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Hart's Gabe Robinson: On a different level

Indians defender is someone for whom foes have to plan

Posted: January 24, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: January 24, 2012 1:55 a.m.

Hart junior defender Gabe Robinson has become the kind of talent that opposing players and coaches have to account for at all times.

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Athletes often have labels slapped on them to denote their status.

There are the unsung heroes and the role players.

Then there are the up-and-comers and the clutch performers.

So what do you call it when you’ve gotten to the point where opposing teams draw up game plans around you?

Whatever category that is, it’s the one in which Hart High junior Gabe Robinson belongs.

Just ask Fausto Arana, head coach of Golden Valley’s boys soccer team, a Foothill League foe.

“When you play against him, you have to know where he is most of the time,” Arana says. “He knows how to read the field really well.”

Before taking over the Golden Valley program this year, Arana spent the last three years as Hart’s head coach, so he knows about Robinson’s abilities as well as anyone.

Robinson’s 6-foot-1-inch frame and natural jumping skills make him a force in the back line.

“Going up for headers, slide tackling, anything that a defender does, I love doing,” Robinson says.

When Golden Valley faced Hart on Jan. 17, Arana had a specific plan in mind going against his former team for the first time.

A big part of that plan involved telling his players to avoid attacking Robinson’s side of the field.

Given Robinson’s versatility and speed on as an outside defender, that proved nearly impossible with the amount of ground the second-year varsity player covered.

Thanks in part to Robinson and the rest of the defense, Hart got the better of the matchup and beat Golden Valley 5-0.

Robinson was mostly responsible for one of the goals thanks to his atypically powerful throw-in, which deflected off a Golden Valley player and snuck into the goal.

Add that to his list of attributes as a player.

“If we get a throw-in from halfway, it’s like a corner (kick),” says current Hart head coach Adonay Jovel. “With (Robinson), we get 20 or 30 corners a game.”

But with as much praise as coaches hurl at him and as much success as he experiences, Robinson still plays like he’s earning every minute of playing time.

“He never underestimates anyone,” Jovel says. “He always goes and he plays. He knows he has to perform and he wants to keep his spot.”

Even coming off a sophomore season where he started nearly every game and played a key role on defense, Robinson didn’t walk into this year with a shred of entitlement.

“Because it was a new coach, I had to work hard to prove myself to him and to the other players,” Robinson says.

It’s the kind of humility and respect Robinson has always tried to show for his superiors.

For most of his soccer-playing days growing up, Robinson has typically played one age group up or one level up.

Now, he plays for CZ Elite Football Club out of Pasadena in addition to playing for Hart, where he was moved up to varsity early as a sophomore.

All the top-level experience has not only helped him develop his skills, it’s kept him humble and hard-working.

That’s all good news for Robinson, who has aspirations of playing sports in college.

“Both his father and I were athletes in high school and in college, and we’ve always made it a big part of our lives to be active,” says Robinson’s mother Glenda.

In the spring when soccer season ends, Gabe plans on continuing his pursuits on the school’s track and field team.

Last year, he won the Foothill League in the frosh/soph level of high jump and long jump.

Whatever sport Robinson seeks out in the future, he appears to have the work ethic, and certainly the genes, to do it.

Gabe’s father Brian was a track and field athlete in college. Glenda was a volleyball player and a gymnast. Robinson’s older sister Anissa played volleyball and competed in track and field for Hart before graduating last year.

“I think they pretty much know what they’re getting into and what it takes to get into an elite level,” Glenda says of her kids.

For now, as a junior, college talks are a little ways off for Robinson. In the meantime, he’s perfecting his skills while gaining his bearings on the varsity squad, playing next to a pair of seniors in Ryan Dolan and Cole Lambert on the back line.

“This year, I know the players better and I’m more comfortable around them,” Robinson says, “and I feel like I’m more comfortable around the ball.”

This time last year, Gabe had no more than a few weeks’ varsity experience, as he had to earn his way onto the starting lineup as a sophomore.

At first, he was given 10 minutes of playing time to prove himself.

Before long, Gabe had done plenty to impress his former coach.

“He doesn’t have a lower speed,” Arana says. “He always goes hard. He always goes 100 percent.”

In just one year’s time, he’s already increased his status as one of the best defenders in the league.

That’s the label he’ll get for the moment.

Even if he’s too modest to admit it.

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