Old endings, new beginnings: Robben moves on to next phase of his life


Tara Vogler

Varsity soccer coach Dave Robben celebrates a goal with Matt Greubel and Samed Ganibegovic in a 3-2 win over Marquette, Sept. 11 at OHS. The victory gave Coach Robben his 500th win as the boys soccer coach at Oakville. “This group of guys is special,” Robben said.

Factory worker in a paint factory, construction worker, pipe fitter, power washer in a sugar refinery, driver and mover of raw sugar from freight trains, and assembly line worker at Anheuser Busch Brewery, a mail clerk at the Wabash Railroad are the many different jobs Mr. David Robben had before realizing his passion for teaching and coaching.

After going through a wide variety of jobs, Robben decided to go into teaching at the age of 23, even though the pay was considerably less than the jobs he was doing.

Robben chose teaching because he thought of it as a way to continue to grow intellectually, spiritually, and emotionally. It would allow him to stay young mentally.

Along with teaching, Robben also coaches boys and girls varsity soccer and has had many successful seasons as a coach. He has won many coaching awards including the 1991 National Soccer Coaches Association Midwest Region Coach of the Year Award for secondary schools. He has also been inducted to the St. Louis Soccer Hall of Fame and Missouri Soccer Coaches Hall of Fame.

“At some point in my life, I realized that teaching was my karma,” Robben said. His father, Jim Robben, who was in the St. Louis Amateur Soccer hall of fame, was one of his inspirations to go into teaching.

“He was not only a player, but a manager and a coach. I did not know at the time that I was being mentored by a master teacher. He interacted with and motivated all types of players and personalities. Most importantly he did this with ease and confidence; he had an intuitive understanding of teaching,” Robben said.

Before coming to OHS, Robben taught in St. Louis City for 12 1/2 years. He taught fourth and fifth graders at Woodward Elementary his first semester of teaching. He then progressed to teach sixth grade for a year, seventh grade for five years, and eighth grade for five years.

In spring of 1979, an opportunity came to him to teach in the Mehlville School District.

“After much consideration and contemplation, I realized it was time to move on; that phase of my life was completed and I decided to accept the challenges,” Robben said.

Robben started his journey in the Mehlville School District at Mehlville High School for the first semester and came over to Oakville High School (OHS) second semester. He has taught at OHS for 38 and a half years, and believe it or not, he says there has not been any major changes since he has been here.

“The only changes at OHS have been cosmetic or structural. The things have remained constant over the years are the students, faculty, and staff. From day one I was amazed by the energy, enthusiasm, compassion, and intellectual curiosity of the students at OHS,” Robben said. “There is still the energy, humor, compassion, dedication, and professionalism that make OHS unique.”

After more than 50 years of teaching, Robben has decided that it is time for him to move on to the next phase of his life. He quotes Ralph Waldo Emerson saying, “It is time to trim the sails and every wave is charmed.”

Robben is one of the few seasoned teachers whose retirement has never been his worry. “I never waited to retire. Those who count down the days, months and years, have already retired,” he states.

Robben says he has been blessed with the opportunity to teach and coach; he quotes an African Proverb saying, “work is love made visible.”

“Every morning I don’t get up to go to work, I get up to go to school and do something I love to do: teach and coach,” Robben said.

Moving on to the next chapter of his life, Robben hopes he can continue coaching soccer.

“Soccer is a way of life; will I continue to breathe–will I continue to laugh– will I continue to grow and evolve? Yes, soccer is not merely a game, it is a passion,” he said.

He does not have any certain long term plans, but Robben does have a few short term plans.

“My plans include snorkeling a much as I can, ‘carving’ (cutting and turning) on a Trikke (a three wheeled vehicle), and teaching Qi Gong (self-healing yoga) and Tai Chi (ancient chinese yoga to reduce stress and health conditions) to those interested in the ancient exercise systems,” Robben said.

“I am not retiring, I’m moving on to the next phase of my life, plans and goals are uncertain and that is what intrigues me the most about moving on,” Robben said.