Uncommon People / Kevin "Skippy" Givens: Good sport

Kevin "Skippy" Givens (photo by Carolyn Lagattuta)

Search as you may, you won't find a hulking sports stadium at UCSC, nor will you find a football team hiding out behind a redwood.

But you will find plenty of sporting spirit, and a student community built around athletic activities. Since 1988, Kevin "Skippy" Givens, 58, has been a key player in the UCSC athletics arena.

He's been the intramural sports supervisor on campus for the past 25 years, and the sports club supervisor for the past 12 years. During that time, he introduced "fut-sal"—indoor soccer—to the intramural sports program, as well as self-officiated sports such as co-ed volleyball.

The point of these sports clubs and teams is not to rack up the big wins. The clubs are designed to enhance the student experience on campus.

"Most notably they help create communities," Givens said. "Secondly, they create profound opportunities for leadership. Thirdly, these programs create lifelong friendships.

"A common theme in the UCSC sports clubs is the grassroots, student-initiated love of a particular sport," Givens said.

Students come from every educational discipline. "I try to inspire the student leaders of these teams to be inclusive in nature," he said. "There have been so many interests and academic successes among our team members."

For example, he points with pride to students such as Brooke Miller, a Division I volleyball athlete at UC Berkeley who came to UCSC to work on her Ph.D. in biology. A friend in the Biology Department convinced her to try out cycle racing and join the UCSC cycling team. She ended up winning the Collegiate National Championship shortly after that.

"I haven’t tracked the graduation rates for sports club athletes, but it's remarkably high," Givens continued. "Many of my students have been Regents Scholars and straight-A students. They owed much of their focus and academic enthusiasm to the balance and quality of life that sports brought them."

Givens came to UCSC by way of Sonoma State University, where he started the intramural, sports club, and recreation program as a student back in the 1980s.

"I had no idea what I was doing, but I had the guts to try it, and as I made mistakes, I learned from them and moved the programs forward," he said. "One of the things I did toward the end of my tenure at SSU was to come and visit UCSC and observe how a 'real' program was run. I knew many of the OPERS folks from attending the big annual Frisbee tournaments that would happen during summer on the East Field. That connection paid off handsomely."

Givens has also been influential off campus, having sparked a strong interest in freestyle Frisbee in Santa Cruz County. 

Givens, who held the course record of 12 under par at DeLaveaga Disc Golf Course for about eight years back in the early 1990s, and has won 14 world titles in freestyle, calls Santa Cruz "a slice of Frisbee heaven. I love helping to put on the annual ultimate tournaments, I love playing the local disc golf courses, and my favorite is still freestyling on the beaches with a firm wind in my face."