Kate Robinson, The Maroon’s Female Co-Coach of the Year, almost didn’t come to UChicago. After helming the inaugural women’s lacrosse seasons at Whitman University, she hoped to avoid the stresses of beginning a program again, stating, “It’s hard to start a program—there are a lot of challenges, and it takes a lot of time and patience. So, after the last time, I said I was never doing it again.”
Fortunately for the UChicago athletics department, Robinson relented, pointing to the potential the University’s unique combination of academics, rich athletic history, and location provide. “I really enjoyed working at higher-academic, DIII institutions because of all the benefits that you see with the type of student-athletes that go there…. As far as UChicago itself, with the conference affiliation and our NCAA region, I could see us as a program being a powerhouse in the Midwest in the first few years of its existence. That was exciting to me and an exciting challenge to me,” she said.
In its first season, Robinson’s team certainly announced itself as a program to watch. The team went 15–3, including an undefeated record at home, and finished runner-up in the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin (CCIW), narrowly missing out on an NCAA berth. Throughout the season, the Maroons dominated their competition, averaging 16.44 goals per game compared to 8.17 goals against per game. Robinson coached three first-years to All-Region recognition, among them First Team midfielder Karina Schulze, who was also honored as CCIW Offensive Player of the Year and Newcomer of the Year. For her efforts, Robinson was named CCIW Co-Coach of the Year.
Despite the team’s lack of experience, Robinson’s philosophy centered on growth and learning fostered a team environment that encouraged collaboration and competitiveness. Taking the lessons she learned from her time at Whitman, Robinson understood that “this first year is just so important with bonding, connecting, and growing as an unit…. In this program, we did it exceptionally well, and it was reflected in our success in terms of wins and losses.”
A former multi-time All-American lacrosse player and basketball captain at the Catholic University of America, Robinson reflects on her own experience in order to guide her athletes. She understands what they’re going through and seeks to make their athletic involvement “as beneficial as possible.” She balances the desire to win and grow with the need to “love doing what we’re doing.”
“Before every game, I want us to have some fun. If we’re not having fun, then what’s the point?” Robinson explained.
Beyond the on-field accomplishments, it’s the relationship between players and coach that sets Robinson apart, in part due to her fun-loving attitude. Robinson describes her players as “goofy, extremely hard-working, passionate, coachable, extremely invested in all that they do” and repeatedly says “I love them.” To be around the lacrosse players is to hear them reciprocate these same sentiments. The players gush about Robinson, telling stories about how she supported them, helped them adjust, or simply made a funny joke in practice the other day, and repeatedly stress how much they love her. “She is honestly the best coach I’ve ever had,” said first-year attacker Lally Johnson.
With the entire starting lineup returning and another strong recruiting class entering, Robinson and the team have their sights set high for next year, hoping to replicate and improve upon the success from the past season. “We were very close to doing it this year, and winning the CCIW championship next year is number one on our goals. If we win that, we go to the NCAA tournament, and we’d love to see how we do there against some of the more established programs,” Robinson explained.
As for longer term goals, Robinson doesn’t shy away from lofty expectations: “I think any coach here would say that they want to win a national championship, and I think that we are equipped to do so at this school. I am excited for that future.”
Robinson believes that as long as her expectations and communication align with the team, “it will happen.” She sees the motivation and commitment in her athletes, and, with her combination of strategic knowledge, attitude, and personal experience, Robinson is the perfect coach to build and lead the lacrosse program to impressive heights.