Basketball player channels talents to counseling

Emily Muldering

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Courtesy of Wilsonhs.org

A 6’9” professional basketball player probably isn’t what comes to mind when you picture a high-school counselor. But the new 11th-grade counselor, Bobby Collins, is just that, and considers his previous basketball career a fundamental part of motivating students.  

Prior to his work in high schools, Collins studied sociology and criminal justice at LaSalle University. He then played professional basketball in Mexico for two years and Europe for three more. 

It was during his basketball career that he discovered his interest in counseling. While traveling in Europe with a teammate, Collins had the opportunity to visit Auschwitz and the Holocaust Museum. He learned the story of Viktor Frankl, an Auschwitz survivor who went on to become famous for his work as a neurologist and psychiatrist. Frankl developed the theory of logotherapy, the philosophy that as humans we are motivated to find our life’s purpose, an idea that he developed from his observations as a prisoner in concentration camps for three years. After this experience, Collins felt compelled to read Frankl’s book, “Man’s Search for Meaning.” Coupled with his love of working with students, Frankl inspired Collins to become a counselor. 

Collins went on to graduate school to earn an advanced degree in counseling, then became a counselor and later a dean of students in his home town of Brooklyn, New York. Thereafter, he became a counselor in Baltimore County Public Schools. After several years, Collins said, “I felt that my time there was [done], I did all that I could do and I wanted another challenge. So I wanted to work in DC.” 

Since starting at Wilson, he has been amazed by the school’s diversity. “I love the fact that [Wilson] is very diverse,” Collins said. “I grew up in Brooklyn, New York, and my school was not diverse at all.” He also has appreciated the aid of the counseling team and main office staff in helping him get used to Wilson. 

Collins has a unique thought process for motivating students, which he said stems from the resilience he built during his basketball career. “I feel like I am a great motivator. I think that comes from my sports background,” said Collins, who uses a strength-based approach that encourages students to see the positives in their academic career, instead of just how they’re struggling. 

So it’s frustrating for Collins when students feel intimidated to come to talk to him. “I am 6’9″ and I’m a pretty big guy, and I’ve heard some students that have come into the office and sat before me that were like ‘you know what? I didn’t know you were really this nice. You don’t seem approachable.’” In the future, Collins looks forward to helping students and forming relationships with them, but he expects students to do their part in advocating for themselves, too. 

Collins recognizes the incredible support he was offered by his high school and college counselors and hopes to have that effect on his students at Wilson. “The same energy that they gave me, I feel like I have to give to the students, because you guys are our future.”