PLANT CITY – The man affectionately known as “Coach Dave” was praised last week for helping mold the lives of thousands of youngsters through his guidance on and off the basketball court.
Dave Robbins, a volunteer basketball coach since 1967, was honored by former players and colleagues alike as he received the annual Plant City Family YMCA Strong Leader Award.
“Coach Dave always told me to try my best,” said Hillsborough County sheriff’s Sgt. Tim Lovett, one of Robbins’ former players.
Robbins encouraged Lovett to sign up for youth basketball when he was 13 and paid for him to go to training camps. Lovett said he has used the advice of his mentor throughout his life, including his 25-year law enforcement career.
“I love you, and thank you,” said Lovett, one of the guest speakers at the Aug. 27 banquet honoring Robbins.
Gary Meyer, who coached high school basketball with Robbins for many years, said he developed character by demanding that players keep their shirts tucked in and their hair cut.
“He draws the best out of each player,” Meyer said.
Robbins had a passion for youth and basketball, friends and family say. In the late 1960s, he formed a youth basketball league sponsored by the Plant City Recreation and Parks Department and Optimist Club. He has been league director for 44 years.
He also served as an assistant basketball coach at Plant City, Lake Gibson and George Jenkins high schools.
He was always willing to help, from coaching youngsters on the court to operating the concession stand at youth sports games. He was active in a host of civic activities.
“He was a great role model to thousands,” said Rhett Rollyson, a Plant City Family YMCA board member who played ball under Robbins.
He retired after more than 40 years as facilities manager with Southland Corp., parent company of the 7-Eleven convenience store chain.
More than 150 people were on hand as Tammy Ferrell, representing the YMCA board, presented Robbins with the award.
“Our community has profited from what you’ve done for our children and what they’ve become,” Ferrell said.
Robbins, who received a standing ovation, said he couldn’t have done it without the support of his family.
“I feel humbled and honored,” said Robbins, who later added, “All I really wanted to do was coach basketball.”
Robbins joined a Who’s Who of Plant City in receiving the Strong Leader Award, presented for outstanding community service. Previous winners of the award founded in 2003 include City Commissioner Mike Sparkman, restaurant owner Fred Johnson and retired car dealer B.M. “Mac” Smith Jr., to name a few.