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Robert 'Cokey' Robertson - Coach wants youth to reach potential

April 23, 2006|By MARK KELLER

Elvis.

Madonna.

Oprah.

Those are just a few of the celebrities who, over the course of time, have come to be recognized by only one name.

Mention the name Robert Robertson to people in the Tri-State area and most probably wouldn't bat an eye.

But rattle off Robertson's nickname and many - certainly most who have ever followed high school sports - will know exactly who is being spoken of.

Cokey.

Cokey Robertson has made a name for himself as the longtime boys basketball coach at St. Maria Goretti High School. But where did he get the name?

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"It came from my father, who got it from my grandfather, who came over from Scotland," Robertson said. "It was a rooting term, like saying 'Hurrah!' in English."

Robertson has had plenty of reason to say "Hurrah!" during a coaching career that started in 1960 at Westminster High School and has netted him nearly 800 victories.

While Robertson admits winning is part of the fun of coaching, he said his real love is in teaching the game.

"I always loved playing the games and competing. I had a passion for the game," Robertson said. "Teaching, seeing the kids be successful and get better and reach their potential is where the real reward is."

Robertson has been responsible for sending dozens of players to college from Goretti since he began coaching at the school in 1974. He also has played a part in helping numerous other Tri-State area athletes reach the collegiate level through the Mid-Maryland Basketball Camp he started in 1969 while he was the coach at Hagerstown Community College.

"Back in the 1960s, when I was coaching at Thomas Johnson, I used to go and work at these specialty camps," Robertson said. "When I got the job at the college, I thought I could do the same thing there. I liked working with the younger kids and I missed that when I got to the college level."

He said the camp also helped support his growing family. "It became a nice summer job. I never made enough in teaching and coaching to survive, so the camps helped the youngsters develop and helped me pay some of the bills," Robertson said.

Soon, volleyball and soccer sessions were added under the Mid-Maryland banner, spreading Robertson's influence to a wider pool of athletes.

Robertson's love of teaching basketball led him to open up the school gym to the community on Saturday mornings. It was a treat he remembers enjoying as a child.

"When I was growing up, the janitor would open up the gym for us on Saturday if we helped clean up from the night before. That was the greatest thing in the world," Robertson said. "When I first went to Goretti, I started doing the same thing. And I still do, just to give kids the opportunities that I didn't always have myself."

Q&A

Name - Robert "Cokey" Robertson

Address - Smithsburg

Date of birth - March 10, 1938

Occupation - Retired teacher

Most notable achievement - I'd say raising three beautiful kids and coaching the team that beat public-school champions Dunbar in 1986 and Lake Clifton in 1987.

Your proudest moment - Seeing my three daughters get married and be successful.

Who is the person you most admire and why? - Former University of North Carolina men's basketball coach Dean Smith. Because of what he was able to do over the years, with his continued success and the workmanlike, professional way he did it, making kids successful in life, as well as basketball.

What is the best piece of advice you ever received? Who gave it to you? - My father used to always tell me what Bob Feller used to say: "Make sure that your hat is always too big for your head."

What is the next goal you would like to achieve? - Coaching my grandson.

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