Gina Carey-Smith ’93 jokes that one of her goals during TCNJ women’s lacrosse season is to get fellow coach Robin Selbst ’96 to laugh more often. Selbst takes it in stride, knowing many people focus on her serious side.
What TCNJ’s student-athletes eventually learn over time is that there are many sides to Selbst, including the fun-loving one who was once a student-athlete just like they are now. It’s also a big part of Selbst’s championship-winning side.
Selbst, the assistant coach in both field hockey and women’s lacrosse, is the only student-athlete in TCNJ history to win NCAA Division III titles in three different sports. She captured four in all—the first in field hockey (1991), followed by two in softball (1992 and 1994). Then, after exhausting eligibility in both sports, Selbst took up playing lacrosse for the first time—as a “fifth-year freshman,” she laughs—and won a National Championship in 1996 right before graduating with a health and physical education degree.
“There was a bit of incentive for me, too,” Selbst says, “because unfortunately in both field hockey and softball my senior year we ended up coming in second (in Division III). And I wanted to try and take a chance and have that opportunity to see if I could go out a winner.”
After her final season, Selbst transitioned into coaching as a graduate assistant under the legendary Head Coach Sharon Pfluger ’82 in both field hockey and lacrosse while she completed a master’s degree in health education. She became an assistant coach at Rutgers University for two years (1999–2000), but returned to TCNJ in 2001 to become Pfluger’s assistant coach.
“Certainly a huge part of who I am as a coach I’ve gotten from my experience of playing for Sharon and coaching alongside her,” Selbst says. “I’ve learned through…years of coaching and being around different coaches…[that] a good portion of [being successful] comes back to building the relationships with the players.”
One of Selbst’s other coaching influences was longtime TCNJ softball coach June Walker, for whom she was a two-time first-team All-American and played a different position in each of her four seasons. A native of Northeast Philadelphia, Selbst was also a two-time All-American in field hockey as a center mid-fielder when her teams went a combined 74-4-2. She was a defender in lacrosse.
As a coach, the 36-year-old Selbst has an eye for the big picture. A student of the game who focuses on details, she plays a big part in recruiting and building the field hockey and lacrosse defenses.
“Robin is very valuable in many ways,” Pfluger says. “Yet coaching the hockey goalkeepers, and running the off-season programs while I concentrate on the in-season team, are the most important on-the-field roles for Robin. In addition, she is outstanding with scouting reports and handles many of the behind-the-scene tasks that we need to do on a daily basis that allow us to run two national-caliber programs.”
Adds Carey-Smith, who was a teammate of Selbst’s while both were undergraduates at the College, “One thing that I notice that Robin and Coach (Pfluger) both do alike is they want to get the best out of their athletes. Before they do that, they want to make sure that you’re a good person. They teach you how to act off the field, they teach you self-respect, they teach how to compete, but in a respectable manner.”
Selbst has matched her four national titles as a student-athlete with four as a coach: in 1995 and 1996 in field hockey and 2005 and 2006 in lacrosse. She was also recently named the 2010 Intercollegiate Women’s Lacrosse Coaches Association Division III Assistant Coach of the Year. Yet what is most satisfying to her, she says, is simply “having a great practice, seeing that the kids have really learned something that day. And certainly after a win seeing the reward of them being happy and knowing that they really got the best out of us as coaches from that day.”