All in the family
Knights' star forward blazes new trail for Ribbens legacy
||Photo courtesy of calvin.edu|
A third-generation Knight, senior Elizabeth Ribbens is an all-MIAA forward for the women’s soccer team.
There is a deeply rooted athletic tradition in one Calvin family: the Ribbens.
It began with Elmer Ribbens, who played basketball, baseball and ran track from 1946 to 1949. His son, David Ribbens, played soccer from 1974 to 1978. As a senior, he served as co-captain.
David’s daughter, Elizabeth Ribbens, has continued the family tradition for the Knights on the soccer field – in fact, Elizabeth just became Calvin’s 10th all-time point-scorer with a total of 99 points.
“My goals for this season were to have fun, stay positive and just play my best and enjoy my last year,” said Elizabeth.
Elmer passed away from skin cancer in 1980. Unfortunately, he never met Elizabeth or had the chance to watch her compete.
“We are grateful for the opportunities she has had at Calvin,” said David. He and his wife Deb frequently attend Elizabeth’s games.
Elmer Ribbens played baseball and ran track, but is noted for his three-season — 1946 to 1949 — basketball career while at Calvin.
Elmer frequently shared memories from his days of playing basketball at Calvin, particularly “the big Hope basketball games.”
Over the years people have recalled Elmer’s “famous long-shots from the deep corner of the basketball court,” said David.
Elmer worked for 30 years at McBain, Eastern and Holland Christian Schools as a teacher and coach in track and basketball. David believes his father’s favorite sport was basketball.
Elmer was most recognized for his “basketball coaching career at Holland Christian High School,” said David.
Elmer always told David that “when the going gets tough, the tough get going,” advice that has always resided with him. David and Deb have passed on similar advice to Elizabeth.
“We have always encouraged her to use her God-given abilities to the very best of her ability in all things,” said David.
Elizabeth has only heard the stories of her grandfather’s athletic career.
“My Dad told me he was very into sports,” said Elizabeth.
David played soccer all of his four years at Calvin. He played on the JV team as a freshman; in his sophomore and junior years he came off the Varsity bench for the majority of the season. He was a starter his senior year as well as team captain with Mark Recker – currently the women’s soccer coach. In 1978 David Ribbens was named to the MIAA All-Conference team.
Coach Zuidema was a huge influence on David’s life.
“He inspired me to pursue a career in teaching and coaching, and I am grateful to this day for this influence,” said David.
He still remembers the advice and encouragement to earn his master’s in physical education, received after attending a professional soccer game in Detroit.
“I was so impressed by his confidence in me; I credit his influence for a lot of what I have done since graduating from Calvin,” said David.
He recalls in 1976, his sophomore year, when the team qualified for one of first NCAA Div. III national soccer tournaments. However, Calvin’s “no-post-season play” policy prevented the team from attending.
He vividly remembers the two MIAA Championship wins, along with the team winning against Michigan State University his senior year.
“I have fond memories of my teammates and the camaraderie we shared each season,” said David.
David credits the changes in soccer since the mid 1970’s to coaches like Marv Zuidema.
“[Zuidema] made soccer a great experience for the players who in turn went on to coach the next generation of players,” said David.
These changes are exciting for him to witness, and it’s been great “to play a small part of the growth of soccer” at the youth, high school and college levels.
Elizabeth began her soccer career at a young age, playing in a soccer league at Trinity Christian College run by her father.
“[I started playing] when I was three or four, I can’t remember,” said Elizabeth.
Elizabeth now plays the same positions her father did, midfielder and forward. “I am playing because I love the team and the sport,” said Elizabeth.
When asked about the MIAA championships her answer is a humble one.
“It feels great. Everyone brings a key element to the team that leads to our success.”
Her most memorable moment is from her sophomore year, the game against Messiah in the Elite Eight.
“We lost in shootouts, but it was a great game,” said Elizabeth.
She truly enjoys the camaraderie the team has on the field.
“I am so thankful to be on a team with such supportive and positive people,” said Elizabeth.
Soccer has taught her the value of communication and teamwork and allowed her to develop some great friendships with her teammates.
“Enjoy every minute because it goes by way too fast!” is her advice for her teammates, adding, “Oh, and to play with all of your heart, leave it all on the field.”
David currently serves as the Athletic Director for the Lab Middle School and University High School, at the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools. It is one of the top preparatory schools in the U.S., founded by John Dewey in 1896 and operated by University of Chicago.
As Athletic Director he oversees “750 contests annually for the 450 student-athletes (who comprise) 45 teams playing 16 sports,” said David, adding “We compete within the Illinois High School Association and are members of the Independent School League of Chicago.”
Elizabeth seems to be following the tradition: she is a Physical Education major, and has hopes of coaching at the high school or club levels someday.