Olivia Sabins: Unsung hero of Occidental Athletics

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Athletics Department Service Coordinator Olivia Sabins has been working at Occidental since before most of the current student body was born. The Los Angeles native, who first took the position in 1988, considers it to be the best job on campus.

“I think I do have the best, or one of the best, if not the best jobs on campus, because it’s just so self-rewarding,” Sabins said. “I love what I do.”

Sabins loves the upbeat energy of the athletics office. According to Director of Athletics Jaime Hoffman, she is the MVP of the department and the glue that holds it together.

Assistant Director of Athletics and Head Women’s Soccer Coach Colm McFeely, who has worked with Sabins since 1992, also values her presence in the Athletics department.

“From day one Olivia made me [feel] welcome, was always helpful and provided much-needed guidance in all things Oxy Athletics,” McFeely said via email.

No two days are the same for Sabins. Her responsibilities include everything from scheduling events to overseeing student workers to assisting the approximately 45 staff members that work in Athletics. The key skill that enables her to do her job well is her ability to multitask, which she credits to her experience parenting her two daughters.

“I’m a mom, and when you’re a parent, you multitask all the time,” Sabins said. “You’re juggling kids and schools and projects and sports.”

In her time at Occidental, Sabins has watched the athletics department grow tremendously, expanding to include increased physical activity classes, club sports, intramurals and a wellness program. She feels that the expansion, which serves the entire Occidental community rather than just student athletes, is a step in the right direction for Athletics.

Prior to working in an athletics office, Sabins’ knowledge of sports was limited to her husband’s love for basketball and her daughters’ high school sports experiences. She has since learned much, and now has a far greater interest and appreciation for athletics in general.

“I never really realized how much work and how many people behind the scenes it takes to get an event going,” Sabins said.

In addition to being personally fulfilling for Sabins, her job at Occidental has been beneficial to her daughters. Growing up on campus, where they were able to meet students and use Occidental’s facilities, gave them first-hand college experience that made them eagerly anticipate their own college careers. Sabins greatly values this and is grateful that working here gave her daughters access to such a healthy environment.

“Occidental was like their playing field,” Sabins said. “It was home away from home for them.”

One aspect of the job that Sabins most values is the direct contact that she has with students and faculty. She serves as a mentor figure to many students, who often confide in her, and loves to watch them play their sports. The relationships she builds with students are always bittersweet, however, because she must watch class after class leave post-graduation.

“[Her] love for Oxy and our students is infectious,” Dean of the College Executive Assistant Carolyn Adams said via email. “Olivia is one of Oxy’s treasures.”

Sabins’ influence is not only felt by student athletes and fellow Athletic staff; staff members in other departments also value her presence on campus.

“I find her to be smart, funny and extremely collaborative,” Associate Vice President for Hospitality Services Amy Munoz said via email. “She goes out of her way to be supportive of fellow employees.”

One way Sabins’ is supportive of her coworkers is through her personal goal to make Athletics as productive and positive an environment as she possibly can. She finds it especially fulfilling when she is able to help other people, even if it is just by giving them information or solving a minor problem.

“If I can just be that person to make that part of their day just a little bit better, that is gratifying for me,” Sabins said.

When she is not at work, Sabins enjoys refinishing furniture, perusing antiques and occasionally volunteering at food banks. A 33-year friendship with her walking partner helps keep her active. The two met through their oldest daughters and value each other not only as walking companions but as confidants.

Sabins loves her job, but sees retirement as an inevitability. When she does retire, it will be in order to spend time with her grandchildren. Although her family may want her to retire, the Occidental community definitely does not.

“Students love her. Parents love her. Colleagues love her,” Head Men’s Basketball Coach and Associate Director of Athletics Brian Newhall said via email. “We all dread the day that she decides to retire.”

Her job, to which she has dedicated much of her adult life, certainly keeps her busy. But to her, every day is worth it.

“I still love getting up every morning and coming to work,” Sabins said. “It’s been a great place to call home for [the past] 26 years.”