A tribute to David Roberts on his retirement

Beloved King’s School rowing coach David Roberts (OKS 1963) retired this year having coached King’s rowers for over 50 years. David was a recipient of this years Leading Light Awards in recognition of his commitment to King’s.

David Wilkes (OKS 1967) paid tribute to David’s time at King’s with the following:

“He was the star oarsman of his day and an accomplished single sculler (won the Schoolboy Pennant at the County of Chester Long Distance Sculls – only the second King’s oarsman to do that – after Arnold Cooke). He read English at St Catherine’s College, Cambridge (1963 – ’66). Rowed in the Boat Race 1965, and was Secretary of CUBC in 1966. He was also our second rowing blue after Arnold Cooke. In parallel he did a lot of coaching at KSRC. Upon graduating he pursued an impressive career with Time Warner, based in New York. He retired around 2010 and returned to live in Chester thereafter. He became a member of the coaching team with special responsibility for the 2nd VIII, as I understand it.

As far as recent history is concerned, I do know that he is immensely popular with the crews he has coached recently; I have heard many stories of how he inspired them and how much they enjoyed rowing under his leadership. I can add that their experiences mirrored my own when he coached our junior colts’ crew of 14 and 15 year olds in 1963, just before he went up to Cambridge, and when subsequently in 1966, as the hero of the blue boat, he took us through our first experience of Henley. Thereafter, he was the regular Henley coach for King’s crews, travelling back from New York each year for the two week coaching gig . Mike Fox told me that David had organised the first visits of KSRC to the Head of the Charles, finding sponsorship, accommodation and rowing facilities. In fact I think it was more a mini rowing tour than just an appearance at the Head. Of course, King’s do this regularly these days, but back then it was a real innovation and was done entirely on David’s initiative.

I believe he continued as guest coach for the rest of the Mike Fox era, that is until the early ’90s. Thereafter he was much involved with the School in the search for funding to enable various schemes associated with enlarging the facilities of the rowing club. Through his contacts in Wall Street and in the hierarchy of rowing he located some formidable sponsors.

Anyway, it is a story covering nearly 60 years that is difficult for any one person to cover thoroughly; except for David himself and he is far too modest!

I might sum it up by saying it is not just that he gave up his time so freely and enthusiastically over the years, nor is it about the excellence of his coaching, rather it is about creating the love of a very difficult sport, creating the self-belief that enabled boys and girls of diverse abilities to achieve their potentials – or if not that, at least having a load of fun and getting some very good quotes and stories out of it (the things that last a lifetime)!”

All of us at King’s wish David a happy retirement and he will be very much missed down at The Boathouse!

David receiving his King’s oar – presented by Headmaster George Hartley and Director of Rowing David Blackham.