Coach Robinson, can you give us a brief biography and timeline before you became the distance coach at LSU?
After competing professionally for 15 years, I started coaching at Louisville High School in Los Angeles (2010). It is an All-Girls Catholic private school. Then I moved on to coach at UNLV (University of Nevada, Las Vegas) for about 2 seasons (2010-2012). From there I worked at The Ohio State University for 1 year (2012-2013), and now I am at LSU. I DID NOT EXPECT TO MOVE AT ANY POINT AS I LOVED EVERYWHERE I HAVE LIVED. Life happens... We make plans and GOD laughs.
What factors led you to come to Louisiana to coach?
I am originally from Fort Worth, Texas. After graduating from college in 1998 I moved to California. So, I had been away from home for a long time. This move allowed me and my wife to move closer to home. Additionally, LSU is one of the premier track and field programs for both men and women for some time, so that played a part in my decision.
There are 2 decisive moments in a persons life.
1. The moment you were born.
2. The moment you realize why you were born.
I was born to help, motivate, and inspire others. What better way to do than than track and field and at LSU!
You took over the team late in the summer. How did the athletes respond and how big of a learning curve was it for the team to begin a new system just weeks before racing began?
Yes, it was a big challenge as I have a pretty unique philosophy and training program. I expect a good amount from the student athletes both Academically and Athletically. I hold every athlete accountable no matter if they are a walk on or a full scholarship athlete. I absolutely do not play favorites and I challenge the athletes to truly believe in themselves and their group. It took them a while to respond and it is/was a huge learning curve for them. Yet, they all have run personal bests in something this year.
You've already solidified some great recruits for next year and the future looks bright. What do you tell recruits that LSU can offer them, and what sticks out about LSU that future prospects should consider?
First of all, I absolutely enjoy coaching Cross Country and the distances. I have coached everything and have had some relative success in the 400, 400 hurdles, 800, 1500, 5k, and 10k. Firstly, I want the athletes to know that we fully expect to become a better cross country and distance group. Secondly, LSU has everything we need to be successful. We have everything we need as it relates to budget, facilities, schedule, school support, coaches, resources and we have all the pieces in place. Thirdly, I think that I can build a foundation starting with the local and state talent. If LSU could start to get the local and state talent to come here, then the foundation will be set and then we could fill in the pieces with the national talent. The bottom line is that LSU is starting to position itself to become a better distance program, yet we need the support of the coaches, parents, and the state.
Many high school runners feel they "aren't good enough" to run in college. What advice would you give to those borderline runners who haven't made up their mind on whether to pursue running at the next level?
Well, I was a 1:53 runner in the 800 meters. In Texas, that is not considered that fast. I did not get a full scholarship. So, I had to go the loans and grant and all of that route also. I really did not take any truly official visits to colleges for sports. In other words, I think I was one of those borderline runners. But, I am not afraid of hard work. I am a competitor, I know Hard work beats Talent, when Talent don’t work hard. So, I tell all of those runners, if you have a goal, a dream that GOD put in your heart, then go for it. You never know. You may be a late bloomer. Some kids go through puberty and are developed in high school and others do not develop or develop until after they start college. I went from 5 ft 11 inches and 153 pounds my senior year in High school to 6 ft 1 inch my freshman year in college. I was a different physical person. Stay with it. Believe in yourself.
There are as many different high school training programs as there are teams. How do you mold athletes who come from dissimilar training backgrounds into your program?
I have a unique program that has worked everywhere I have been. I have coached and worked with kids that were 4 and 5 years old with the Youth Track and Running Club I Co-founded in Santa Monica California. Yet, I have also worked and coached Masters runners and my program has worked with all of them. My program is based on a system that develops each individuals athletes own unique strengths and weaknesses. That part is what I am pretty strong at because I have lived and worked in so many different environments and most of the athletes I worked with were not considered to be the top or best athletes but they ended up performing pretty well.
For various reasons LSU has not been a strong distance program since the 80s. Many runners who focused on events above the 800 left the state for college. How are you changing that culture?
It’s a challenge. That has been a big challenge because a lot of the talent that leaves sometimes leaves for schools that are not really that much better than us. So, if they all stayed then those schools would not be better than us and your family would be able to watch you compete more often. You would have more support. You would be part of a tradition and you can build your own tradition. Plus, you would be a Tiger…FOR LIFE! Firstly, I am letting those athletes and coaches know that we want them here at LSU. Will it be easy? No. But it’s not easy wherever they go. Secondly, I let them know that we can be successful here. Thirdly, I am recruiting all of them. If they did not get an e-mail, call, or letter then I probably do not have their address or it got mixed up. I have started by actively recruiting all of the local and state talent.
If you could name one aspect of your program that makes it unique from others, which would it be?
I am a big believer in Core and Stability. I have a core DVD that I have made so it is important that I teach the athletes the basics. So, the one aspect that is unique is that I am a big believer in overall basic body, core, and structural balance and strength. If you can maintain proper form and running position then you will run more efficient and run better and faster. Just go study everything Alberto Salazar has been saying about all of his great athletes. What does he see as the difference. Biomechanics and running form. Everyone is training hard!
There were several big performances recently at the Auburn Invite for your team, including Blair Henderson running 1:50.82, Andi Aguilar running 4:56.83 and Morgan Schuetz running 2:11.33. What was the demeanor of the team after such a big competition?
Everyone was excited because literally everyone ran personal bests! They all have been running personal bests in Cross Country and track. The team is started to really believe and buy in. You have to be ALL IN. It is said that 1% doubt= 0% Faith. You have to be all in and believe. Things will be up and down…That’s called LIFE. We must learn to deal with both the ups and the downs. Now, they are seeing what they are capable of doing if they put the proper work in.
Can you give us a glimpse of how you progress your athletes from cross country to track?
My main focus is the big meets. All of the other meets are meets that we use for preparation. Cross Country is used not only to run well for the Cross Country season, but it is base for the Track season. I want my athletes to have 3 relative good seasons. Not a great Cross Country and then disappear for indoor and outdoor track. I want them to run well for all 3 seasons. In order to do that you have to learn to prioritize which races and what training is important. Unless you have a big time star or someone that run really fast out of high school, then you have to do some form of periodization or Meso/Micro/Macro scheduling.
I know you mentioned at the coaches convention about wanting to host a distance camp in the future at LSU. Can you talk about that and any other programs you would like to install?
Yes, I think it is important to have a distance camp and also get all the high school coaches involved in the success of distance running at LSU and the track and field/distance running in the state. You cannot tell me that you have all of these amazing runners in Texas and then you cross the state line and the runners become slow. NO. It’s just an imaginary line. There has to be more talent here in Louisiana. We have to work together in recognizing and nurturing that talent. Then, helping me keep that talent in state. That is the only way I will be successful here at LSU, with the help of coaches and parents. I want to have a distance camp. I want to have a running/training group for kids that may not be quite there yet, but in 2 years may have developed enough to walk on to the team. I want to be able to come and build a distance tradition that will compliment the sprint tradition that LSU already has. So, if you coaches have any ideas or want to help me with this goal, I will be all ears.