The Treasure Valley’s Skyhawks Sports Academy does more than get kids excited about sports — it helps them gain valuable life skills and learn the foundations of STEM education.
Skyhawks’ focus isn’t to train the next soccer superstar — instead, the program focuses on getting kids active and helping them learn important life skills through sports. Program leaders help youth practice respect, patience and inclusion with their peers. And helping kids build confidence is a main tenet of every Skyhawks program.
“We’re not building professional athletes, we’re building better little people,” said Levi Hewitt, Skyhawks Treasure Valley owner and operating manager.
In 2022, Hewitt launched the franchise immediately after transitioning from active duty service in the Air Force. He and his wife, Jordan, started the program to bring the athletic opportunities they had growing up in the Coeur d’Alene region to the Treasure Valley.
Skyhawks started as a youth soccer program in Spokane, Wa. and quickly grew into a major provider of sports programming across the country.
This summer, Skyhawks will host sports camps and STEM camps across the Valley. To get involved, click here.
And just a year into Treasure Valley program, youth from Greenleaf to Nampa to Boise have the opportunity to attend Skyhawks sports camps, after-school programming, STEM camps and more. Soccer programs are the most popular, but Skyhawks also offers introductions to basketball, volleyball, golf, track and field and many other sports.
Skyhawks also binds together the academic and athletic through STEM sports camps, where each lesson includes an aspect of science, technology, engineering and math.
In all camps, the students are learning about life.
After-school programs remove obstacles for Nampa families
Skyhawks offers after-school programming at Nampa’s Iowa Elementary — a school where around 66% of students qualify for free or reduced-price lunches.
“Most of our families are working class,” said the school’s Family and Community Engagement Coordinator, Jennifer OwenTillotson. Because of that, many families rely on after-school programs to care for their kids until they can get off work and pick them up, usually around 6 p.m. each day.
The Skyhawks programs, according to OwenTillotson, ease that burden on parents. Students can attend the programs to learn and get active, and then head over to the onsite Boys and Girls Club to wind down and wait for their parents.
Around 70 students have participated in the three after-school programs offered at the school — basketball and volleyball specifically for low-income families, and soccer for any student.
“The kids have really taken to having more positive influences in their lives,” OwenTillotson said. “After COVID, we’re seeing a rise in mental health issues among students…so having really solid sports programs with really solid role models has been impactful.”
And whether it’s because of finances or a lack of time, many of the Nampa students have never had the opportunity to be in sports before joining Skyhawks. One third-grader showed up to soccer camp this spring in a dress and high heels, exclaiming “I’m ready for soccer!” OwenTillotson said, laughing. After the school set her up with a pair of shorts, a T-shirt and tennis-shoes, she set out on the soccer field.
“Exposing kids to more opportunities is everything,” OwenTillotson said.
In Greenleaf, Skyhawks helps kids break out of their shells
Students at Greenleaf Friends Academy have received confidence boosts from Skyhawks camps and after-school programming, according to Skyhawks coach Nate Freeman, who also serves as the athletic director and PE teacher at the private Christian school.
Many students, according to Freeman, start out quiet and intimidated — some getting their first introduction into sports. But as time progresses, they build confidence not only in their athletic abilities, but in their social skills.
Each week, the students explore a different life skill or character trait. Students learn to take responsibility for their position — strikers or goalies in soccer, quarterbacks in football, point guards in basketball. They learn to be inclusive and make sure their whole team is cared for. They learn to be patient with their teammates, coaches and themselves.
Then, they get homework.
Each student gets a ball to take home. Taking care of a ball and bringing it back in good condition is one step toward being able to take responsibility for homework, belongings, siblings, friends and more, according to Freeman.
“It’s been fabulous for them,” Freeman said. “It really means a lot to the kids.”