Community Center falls under fire

Published 8:16 am Wednesday, April 24, 2013

GATESVILLE – Cynthia Boone Pollack is not pleased with the way she feels her son, as well as other local young athletes, was treated by the staff at the Gates County Community Center.

Pollack has addressed her concerns with county leaders, but, to date, said she has not been contacted in return.

Pollack said the situation involving her son and the Community Center unfolded on President’s Day, Feb 18, of this year. It was then that the Gates County High School basketball team was scheduled to have practice at 3 p.m. at the Community Center. Pollack said her son and his cousin arrived at the Center at 1:45 p.m. and attempted to enter.

“They were stopped by (a Center official) and were told that they could not enter the facilities,” Pollack said. “When my son asked why he was told that he did not have permission. He then went on to say that there were a few other student basketball players in the gym already and asked why do they get to stay in? (Center official) answered with ‘because they called in for approval’.”

Pollack said her son called her at work (she is employed in Facilities Management at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, VA) at around 2 p.m. to tell her what had happened.

“I asked him where were they at now and he said just standing outside in front of the community center; needless to say I was very upset,” Pollack said. “I told my son and his cousin to find a coach. They were able to contact Mr. Mitchell, the varsity basketball coach. He was at the high school and told my son and his cousin to come over to the school with him. I later found a number to the Center and called. I spoke with (a Center official), asking them to explain to me why these boys could not enter the Center.” Pollack alleged that the conversation went as follows:

(Center official) “One, you should not be dropping your child off to the Center.”

Me – “I did not drop them off, they caught a ride because they have practice today and that was the only ride they could find in order to get to practice.”

(Center official) “It’s not time for practice.”

Me – “I know, but they are teenagers and can’t drive out there, so they got out there the best way they could. Also, my son said that other boys were in the gym so why not let Dan and Josh in?”

(Center official) “The other boys called and asked for approval.”

Me – “Well, I went online to search the site for rules about that and I didn’t see anything stating a person must call to get approval to come out there to play in the gym.”

(Center official) “That’s because it’s not up there (online).”

Me – “Then how is a person supposed to know to call and get approval first?”

(Center official) “If you call out here we will let you know.”

Me – “Why in the world would I or my son know to call out here to ask if they can get approval to come out here to play? What kind of crazy mess is that? You are making up stupid rules as you go along. These are not boys out there causing trouble or being disruptive. They are student athletes who are just trying to practice. This is not the first time this has happened to my son and his cousin, but it will be the last time. Established rules need to be set for this facility and stop making up rules as you go. I am about to slap you all with a lawsuit and you will have to prove that you are not being prejudice by allowing certain individuals in and keeping others out.”

Pollack said this is not the first time these boys were turned away. She stated that during the Spring of 2012 after a baseball practice, a handful of boys walked over to the Center to play basketball outside while waiting for a ride home. A staff member came out and removed the rims from the outside courts without saying anything to the boys. She further alleged that as the boys tried to enter the Center, a Center official locked the doors in their faces and walked away.

“When I called to question her, she told me that they can’t be loitering there,” Pollack recalled. “I asked how does a person loiter at a community center…it’s for the community.

“After several phone calls, conversations and about four or five days later, someone from the school board called me to say that the rims were removed because tennis practice was being held outside as well,” Pollack added. “With all the phone calls to (Center officials) and board members, tennis was never mentioned. I guess it took those four or five days to come up with a reason that would sound half way reasonable.”

Pollack continued, “As I stated before, these are not boys who are out there causing trouble or being disruptive. They are not gang-banging, using drugs or being a menace. These are student athletes. These boys have being participating in sports since the age of 5 or 6.  These are student athletes who get up extra early in the mornings to catch rides out to the school for training and weightlifting from 6:30 to 7:30, then shower and get ready for school. Then after school, it’s back to training and practice so when they hit the football field, the baseball field, the basketball courts or whichever field they are the best they can possible be.”

Pollack said the dedication of these student athletes, such as her son, is so deep entrenched in their daily lives that even on days the school is closed for teacher workdays or holidays they are calling their aunts, uncles, cousins and neighbors trying to find a way to get to practice.

“These are student athletes who work hard on the field, on the courts and in the classrooms to maintain academics as well athleticism,” Pollack stressed. “These are student athletics who, despite budget cuts to education and school athletics, participate in fund raisers for the athletic department. These are the same student athletes who with all of their desires, determination and training are still falling short and losing to students in the surrounding counties. And these are student athletics who deserve more from GatesCounty than disrespect and doors shut in their faces.”

Pollack said she realizes that Gates County does not have the financial resources as other surrounding counties, but that is precisely the reason why the little resources the county does have (like the Community Center) should be used to assist student athletics in every way possible.

Pollack said she has given county leaders a list of suggestions to try and rectify the problems that are happening in the community center. Included on that list are:

1. A governance board needs to be established to properly govern the Center;

2. A Mission/Vision Statement along with goals for the Center;

3. Established rules to be posted in the facility as well as the web site; and

4. Student athletes should be allowed to use the center after school hours, teacher’s workdays as well as holidays to maintain their physical/athletic abilities.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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