Photo by Stephen de Ropp
Photo by Stephen de Ropp

When Kevin “Skippy” Givens came to UC Santa Cruz for a national Frisbee freestyle tournament in 1979, he didn’t expect it to be his home for 28 years. Givens, an avid sports fan, knew he wanted to pursue a career in sports but never imagined he would manage the largest sports club program in the UC system with 49 competitive and non-competitive organizations.

For nearly three decades, Givens has played a crucial role in the Office of Physical Education and Recreational Sports (OPERS) department, working closely with students to establish a competitive atmosphere for non-NCAA athletes. He advises 24 sports clubs, 24 intramural clubs and Sammy Slug summer camp. But on Aug. 1, Givens will retire from his role as UCSC’s intramural and club sports supervisor.

“To be successful at this job, you have to put in a lot of time,” Givens said. “I’ve been doing this job for a long time, and I am at the point in my life where I want to enjoy my family before my kids go off to college and embark on their journeys.”

OPERS will form a committee in the coming weeks to search for Givens’ replacement. The department hopes to select a new candidate before the next academic school year begins in September, allowing about four months to find his replacement. He will remain in Santa Cruz after his retirement and serve as a volunteer or adviser to OPERS in some capacity.

Givens works seven days a week with an occasional day off. His wife Andrea is a UCSC alumna and a DeLaveaga Elementary School teacher, and his sons Kenny, 17, and Earl, 15, attend Harbor High School.

Givens, known as “Skippy” around campus, was given the nickname by a friend for an intermission show during the World Disc Championships — a national Frisbee tournament. Though he grew up playing basketball, baseball and football, Givens excelled in Frisbee after taking up the sport when he was 22. In his 16 years playing, Givens won 14 personal national freestyle titles as a renowned independent player.

“A lot of people don’t know that Skippy is a really good Frisbee player,” said former UCSC associate director of recreation Mark McCarroll. “The man was arguably one of the best Frisbee players in California.”

Givens attended Sonoma State University and played recreational sports while teaching a Frisbee physical education class. After establishing close relationships with Sonoma’s athletic department, he helped initiate Sonoma’s intramural sports program and was named intramural supervisor after he graduated in 1986.

He said it was difficult running a program with no prior management experience. After visiting Santa Cruz for a Frisbee tournament in 1987, he sought advice from UCSC’s intramural sports director Terry Warner, who had 20 years of experience.

Under Warner’s guidance, Givens crafted Sonoma’s absent intramural programs by establishing leagues, officiating games, keeping stats and records, recording standings and creating a playoff system. When Warner accepted the role as OPERS pool manager after its establishment, Givens succeeded him as UCSC’s intramural sports supervisor in 1988.

“He started the intramural program for Sonoma State as a student and that drive is what I thought would make him a good fit to run our program,” Warner said.

Givens provides UCSC students with similar opportunities he had at Sonoma. Fourth-year student Joe Spota has worked with Givens for four years as an intramural coordinator and sports club administrative student assistant. Spota met Givens at a freestyle Frisbee tournament in Santa Barbara before beginning his college career.

“Skippy’s vibrant personality and love for athletics has shown me that you can combine your life’s passions with your career,” Spota said. “If you truly love what you do, it will feel like you’re not working a single day of your life, and he embodies that.”

Givens said he’s most proud of giving thousands of students an opportunity to play their favorite sports and helping to establish an athletic scene on campus.

“Everyday I wake up and I can’t believe just how lucky I am to have my job,” Givens said, “It’s been my dream job since day one.”