The mission of UCSB Recreational Sports is to:
We have a goal to transform the lives of students to enhance the quality of life on campus and to emphasize a well-rounded educational experience balancing one's physical, social, and intellectual and emotional growth.
Ownership, Legacy, Stewardship.
UCSB Recreational Sports, Where Gauchos Play.
By Devyn Howard
When UCSB was first established in 1944, it lacked what has now become one of its most impressive and defining programs: UCSB Recreational Sports. That all changed in 1964, when Bob Kelley, the first Director of Recreation, was sent to the sleepy beach town, of Isla Vista, with one clear bit of instruction: "You are to create on this campus the greatest recreation program for faculty, staff and students.” Armed a military gym, an Olympic sized swimming pool, an open checkbook and a clear goal, Kelley set out to do just that.
His passion to create the UCSB Rec Sports division stemmed from his own strong affinity for athletics. He wanted to create something that would benefit this oceanfront campus for decades to come. However, this Rec Sports program didn’t just spontaneously arise to the state-of-the-art one it is today.
"I had basically started in a closet,” Kelley recalls of the program's modest beginning. Despite insufficient office space, Kelley attempted to make the program something that all students could become involved with.
UCSB Rec Sports, now notably recognized for it's diverse athletic options, offered variety of sports divisions even in it's fledging months.
“We really reached out for students that were really good athletes in different sports like sailing,” Kelley said.
The student body in the 60’s wanted to stray from the typical selections found at other universities and embraced unique sports and events that couldn't easily be found elsewhere. It was this desire to extend out of the box that forms one of Mr. Kelley’s fondest memories at UCSB Rec Sports:
“This is 1966 or 67, I read in the Gaucho Newsletter that ‘Bob Kelley is starting a crew team’ and I’m thinking, ‘Crew? What the heck is that?’ I thought they meant a logging crew! So I go to the old gym and my god we’ve got about 100 big old dudes show up. What a shock! Anyhow, they want to start a crew. So, they go and start raising money ourselves because we didn’t have a penny to our name at that time. My friend George Adams who was the county of Santa Barbara’s Park Director said ‘Bob, why don’t we see if we can get you Lake Cachuma? So we got Lake Cachuma approved and we raised a bunch of money and built a boat house up there and now to this day they get up before sun up and row at Lake Cachuma and get to class before 8:00 am. So that was the miracle sport. It was the sport that wasn’t supposed to happen…it almost cost me my job. People were not happy about it but the kids did it themselves, they raised all the money.”
Despite his obvious success, Kelley is quick to downplay his role and his clearly outstanding accomplishments. He humbly remarks that he shouldn’t be regarded as the one who created UCSB Rec Sports, instead, he gives the credit to the students themselves.
“It’s not me,” Kelley said. “It’s these students that I have that are so intelligent and so gifted; they are the geniuses behind the sports. It’s not me, I just got the money for them and helped them.”
While it is true that UCSB houses a population of driven and goal oriented young adults, the Rec Sports program wouldn’t be here today if it hadn’t been for Kelley’s commitment and drive to create “the greatest recreation program for faculty, staff and students.”
Bob Kelley's involvement and dedication is still very evident today, and the Rec Sports program has sparked opportunities for students throughout the years. One of these students, 2010 UCSB graduate Joel Katz, has recently launched an impressive career. He credits his experience of working at UCSB Rec sports with preparing him for his new role as an associate with The Memphis Grizzlies basketball team.
While Mr. Kelley set out to build the recreational sports program here on our campus from the ground up, Katz was determined to promote that very program in the most effective way of today: the Internet. With Joel's vision, GauchosPlay.com was born.
“I wanted this to be as professional and as legit as possible,” he said about the programs first website. Joel dedicated his time, energy, and effort to bringing this dream to life. He went through extensive training sessions to insure that the website continued to flourish even after he graduated from the university. After spending an endless amount of time developing the site, and learning as he went along, Joel says he was ready to graduate.
“I was ready,” he sad. “I was rockin’ out and celebrating. Graduation day wasn’t a sad day for me. I was proud of everything I had done and I was ready for bigger and better things.”
The knowledge and work ethic Katz displayed at UCSB Rec Sports along with his successful Gauchosplay.com website didn't go unnoticed by prospective employers. Despite a challenged economy, Joel landed a desirable position with the Memphis Grizzlies.
“I love going to work,” he said. “I love my job. Having this job now is like winning the lottery. I got really lucky. I am really appreciative of what I have now.”
Joel works as an associate for the teams' Charitable Foundation.
“I am managing the Group Mentoring Program,” Joel said. “What we’re doing is putting together a 3-to-1 mentoring program where one mentor has three kids. We’re in a three semester long pilot program and we have entire curriculum full of activities and games and different themes of our programs like leadership, team building, cultural awareness, and community service. The goal for what were doing is to expose these kids to a more positive role model in their lives. These kids don’t have that.”
While Joel has gone on to do impressive things, he hasn’t forgotten his roots, UCSB Rec Sports.
“I love soccer,” he said. “UCSB Club Soccer allowed me to play competitive soccer in a team environment but also still live a college life and not be pinned down to being strict with my athletics. My best moment of college was by far my sophomore year when we won the national championships in Florida.” It is clear from their commitments that Joel Katz and Bob Kelley both share a sense of pride about UCSB and the role they played in the growth of the Rec Sports Program.
Bob Kelley and Joel Katz are just two outstanding examples of what UCSB Rec Sports produces. This same driven spirit resides in every Gaucho and is rewarded by a beautiful campus, up-to-date facilities and extensive opportunities to be active. While the methods of promoting Rec Sports may have changed over the years from homemade spray-painted t-shirts and banner signs to Facebook Event Invitations and mass text messages, one thing remains the same: Gauchos definitely know how to play.
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