Two decades and some change, or more precisely, 22 years.
That’s how long Maryclaire Robinson was at the helm of the UC Davis women’s soccer program, before announcing Nov. 26 that she would step down. One can imagine — given the longevity of her role as a mentor, and the sport’s camaraderie — it’s a difficult departure.
“The highlight of my day has been interacting with the team during our training sessions,” she said. “Watching players push themselves and others to become better people in all sorts of ways — that’s the part I’ll miss.”
Robinson just this year reached an impressive benchmark at UCD: her 200th career victory. She now holds the title of having the most wins of any Aggie women’s soccer coach (201), an accomplishment bolstered by her helping UCD make the daunting leap from Division II to D-I a decade ago.
Despite that, Robinson announced she wouldn’t be returning as head coach for the Aggies. She cited differences with the direction of the UCD athletics department, and said she felt as though what she had to offer wasn’t valued.
While there is a national search on for her replacement, Robinson said: “They’ll be very fortunate, because we have a great group of players who are very committed.”
Robinson came aboard in 1992 and in that year led her squad to a 10 win-season. Three years later, she would begin a stretch during which she guided the Aggies to eight consecutive seasons of double-digit wins.
The streak, which lasted from 1995-2002 (while UCD was still D-II), peaked with a NCAA Championship berth. The 2002 Aggies battled to the quarterfinals of the national tournament.
It’s hard for Robinson to pick favorites, but the 2011 edition of the UCD squad was certainly memorable for her.
That season, the Aggies made it to the semifinals of the Big West Conference’s inaugural championship tournament and won 11 games overall, a school record for the D-I era.
“They were a group that was focused, driven and team-oriented,” said Robinson, who was named the Big West Coach of the Year that season. “It marked a turning point for us, in which we went from being just a strong conference opponent to a real post-season contender.”
Looking outside of the competitive slate, Robinson reminisced about reconnecting with UCD alumni and former players of hers during events like Picnic Day. She once felt so strongly about their bond as to invite players to attend her wedding.
Robinson will remain a professor at UCD. But the teaching position alone provides a different degree of mentoring than what Robinson has gotten accustomed to, especially with the athletic piece of a student-athlete’s lifestyle being as integral as it is.
“One of my players this past fall said, ‘When you’re a student-athlete, it’s almost like you’re going to a different university,’ ” Robinson explained. “It really is such an involved experience.”
Though she expressed intentions to possibly return to coaching some day, her decision to step down from the UCD helm offers her some respite from a responsibility the she admits is consuming — albeit rewarding.
“Being a head coach of any sport is in many ways a year-round position,” Robinson said. “But you have a role in the development of so many student-athlete’s lives. And that has been the piece that I’ve cherished the most.”
After being critical in the growth of so many other young women, Robinson is ready to allocate more time to the rearing of her own two daughters, Teaghan and Piper.
“I’m excited about being able to spend some more time with my family,” Robinson said. “I’d like a little time to recharge my batteries, and then we’ll see what comes next.”
— Reach Brett Johnson at email@example.com or 530-747-8052. Follow him on Twitter at @ReporterBrett.