ORADELL, N.J. — There was a time when Bergen Catholic senior lacrosse player Billy McKee had nothing left to give come the final period of a game.
The first few minutes alone wiped him out, and he wondered how he'd make it until the end.
These days, McKee leaves everything he has on the turf until the clock runs out, and for that he credits the Bergen Catholic lacrosse team's strength and conditioning coach, Richard Robinson.
And, McKee said, it's not just his endurance that's spiked.
"He's given us confidence on the field," the athlete said of Robinson. "That comes from the weight room — achieving goals in there so we can dominate to completion on the field."
Robinson of Wayne has been showing the Crusaders a new way to train ever since he came on board three years ago.
"Playing the sport is the easy part. The hard part is the preparation," said the coach, who runs a lacrosse training facility in Ramsey and Ridgewood.
And it seems to be working. The Crusaders were state champions at the end of Robinson's first season in 2015. The following year they lost to Delbarton in the final game at states.
But it's not just a trophy the coach is after. He wants to see his athletes become better people overall.
"It's a fantastic feeling to help someone go beyond what they thought they could be, to reach their goals and aspirations," said Robinson, a former Villanova decathlete.
"Whatever I've learned, I show the kids. And I expect that when they become coaches, they give back the same exact way."
Robinson spent the decade following his college graduation working for Merrill Lynch. He played on the side for the Windy City Lacrosse Club, but something was missing.
So Robinson left his job and headed to Greenwich, Connecticut, to help his cousin run Greenwich Youth Lacrosse. Soon after, he headed back to New Jersey to start a program of his own, World Class Training.
Robinson tries to mix things up to keep their athletes and their bodies guessing.
One day, they'll train triceps and biceps. The next, they'll do suicide sprints up and down the field. He teaches them proper form on a deadlift, and how to control their breathing.
Robinson's athletes say they've seen a spike in their strength and endurance, along with a sense of camaraderie that comes with the physical struggle of pumping iron and pushing themselves harder and harder.
"He's done a very good job conditioning us," McKee said. "He also makes sure everyone realizes that we are all on the same level — whether you're a star player or someone who gives out waters."
It's clear Robinson has as much admiration for his players as they do for him.
"They're the most outstanding leaders and individuals I've ever met," Robinson said.
"They have a brotherhood. Every kid watches out for the next. The camaraderie is the best thing about this school."
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