Head Coach Keith Robinson ’96: Building Community Through Optimism

Nordic Head Coach Keith Robinson (K-Rob) ’96 first began his nordic career at Andover as a student. He has since returned as a faculty member and has been leading the team for over two decades.

“I had done it recreationally in middle school but had never raced. Then, while I was a student at Andover, I got injured during the cross-country season, and the trainers recommended that I skip indoor track and do Nordic because it was lower impact. So, I got a pair of race skis and worked my way onto the racing team. That was the beginning of my competitive Nordic skiing experience,” wrote Robinson in an email to The Phillipian. 

Captain Sage Preston ’25 detailed Robinson’s unique coaching style. Through humor and feedback, Robinson creates a strong community within the team, according to Preston.

“He’s very humorous. K-Rob is very sarcastic, [and] very funny. He may make fun of you, but in a way that motivates you. He’s very organized when he needs to be. He’s really good at rallying the team, making sure everybody knows what’s going on, as well. [He] is a great instructor. He gives amazing tips, and it’s really easy to learn from him. I feel like his advice is always very considerate and constructive. I would say my favorite quality about him is that he is a really fun coach to have because of his kindness and humor,” said Preston.

Luke Williamson ’25 highlighted the inclusive nature of Robinson’s coaching style. Last year, as a newcomer to the team, Williamson received valuable tips from Robinson. 

Williamson said, “I wasn’t very good because Nordic is a technical sport, and I was starting out, and there were some really fast guys on the team, but I remember K-Rob would always help me individually. Even though he’s the Head Coach, he’ll usually go with the kids who are newer to the sport to help them more. I specifically remember one time on this patch of snow where he would always wait next to me and teach me how to skate. I really appreciated that and I think K-Rob’s a very personal guy.”

Robinson noted the importance of creating a support system within the team. He puts an emphasis more on progress, rather than winning. 

“I like the meditative nature of endurance sports and the feeling of accomplishment that comes with workouts or races. [Coach] Mika [Latva-Kokko] and I do my best to just keep the students working at getting better each day, be that fitness, technique, or results. At the end of the day I just want them to feel that they are improving and supported by their coaches and peers. I try to keep the pressure low and have a supportive atmosphere at races,” wrote Robinson

Preston noted specific pre-race rituals that Robinson carries out to create a supportive environment on the team. She mentioned how he uses his leadership to encourage the team on both good and bad days. 

Preston said, “K-Rob leads our team in many ways. He does a really good job of sitting down with everybody before races. On the bus rides, he will sit down with us and say, ‘What are your goals for this race?’ And everyone will individually respond and he will give each of us something to think about or aspire towards. As well, he is positive all of the time. If one of us is having a bad day and doesn’t want to do the workout, or if you’re dealing with something else, he’ll make jokes and make you smile and cheer up.”

According to Williamson, Robinson’s passion for teaching shines in his coaching. His dedication to both the sport and the betterment of the athletes is clear in his eagerness to share his knowledge. 

“He really looks for you to make the effort. And when you make the effort, then he really tries to teach you himself. He is definitely very passionate about the team and is willing to show some of his passion and competitiveness if you are open to learning new techniques and skills.  He’ll come to you, and you just gotta be open to it. I think he’s a great teacher. A teacher is really his role. He’s not too hard on you or anything; he’s just trying to teach,” said Williamson. 

Preston appreciated Robinson’s creativity when there was a lack of snow. His humor, positivity, and dedication to the team have created fun, yearly traditions that the whole team takes part in. 

Preston said, “He always likes to make sure we have fun in practice, so we have speedball games every Friday, which is like a handball-soccer-variant that we play when there’s no snow. For these games, he’s made some pretty interesting helmets in the past so we have a very fun tradition. He puts cones on his head and on his ears like a helmet because we do an awards ceremony at the end of the season. Essentially, the team gets to bestow the safest head award to K-Rob every year. I think his streak with the safest head award for the past three or so years is pretty admirable, and the fact that he’s committed to that every year is so fun.”

Robinson shared that his main goal is to help athletes embrace the exercise and nature aspects of nordic. With consistency and hard work, someone brand new to the sport can greatly improve, according to Robinson.

“My biggest goal is [to] get the members of the team exercising and enjoying being outside in the winter together as a group. This is a lifelong sport that you can participate in on many levels, and I hope that they embrace that. I also hope they learn that putting in work each day can take you from a raw beginner to a successful athlete in a sport if you keep at it,” wrote Robinson.