Soccer assistant Givens returns to Ultimate Soccer Arenas for Bucks College Showcase

Playing for the Michigan Bucks from 2009-13, Givens earned the PDL Defender of the Year award in 2011.

Central Michigan women's soccer assistant coach Stewart Givens wouldn't be where he is today without the guidance of his mentors. 

After years of playing at the professional level with the Michigan Bucks, located in nearby Pontiac, Michigan, it's what he learned underneath from people who've done it before that provided him with success. 

"The handful of coaches that I had were a big influence on me," Givens said. "I've taken away coaching points and how they deal with people, which were a big factor to where I am now."

Givens is nearing his one-year anniversary with the Chippewas, who are wrapping their spring exhibition schedule on April 14, at the Soccer Complex, against Saginaw Valley State. 

It's the final of five friendlies this semester, following matches between Michigan and Michigan State, which occurred before last Saturday's 3-1 win over Detroit-Mercy in the annual Michigan Bucks College Showcase at Ultimate Soccer Arenas. 

When planning for the spring, Givens made sure to reach out to Bucks CEO Dan Duggan and Director of Coaching Gary Parsons in the chance to participate, knowing how perfect of an experience this event holds.  

"It's fun to be back and see former coaches and players that you played with, as well as coming back to a place where you gained all of these memories when playing here." Givens said. "A lot of good memories for everyone who's ever played in this building."

Givens' relationship with the pair dates back over a decade, when he played defense for the Bucks from 2009-13, winning the Premier Development League Defender of the Year award.

Transitioning into coaching afterwards, the new role didn't take off for Givens at Central Michigan, who spent a combined five seasons with both Oakland University's men's and women's programs, helping the latter win the Horizon League Tournament championship and a berth in the Women's College Cup in 2015.

"It's great anytime you have an assistant who has the type of history like Stew's," CMU head coach Peter McGahey said. "It speaks about his time with the Bucks tremendously. The organization really made a big impression on him."

Celebrating its 22nd season in 2018, the Bucks are regarded as Michigan's most successful  soccer program, having earned six regular-season PDL Championships.

"My shoutout to Dan (Duggan) and the Bucks for hosting this event," McGahey said. "Really appreciate the opportunity to bring our team down here and really appreciate an organization like the Bucks to host us." 

Five years later, the OU graduate seeks to get back to the Mid-American Conference Tournament after the Chippewas failed to gain eligibility this past season, despite forward Lexi Palafas becoming CMU's all-time goal scoring leader. 

The incoming-senior and midfielder Madison Pogarch went on to receive All-MAC first-team and second-team honors, respectively. Pogarch scored one goal and tallied four assists in 2017. 

"Getting to know (the team) has been great," Givens said. "They're a great group that want to continue getting better and want to be coached. As a coach, that's the best thing, because there's no pushback when you're giving them feedback."

The investment towards meeting the expected goal of a MAC Championship has started this spring, with seven signees introduced in this year's freshman class, including forward Abbi Morrel, the reigning Golden Boot winner at the 2017 National Club Championships. 

Forward Amanda Britain also comes to the program as a transfer from Mount St. Mary’s, where she appeared in 18 games, recording three points, one assist and one goal. She now reunites with her sister, goalkeeper Morgan.

"When getting to know the girls, I coached against them a few times when I was with the previous institution," Givens said. "They were hard to play against so I wanted to be a part of that."