ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – With 57 years of coaching experience, Dave Robben might be the most historically successful high school soccer coach in St. Louis.
“I mean I’ve always been around players and teams that have been in a sense winners,” Robben says.
He has also been a player on of some of the best soccer teams in the country in the 1960s.
“I played at Kutis, I was in a number of United States National Championship Finals with them,” Robben says. “Played at Saint Louis (University) was in a national championship final there. Also with Kutis in an Open Cup Final, a semi-final.”
Now with the Oakville High School boys and girl soccer teams, he’s built one of the best public high school soccer programs in St. Louis. Robben has won two Missouri state championships, was a finalist in six others and recognized with regional, state and local coaching awards.
And the Tigers’ senior captains Samed Ganibegovic and Dominic Riggio know all about it.
“To hear the history that he has, it’s an honor to play for a coach like this and a team that has two state championships,” Ganibegovic says. “Just trying to get this team organized and have chemistry like those teams did in the past. It’s a really big honor.”
“Yeah it’s a real honor playing for coach Robben and for Oakville,” Riggio says. “Knowing that Coach Robben has been through it all. It’s kind of exciting.”
So what’s Robben’s secret? How has he been able to take a new group of teenagers every year and find new ways to have success.
“You know there’s different cliches that coaches use: lightning in a bottle, that perfect wave, that perfect storm, whatever it is,” Robben says. “The bottom line is when everybody works hard and buys in, that’s the difference. That’s the essential difference.”
Ganibegovic thought back to last year’s team when it faced an undefeated Saint Louis University High School. It was a 3-1 loss for the Tigers but he remembers going up 1-0 to start the game.
“And to be up against a team like that and have a pretty good result,” Ganibegovic says. “You get to see what the system is really about and it really works when everybody buys in.”
So after 34 years at Oakville, we asked Robben what the biggest change is he’s seen as a high school soccer coach.
“Kids in this day and age has changed,” Robben says. “It used to be what you were talking about. That intrinsic motivation, they were part of a program and they bought into the pride of that program. That doesn’t happen much anymore because the rewards for them are extrinsic. They are looking for scholarships. They are looking for other things.”
You can tell he’s also an english teacher, and he remembers the things that drove him as a soccer, football, baseball and basketball player at St. Mary’s High School.
“But what drove us all was to work hard,” Robben says. “And I think that’s changed somewhat. And those teams that I described were kids who said before the season ‘Let’s work hard, we got a chance to have a good team this year, let’s do this.’”
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