It began with mentoring student athletes in the 1970s as a 26-year-old teacher at Delta Secondary School (DSS) and it fittingly ends with a ball field at UBC being named after him. Gord Collings’ remarkable involvement in youth and amateur sports has come to an end.
The 72-year-old Tsawwassen resident made it official earlier this summer when he announced his resignation as head coach of the UBC Thunderbirds women’s softball team, concluding a near decade long run. The program has since announced Jennifer McKellar as his replacement.
It was just over a year ago, the Thunderbirds relocated from Softball City in South Surrey to play on the Point Grey campus at a renovated Nobel Field that was renamed Gord Collings Field to honour the man that has poured years of his life into the team and the sport. The project was made possible with support from the university, the Collings Stevens Family Foundation and a fundraising campaign spearheaded by volunteers from the softball community.
He will be back at the park next spring, except this time in the bleachers.
“I will be there,” Collings assured. “I mean the players that are there are still mine. I recruited them and they’re still special to me, especially my seniors are very dear to me. I would like to see them play as much as I can.”
His departure from the game meant for the first time since he was in kindergarten, he had no September commitments.
Even when he retired as an administrator from the Delta School District, he immediately agreed to become the first-ever head coach at Douglas College where he got the chance to continue to work with some players that came through the Delta Heat rep program with him.
His initial plan was to spend more time with his family, especially his two eldest daughters whom now live back east. However, a health setback means he won’t be flying anytime soon.
“I’m awaiting an operation on my back. I have a herniated disc that is pressing on my sciatic nerve so I get pain down my leg and through my hip daily,” said Collings. “For the whole summer I have been laid up. I don’t get out very much.
“But it was just time to be starting to focus on my family more. Both my daughters (back east) have health issues and I was going to be spending time with them and ironically the tables have somewhat turned. I just can’t be in an airplane seat for five hours right now.”
Known for his work in softball, Collings also spent many years coaching high school sports, including an extended stint at DSS. The UBC graduate began his teaching career at the same time as Jim Lawrence and both would make a significant impact as PE teachers at the Ladner school.
“That was my very first teaching job in 1976 and at that time it was a very special school,” he recalled. “It was a real farming and fishing town then and there was really nothing east of Highway (17A) in those days.”
Collings stepped away for a year to obtain his Master’s of Education degree at UBC in 1985 then continued on at Seaquam Secondary before moving onto administration roles in the district. That included twice coming through South Delta Secondary, initially as a vice-principal than as a principal, the latter in time to watch daughters Jessie and Lindsay graduate.
He concluded his career as principal at Seaquam. His youngest daughter Paige graduated from SDSS in 2008. Ironically, she is now teaching at DSS.
In total, Collings had been coaching for 45 years.
“Family is number one and I'll get to spend more time with my wife and daughters and grandkids, having the opportunity to help them out and watching the kids grow and all that will be huge,” he added.