Student, administrator, worker, counselor and friend. Many words come to mind when describing Tate McCollum, who is one of the most recognizable faces in the Ingomar community. From the hallways at school to any and every sporting event, McCollum is there shaking hands and hugging everyone he sees.
McCollum has been a facet at Ingomar sporting events for the last six years, most notably seen on the bench at basketball games with coaches Norris Ashley and Richard Byrd. When talking to both coaches and Ingomar principal Kenny Roberts, stories flood from the trio about the help and inspiration McCollum brings to the athletic program.
“We couldn’t do without him. He doesn’t get loud or anything, he just sits there and he helps you out with who has how many fouls and how many time outs we have left,” Ashley said.
“He’s a very positive influence on everyone, the players and kids. You can’t feel bad when you see Tate, and if you do, you’ll feel better once you see him,” Byrd added.
Ashley notes one story in particular that is often told by his son, Jonathan that involved a nine-year old McCollum running a junior high basketball scrimmage in Jonathan’s absence.
“Jonathan saw Matt Purvis, who was then a seventh grader, and asked him what they did in gym that day,” Ashley explained. “Matt told him, ‘Well we ran a scrimmage.’ Jonathan asked him why the did that, and Matt said ‘Cause Tate told us to.’”
And the coaches have rubbed off on McCollum over the years, as the 15-year old can be seen mimicking his mentors on the bench.
“Coach Ashley will put his hands behind his head and lean back. If something’s going bad, Tate’s going to be doing the same,” Roberts said. “He does a lot of things that Coach Ashley and Coach Byrd do, but he hasn’t thrown a clipboard yet.”
“That’s because we won’t give him one,” Ashley laughed, “but Coach Byrd is the only one that does that anyway.”
McCollum’s work is seen on more than just gameday, as he picks up absentees during school, along with helping in the school store.
“It’s real fun to me,” McCollum said. “Mr. Roberts has been really nice to me, and gave me this opportunity.”
Also an athlete himself, McCollum plays Top Notch T-Ball at the New Albany Sportsplex, but he is quick to say which sport is his favorite.
“What I love about Ingomar is basketball,” McCollum said. “I love sports. It’s just a lot of fun”
His love for the game runs so deep that McCollum was given the honor of presenting the Falcons with the Union County Championship trophy two weeks ago, a tribute that Roberts said was well deserving.
“I think that meant as much to the kids and the people in the stands as it meant to Tate,” Roberts said. “That’s just Tate. He’s our goodwill ambassador.”
McCollum has a few more years before graduating from Ingomar, but even then a spot is sure to be made for him, making him a permanent fixture in the school he loves. Ashley best described the atmosphere of the school with McCollum around.
“I think the personality of the school would be a little different if Tate weren’t here.”