Nick Rankins coaching teens on the field and in communities

Published 2:59 pm Thursday, February 23, 2023

Nick Rankins, Lowndes County Schools athletic director and founder of the non-profit organization Young Men on a Mission, cares about the young people in Lowndes County. On the athletic field, in the classroom, and out in the community, Rankins works to make a difference in their lives.

The coach and educator is passionate about making a difference, born out of his own youthful mistakes. After disciplinary issues caused him to leave Concordia College, Rankins said he came to a point where he knew things needed to change, and he resolved to make a fresh start toward changing lives.

“In college, I felt like rules were made to be broken,” Rankins said. “I wasn’t the student I needed to be, and they asked me to leave. It’s what I needed. It opened my eyes. I moved in with my sister [Andrea Fox], who told me I had two choices — go into the world and go to jail or be dead, or move in with her.”

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Rankins said the wake-up call changed his life. He left the “club life” behind to gain bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education from Alabama State and a master’s in Administration and Online Teaching and Learning from Auburn University at Montgomery.

Rankins began his educational career as a physical education teacher and later coach at Lowndes Middle School. Along the way, he opened the non-profit organization Young Men on a Mission to help young men from Lowndes and Montgomery counties overcome life-challenging circumstances while mentoring and modeling leadership to one another.

The non-profit operates The Historic Nixon/Times Community Garden on Emmerson Street in Montgomery, providing fresh produce and eggs to senior citizens in the inner-city neighborhood. Participants experience restaurants, attractions, and organizations within and outside Alabama to give them a taste of opportunities they may not be aware of.

The Calhoun School senior Jamarrian Wilson participates in Young Men on a Mission. He has known Rankins for several years, meeting the coach first as his physical education teacher at Lowndes Middle School.

“As I got to know him and talked with him, I realized he sees the community,” Wilson said. “He always wants to help out in the community. So when he said, ‘Do you want to go clean up at the park?’ We said, ‘Okay, let’s go clean. Let’s go pick up trash. Let’s go talk to the older people.’”

Wilson recalled how Rankins taught him and other young people how to improve their communities. But Rankins also gives them glimpses of a wider world along the way.

“He showed us outside communities and how they treated their stuff,” Wilson said. “We looked back on how our community was, and it wasn’t as great. So, he basically showed us how it can actually be better and how we should move through our community.”

Wilson added that Rankins is like a father to young men in the program, providing love and guidance while reinforcing discipline.

“He’s like a stoic but caring father,” Wilson said. “He cares about everyone in the school and tries to make sure everyone is on the right track. But at the same time, he also has to enforce rules. That’s his job. He doesn’t just say, ‘You messed up. You’ve got to fix this.’ He talks to us and makes sure we’re okay and that we have what we need.”

As the county school’s athletic director, Rankins serves children and youths at all the system schools, promotes athletic achievements, and organizes intramural programs within and outside the system.

“My overall goal is to make a difference,” Rankins said. “Even in the community, we can work together to make a difference. The goal is to bring people together and build community relationships.

For information about Young Men on a Mission, contact Rankins at youngmenonamission1@gmail.com or check out their page on Facebook.