Nordic Sports Winter Sports

Head Coach Feature: “The Heart of the Nordic Program”: Head Coach Keith Robinson ’94 Comes Full Circle

I.Bingham/The Phillipian

Head Coach Keith Robinson ’94 enjoys practicing outside, even with difficult weather conditions.

After injuring himself running Cross Country as a student at Andover, Head Coach Robinson ’94 joined the Nordic team as a low-impact way to cross-train. Robinson soon developed a love for the close-knit dynamic fostered by his Andover team. When he returned to Andover as a Teaching Fellow, he began coaching, and since then has tried to impart on his skiers the lifelong nature of Nordic as a sport.

Robinson said, “I love to introduce kids to a sport that is somewhat unique and is something they can do for their life… The other main goal I have is to just put kids in a situation where they can do the best they can, whatever that means for them. For some of them, it’s moving up into the top 10 in the league or top 5. For some of them, it’s making it through a race without falling on a downhill, and that will change from year to year for each of them as they get better. It’s really just to put them in a situation where they can succeed and to help them improve.”

According to Co-Captain Neil Thorley ’19, Robinson is the foundation of the Andover Nordic program.

Thorley said, “You can see that he’s really the heart of the Nordic program here. I’m not sure we could have what we have without him. The amount of grooming or helping us prep skis, getting us transport to races, which are usually hours away—he devotes a lot of time and energy to the team, and it really shows. We are incredibly grateful for the energy he puts in.”

According to Robinson, one of his favorite parts about the sport, both as a student and coach, has been the close-knit team dynamic.

“[When I skied at Andover,] I liked the team aspect of it. It was a small team – still is. It was co-ed. We spent a lot of time in a van together going to races and it was just a really cool team-spirit kind of deal because everybody was together the whole time,” said Robinson.

Robinson builds that same team rapport by making an effort to develop genuine relationships with the students on the team outside of the sport, according to Posie Millett ’20 and Co-Captain Eli Newell ’20.

“He’s a very caring person, and knowing that he genuinely cares about how I’m doing and how I can improve – even how things outside are affecting my performance – knowing that he actually cares about that motivates me to do better,” said Millett.

Newell said, “He’s really knowledgeable about what our lives look like outside of practice and racing, too, that can inform his decisions about our practice plan and make sure that we are preparing ourselves to race as best we can.”

As a coach, Robinson is specific and purposeful in his feedback helping new and veteran skiers alike to improve, according to Millett.

“Since it’s a pretty small team, he’s able to give individual focus to each person, which really helped me to improve in my first year… He will only make comments if he sees you doing something specifically wrong and they will always be something very specific that you can fix right away. He’s very technically focused. He works from the bottom-up, so he’ll make sure that your technique is down before you start working on speed and really make sure that you have a good base and foundation, before you start working up to getting faster,” said Millett.

According to Robinson, he tries to balance fun and work on the time by bringing his sense of humor to practice.

“I really like his sense of humor. He has a bunch of really good jokes up his sleeve. He is very witty, which is part of what makes practice so fun,” said Newell.

Although coaching an outdoor sport during the winter comes with difficulties, Robinson appreciates being able to spend time outside during a time when almost all other athletics are indoors.

“It is the mentality of being one of the only sports that’s outside in the winter. It’s twenty degrees and everyone is like, ‘Oh, it’s too cold to go outside,’ and I’m like, ‘Oh, put on your gloves and hats. We’re going outside’… There’s not a lot of snow out there, so it’s been a pretty crummy season weather-wise for us, but the team has had a good spirit the whole time,” said Robinson.

He added, “There’s no snow sometimes; what are you going to do about it? I just try to keep practice fun and light and keep people in a good mood. They will put in the work that they need to put in, and you trust that, and I think everybody comes out ahead that way. I much prefer chatting and joking around with the team, and hopefully they do, as well.”