Christian school coach and AD steps down after 15 years, calls it a “God thing”
By John Herndon, 110forChrist.com
LAWRENCEBURG, Ky. — It usually comes down to a love of the game when working in the athletic department of any school.
When it’s a small, Christian school it becomes a love of the game and love of the Lord.
It was that way for 15 years for Cory Robinson, who stepped down as athletic director at the Christian Academy of Lawrenceburg on Nov. 30. Possessing a quiet, unassuming personality, Robinson had become a beloved figure at CAL and could have continued in his role as long as he wanted.
Instead, he just saw it as time to move on to another adventure. “I knew back in August (that his tenure would soon end),” Robinson says. “My prayer was God would let me know when it was time. My plan was to stay through the year, but God made it clear to me. It’s a God thing.”
Robinson was honored for his service at a recent CAL basketball game as the Rams remembered a tenure that began as an assistant basketball coach and ended at the reins of a successful program competing in the Kentucky Christian Schools Athletic Association.
It’s been quite a journey for someone who never played organized sports while in school. “I grew up on a dairy farm. There wasn’t any time for sports,” laughs Robinson, who graduated from Mercer County High School.
But he’d stayed active in pickup games around Harrodsburg and Lawrenceburg and it was after one of those games that former Christian Academy coach Billy Waldridge approached Robinson about joining the Rams’ coaching staff. Robinson gladly accepted.
It began a journey that included eight years as CAL’s boys’ basketball head coach. In that time, the Rams won two KCSAA titles and advanced to the championship game of the National Association for Christian Athletes tournament in Dayton, Tenn. Robinson says that 2016 tournament is probably the most memorable moment of his time at CAL.
“I remember they put us in a play-in game,” says Robinson, who had been a CAL assistant when the Rams lost in the 2008 NACA Division 5 final on a last-second shot. “We won that game, so they put us in Division 4. We won three games but lost in the championship game. They were teams from all over the U.S. They were really good teams. The second team we beat, I still don’t know how we did it.”
In the final, CAL fell to Faith Christian School, of Roanoke, Va., a team led by 7-footer Brendan Newton, now at Liberty University.
Like anyone who has ever devoted a major chunk of his life to high school sports, private or public school, it was about much more than wins and losses to Robinson. He says he loved “the atmosphere, the kids and the challenge of building programs.”
When he took the reins of the CAL boys’ basketball program, the Rams had already established themselves as one of the KCSAA’s better programs. But in a league that has long allowed homeschooled kids play for a school team, there’s major roster fluctuations. Kids sometimes change schools because of tuition. It’s never easy keeping any momentum going.
And the job got harder when Robinson added the title of athletic director, doing double duty until the 2017-18 basketball season. “When I was just coaching basketball, I only had to worry about that, but when I was athletic director, I had to focus on basketball, volleyball, soccer, all the sports.”
There were triumphs and improvements to the various programs, highlighted by a new weight room located in an old locker room of the building that housed the Lawrenceburg High and Anderson High teams until 1967. While cleaning the area, Robinson and his helpers ran across graffiti written by some local legends.
The basketball team made a trip to Indianapolis where it played a game in Bankers Life Fieldhouse prior to an Indiana Pacers game.
Robinson also chuckles when he says, “We replaced the backboards last year. They were OLD!”
And even with the demands of a full time job, Robinson grins that he had “a full-time part-time job.”
It was a labor of love as the Rams often played to small, but boisterous crowds.
“The biggest difference (between private and public schools) is that you have a lot more kids in the public schools,” he says.
Some Christian schools, like CAL, have strict rules on when teams can practice or play. CAL, for example, does not allow extra-curriculars on Wednesdays, a night when many churches traditionally meet.
It’s really not a major issue compared to some programs, thought. When asked about the struggles of Christian schools in general, Robinson noted, “Just finding facilities to play the games. We are fortunate to have a facility here at the school. A lot of schools don’t have gyms.”
But he said CAL was not immune to another struggle. “It’s keeping coaches,” Robinson said. “A lot of coaches are parents who volunteer. Volunteers have to wonder at times if it is worth it. I coached a long time for free. I knew what it would be like.
“I would be willing to bet that 80-90 percent of the coaches in the (KCSAA) Christian schools are volunteers.”
But there are major advantages to schools like CAL, Robinson says. “You have smaller classes but the biggest thing is they actually teach the Bible. The atmosphere is great and Christ is the center.”
It’s been a game changer in Cory Robinson’s life and even as he leaves CAL for some yet-to-be-specified area of service. He’s a member of the praise band at Ninevah Christian Church, playing both his acoustic and bass guitars.
“It’s a God-thing,” he says several times about his departure from CAL. “My wife was the preschool director at CAL, but she left this year and now works in Frankfort. I just knew it was time.”
That should not be interpreted as any kind of rift. Robinson says he will still attend some CAL games but will also enjoy watching the Kentucky Wildcats, something he did not get to do often as coach. “People always asked, ‘Do you always schedule games when UK is playing,?” he laughed.
He insists that was usually coincidence, but the impact Christian Academy of Lawrenceburg made on Cory Robinson and his family have been enormous.
“It’s kind of cool that my son, Matthew, started school at the ECC,” Robinson says of the Anderson County Early Childhood Center, which was housed in the current CAL building for more than a decade.
“He transferred to CAL in the sixth grade. Then CAL bought the building and he graduated from high school in the same building he started out in. That was pretty cool.”
And there’s little doubt that in his time working with Christian Academy of Lawrenceburg, Cory Robinson has touched many people.
At the ceremony honoring Robinson’s service, CAL played a tribute video chronicling Robinson’s service. “One of the kids was saying stuff about me, but it’s not about me. It’s about the kids.
“These kids mean something to me. I have no regrets. None at all.”