Nordic Skiing Head Coach Keith Robinson ’96 Rebuilds Community after Covid-19 Hiatus

The main goal of Andover Nordic Skiing Head Coach Keith Robinson ’96 this season is to provide students with an opportunity to go outdoors and get active in a season that might otherwise see students locked up at home or in their dorms. Robinson says that one of his favorite aspects of Nordic Skiing is that it can be participated in throughout one’s entire life. He emphasizes that there are always things to learn for everyone, no matter their experience level.

“Learning how to do something that can become a life sport and something you can do for years afterwards is really rewarding.What I would say is, it is for each athlete to work towards their goals. So for some of the newer skiers, that may be handling a tricky course without falling over or [handling] a tricky course while trying to keep their technique in really good shape. For some of the more experienced skiers, it may be… finishing in the top 10 in the league, or in the top five of the league, and…putting in the work all through that leads to that,” said Robinson.

According to Tori Darling ’22, Robinson does not limit practice sessions to just regular skiing. Robinson finds fun ways to get exercise while still enjoying oneself.

“We switch up our practice routine quite a lot; we will sometimes play this game, speedball, which is a combination of soccer, and football. We… go on runs. He’s really good at teaching techniques. We’ve been practicing on snow, even though there has been none until recently. He found this little patch of snow, that we were able to run little laps on. He’s really creative in that sense. Because our team is mostly beginners, there’s a lot of things that he has to do this season that he hasn’t done before—he has to teach people how to put their skis on. He’s just really encouraging in that sense. He said if we finish, that’s something to be proud of. For each person, he’s really good at coming up with a goal for you or something to focus on, so it feels super encouraging,” said Darling.

Robinson says that something important to him and his coaching is creating an environment in which all of his athletes can succeed. He hopes that his athletes find it in themselves to be their own motivation throughout the race.

“I would say putting my athletes in a position to succeed, whatever that means for them. So at the end of the day, this is a sport where once they start, and they go off skiing into the woods, it really shouldn’t be my motivation. They really can’t have my motivation—I can’t follow them around the course yelling at them to go faster. So really, it’s putting everyone in a position to do the best they can and enabling them to do that,” said Robinson.

Co-Captain Hannah Justicz ’22 not only highlights Robinson’s helpful feedback, but also his stories from his time as a student and skier at Andover.

“[Robinson] is a really fun coach. He’s helped me a lot with power application, so like shifting your weight and that’s how you get power on skis. That’s something he’s really helped me a lot with—explosiveness and balance. He always gives us these different exercises where we’re standing on one foot or like jumping around. He’s also interesting because he nordic skied at Andover, so he’ll tell us stories from that, [and] is fun to [hear] his experience,” said Justicz.

With Covid-19 disrupting last year’s season and creating separations in the team, Robinson points out a separation in the team that it has been mending throughout this season. The addition of new students in the team makes this an especially important focus.

Robinson said, “Last year [was] essentially completely disrupted, and so now everybody that’s back is either brand new, or last season which was two years ago. So a lot of it has been sort of just trying to rebuild a little bit of the culture of the team. A little bit of the self-reliance of the athletes. The right motivations, the right efforts… I think that [has] been the main focus this year—it’s been a bit of a scramble in a way to bring so many new people online. It’s just different than yours when we’ve had a really returning heavy squad.”