NAUGATUCK — There will be a changing of the guard at the end of this season in the Naugatuck YMCA Little Pal basketball league. Scott Robinson, league director and head coach of K of C, will be stepping down after an illustrious 34 years at the helm.
How can someone stay committed to a cause for over three decades volunteering countless hours to the youth of Naugatuck? It can only be explained as a labor of love. That love culminated in 2007 when the YMCA honored Robinson with the Volunteer of the Year Award.
“That was a very humbling experience,” Robinson said. “I never got into it to receive any awards. I actually got into it out of a labor of love.”
When Scott and his brother Dale were knee high to a grasshopper his mother, Joan, entered the boys into the YMCA Little Pal program.
Being a single parent, his mother believed that the boys would benefit from a structured environment and learn to get along with their teammates.
What grew out of it was a commitment to a youth organization that has lasted over three decades.
“My mother got me going in this league and it just kind of stuck,” Robinson said. “I began coaching after I passed the age restriction at the age of 13 years old. I was an assistant coach to John Geletka and also helped out coaching in the Friday night league.”
From there it grew to the Christopher Columbo team in the morning league and Scott still found the time to dedicate his services to the afternoon league under Bob Sullivan and Brad Erickson.
By the time his senior year rolled around, Robinson took over the head coaching position of K of C in 1982 and has been there ever since.
Along the way his duties and commitment grew from the director of the morning program, to afternoon director, to the director of the Little Pal organization.
“I’ve coached in the Friday Night league for the Naugatuck Police,” Robinson said. “I did the books and I took on the duties of the Little Pal league.”
Robinson’s stay in the Little Pal league has brought him plenty of long days.
“There were times when your Saturday would start at 7:30 in the morning and you would be going until 6:30 at night,” Robinson said.
Despite the long days and extensive duties, Robinson has missed just one of his scheduled games in 34 years—and it wasn’t even his fault.
“I didn’t go anywhere or do anything else from October to March for 34 years,” Robinson said. “I did miss just one game when a scheduling conflict due to the weather had me attending a Georgetown-UConn game. I already had the tickets and planned the vacation. I couldn’t cancel because it was too late.”
All anyone in town has to do is attend one of the end-of-the-year sports banquets put on by the Little Pal league to realize the magnitude of Scott’s undertaking.
Over the years Robinson saw many prominent players come through the league. Naugatuck High School all-time leading scorers Mike Wilson and Jessica Mudry along with Naugatuck Mayor Bob Mezzo have all made their way through the Little Pal league while Scott served as coach and league director.
“There were so many good athletes that came through the system,” Robinson said. “I coached all the Terry boys, the Mastropietros, and the list is just endless.”
Even with the extraordinary athletes that he’s watched, Robinson said developing skill has always played second fiddle to molding good young people.
“There are no MVP awards,” Robinson said. “We focus mainly on sportsmanship, being a good teammate and hustle—the same kind of values that will help these kids grow into prominent members of the town.”
Robinson has brought home three Little Pal titles in his 34 years pacing the sidelines and his team is one of only three in the past 20 years to win titles in back-to-back seasons.
K of C won titles in 1990-1991 and 1993. Dale Robinson was in his first year at the helm for Rotary when he faced off against his brother Scott in 1990.
“It was truly an honor to have all those parents entrust me with their kids,” Robinson said. “But I would have to say the most satisfying moment came when I beat my brother Dale in the league championship. We went undefeated for the first time. They had Josh Ruccio but we won the title and that was so satisfying.”
In 1991 Scott’s team defeated a Bob Burns and Gene Massa team. For the last title in 1993, Scott faced off against longtime friend Dave Yachtis, who is currently the boys head coach at Pomperaug.
Robinson says he hopes the YMCA pegs Bryan Cottrell, who assisted Robinson for 12 years, to take the reins of the league. As for Robinson, he says it’s time for him to find other things to do. But, he’ll always cherish his time with the Little Pal league.
“I certainly will miss all the kids and the friends I’ve made through the years. You don’t put 34 years into something without getting anything out of it. And I can truly say I got more out of it than I put into it. It was a very rewarding time in my life,” Robinson said.