It's been said that it's better to be lucky than good. In Robinson coach Billy Helms and his Knights' case, they're a combination of both.
"I'm pretty superstitious," Helms said with a chuckle. "To say the least."
A mix of skill - and their coach's laundry list of talismans - have gotten the Robinson girls soccer program in uncharted territory. After winning the first postseason match in school history Tuesday against Palmetto, Robinson will host Osceola tonight at 7 in the 3A regionals.
"He's quirky and kind of crazy," leading-scorer Charlotte Rothschild said. "But he's so relatable, and we all love him."
Helms listens to the same music on the way to the matches, wears the same blue belt and has sported the same custom-made bracelet all season with the Latin phrase "Nunc Est Tempus" - which means "Now Is the Time" - inscribed on the side.
"The kids razz me about it," Helms said of his superstitions. "But for me, it's normal."
Helms said his idiosyncrasies have helped form a bond among himself and the players.
"They know I'm quirky and have some strange things going on," he said. "But I think it shows them that I'm a human, too, just like them."
Helms has been the engine behind turning Robinson's soccer program around. In his first year two seasons ago, the Knights finished as district runnersup and reached the postseason for the first time in school history. The Knights (13-5-1) were bounced in the region quarterfinals in 2010 and fell during the district semis last year before winning their first district title ever this season.
"There's a renaissance of sorts going on here," Helms said. "There's a renewed spirit that you can feel around campus."
Helms credits an influx of club players to the Knights' success. He estimated nearly 20 girls play club on this year's roster, a figure that has tripled since 2010.
"We have quite a few girls left over from that 2010 team and keep adding nice pieces," Helms said.
Robinson went a perfect 9-0 in district play, outscoring its opponents 60-2. Robinson's attack features four double-digit scorers in Sam Ishee, Caroline King, Laura Osorio and Rothschild, who has scored six goals in the last three matches dating back to her hat trick in the district semis.
"We've come so far as a team since my freshman year," Rothschild said. "Now we're beating teams 8-0 that back then we couldn't even play with. Winning that first playoff game meant so much to me and this team."
Robinson will be looking to set another milestone tonight - a second postseason win. Either way, Helms will have a plastic bag containing socks he wore while playing for Gaither in 1989 in his book bag - a talisman he carries with him at each match.
And no, they haven't been washed.
"If in my mind I can justify doing something and that helps us win, then so be it," Helms said. "But I know the reality of it is it's all about what these girls do on the field. And they have been great this year."
Brandon Wright can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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7 p.m. today
5A: East Lake at Palm Harbor University
4A: Seminole at Plant City
3A: Osceola at Robinson
2A: St. Petersburg Catholic at Clearwater Central Catholic