This is an interesting subject, so there will be all sorts of opinions on it, which is great! It promotes deepening.
Let's be clear. Life as we know it cannot exist without repetition. Think about it-- your heart beat, breathing, walking, planetary rotation, eating and sleeping, the list goes on infinitely. Tempo itself is based in repetition.
Repetition does work as a technique in rehearsals. But the question is, "What kind?"
For example, if two people are dating, they usually don't say to others, "Sally and I have been seeing each other repetitively." It is usually called dating, which means seeing each other on a regular basis to get to know each other. So the value of repetition in rehearsing or practicing is to get to know the piece more intimately, which is building a relationship with the piece.
Once a relationship with the piece is built, which of course can deepen over time, there is the possibility of interacting with its essence, and having a richer communication with it.
Just because someone is doing something on a repetitive basis, whether its rehearsing or seeing another person or having been at a job for 30 years, does not automatically give rise to profound insight or result. It does give experience, but depending on what the person's motives, reasons and sentiments about life are, it can provide ever expanding perception and greater understanding or an attitude of "time to make the donuts."
Also, it has not been my experience that the reason why student orchestras sound more connected at times is because of lots repetition. I think it happens in spite of all the repetition because of the enthusiasm and freshness of the attitude they bring to it. It has not become stale, it is still new.
As a great mentor of mine used to say, "Its not what you do, its the reasons why you do it."
Contemplation: You are what you practice.