COPENHAGEN – Robin M. Lieby never missed a practice for her son’s soccer team until Sunday, when her vehicle was struck head-on as they were on their way to the field.
Ms. Lieby, 29, who found a community in the north country despite being here for just a short time, was driving on Route 12 in the town of Rutland on Sunday, heading to her son’s soccer practice in Copenhagen. She was known as the “mama bear” of any friend group.
Shortly before 9 am, a vehicle traveling towards her, operated by Brandon G. Rust, 34, of Dexter, crossed into her lane and struck her head-on, according to state police. Her 10-year-old son was in the back seat.
Ms. Lieby was pronounced dead at the scene. Her son was airlifted to Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital in Syracuse with non-life-threatening injuries. Mr. Rust was airlifted to Upstate University Hospital with serious internal injuries. He was later placed in an induced coma and was in critical condition.
Now, a travel soccer team based in Copenhagen is dedicating its first season to Ms. Lieby. Patches will be placed on jerseys, and 15 balloons – her son’s number on the team – will be released at their first game to honor her.
“Selfishly, you wish you had 25 people like her in your program because she is just that different and that amazing,” said Eric Johnson, head soccer coach for her son’s team. “Not that I wish it was another parent, but not her. Not her. Anybody else. Any other person. She was that big of a deal. ”
Ms. Lieby and her family had moved to the area about a year ago, and Mr. Johnson first saw her son play at the YMCA in Carthage. He said the kid was a spark, so he asked the YMCA who he was.
“That’s how I met Robin,” he said. Johnson said.
He said he asked if her son wanted to be on his Copenhagen travel team, the Tug Tactics, and they said yes.
“When you have a kid on your team, parents can be either really really easy to work with or they can be really hard,” Mr. Johnson said. “But from my first conversation with Robin, I was thrilled that she wanted her kid to play for me.”
Ms. Lieby, who had knowledge of the game after being a goalie for years, went to every practice and game. She was there for the at-times grueling winter practices. She was there to support her son and the other players, but she wasn’t overbearing, Mr. Johnson said. She just wanted to support the kids and coaches.
Mr. Johnson remembers a few examples of her support.
One coach recently had a baby, and Ms. Lieby would hold the child on the sidelines so the new mom could coach.
He remembers the Sunday before the crash; it was raining. Ms. Lieby was watching underneath an umbrella and noticed one of the players didn’t have a partner since there was an odd number of kids. Ms. Lieby partnered with the player so Mr. Johnson could coach down the line instead of having to partner with someone.
Mr. Johnson said he had the idea of starting a goalie camp, so Ms. Lieby and another person designed the entire curriculum. In just a year, Ms. Lieby became his go-to parent for feedback and support. They spoke weekly, and Mr. Johnson was drawn not only to how she was as a parent, but how she wanted every player to succeed.
“The first person I would want to talk to when I came off the field would be Robin,” he said. “She would give me good feedback but she was also an honest parent.”
He remembers her saying she would “interview” her son’s teachers. He laughed when saying she would ask his teacher’s their favorite food, chocolate or alcoholic drink because she wanted to support them.
“It was just to sprinkle a little happiness on people,” Mr. Johnson said. “That was Robin.”
And Mr. Johnson admired how she raised her son, saying he is respectful, strong and an all-around good kid.
“He is stronger than I am,” he said. Johnson said. “You don’t think you can look up to a 10-year-old, but you can.”
At 5 pm Tuesday at the soccer field in Copenhagen, the Tug Tactics will have their first game of their first travel league season, dedicated to Robin Lieby.
“She was just an amazing human being,” he said. Johnson said. “She was part of our soccer family.”