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Calvin sports: A family tradition
By Amy Rycenga

Elizabeth RibbensBy the time Elizabeth Ribbens graduates from Calvin this spring, it will have been 60 years since her grandfather last donned a Knights uniform. The thread of tradition runs from her grandfather through her parents and up to the Tinley Park, Ill., senior.

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 a team co-captain with current Calvin head women’s soccer coach Mark Recker. In addition, David’s future wife Deb Ellard was a member of the Calvin field hockey team in 1975.

David’s daughter, Elizabeth Ribbens, has continued the family tradition for the Knights on the soccer field —  in fact, Elizabeth finished her career in seventh place on the Calvin career scoring list with 109 points while ranking sixth in career assists (33) and 10th in career goals (38).

This fall, Ribbens was named to the All-MIAA first team for the third time in her career and helped the Knights capture their fourth consecutive MIAA championship and a berth into the NCAA III Tournament.

“My goals for this season were to have fun, stay positive and just play my best and enjoy my last year,” said Elizabeth.

“We are grateful for the opportunities she has had at Calvin,” said David. He and his wife Deb frequently attended Elizabeth’s games.

Elmer Ribbens played baseball and ran track, but is noted for his 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 (Mich.) Christian Schools as a teacher and coach in track and basketball. David believes his father’s favorite sport was basketball.

Elmer passed away in 1980. Unfortunately, he never met Elizabeth or had the chance to watch her compete.

She has only heard the stories of her grandfather’s athletic career.

Elizabeth Ribbens and her dadDavid, pictured at right with Elizabeth, played soccer for 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 and was named to the All-MIAA 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. “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.”

He vividly remembers the two MIAA champonships, 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.

Elizabeth began her soccer career at a young age, playing in a soccer league at Trinity Christian College (Ill.) 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.

Her most memorable moment is as a sophomore in the game against Messiah in the Elite Eight. “We lost in a shootout, but it was a great game,” she said.

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.

“Enjoy every minute because it goes by way too fast! Oh, and 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. Debbie is a physical education teacher at the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools, following 13 years as a teacher at Chicago Christian.

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.