Friday, July 24, 2009

It takes a person with vision to help kids become valuable members of their community.

What kind of a person am I talking about?

Well, he’s a well-known local basketball coach that has dedicated more than four decades of his life to enriching athletes with a good balance of hard work, discipline and inspiration.

Andalusia coach Richard Robertson spends his summer, when he isn’t teaching or coaching, supervising the Will Coleman Center.

“It’s not a day care by any stretch of the imagination,” Robertson said. “It’s a way of keeping students occupied and, at the same time, trying to instill in them that they’ve got to do their school work, and work on their character and behavior.

“We’ve had some real good success with this program,” he said. “We’ve had some good kids come through over the past 40-plus years. The thing about this program is that you’ve got to be trouble free to participate.”

That may seem harsh, but that’s the way it’s been done for the past 42 years at the Coleman Center.

It would have been easy for Robertson to run the program and focus just on sports and athletic activities, but he realized that the program can also teach young kids to read, draw, write and interact with others.

That’s what differentiates this program. It takes sports and applies its themes to enrich kids lives for the better.

The program started in 1966 at Woodson High School and, after many years of growth, it moved to the present location, down the road from Andalusia Middle School.

Robertson said one thing that makes the program so unique is the fact that he didn’t have something like this when he grew up.

“We didn’t have places like this to come and play,” he said. “That was when I realized that this is what I needed to do.”

And that he did.

In 1972, the city of Andalusia’s department of leisure services took the Coleman Center under its wing to keep the program running.

The successes outweigh the costs, in my opinion.

Robertson said that in addition to NBA superstar Robert Horry, AHS principal Dr. Daniel Shakespeare and Brett Smith have also worked at the center.

So, from that small idea Robertson had, a flourishing community center has been built to cater to those kids whose lives will never be the same after going through the program.

The Coleman Center’s doors have been shut for the summer, but its legacy will live on through those it has helped the most.