Treasure Valley’s Skyhawks Sports Academy does more than get kids excited about sports – it helps them gain valuable life skills and learn the basics of STEM education.
Skyhawks’ focus isn’t on training the next football 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 core principle of any Skyhawks program.
“We’re not building professional athletes, we’re building better little people,” said Levi Hewitt, owner and operations manager of Skyhawks Treasure Valley.
In 2022, Hewitt launched the franchise immediately after transitioning from active duty in the Air Force. He and his wife, Jordan, started the program to bring the athletic opportunities they grew 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 in the Valley. To join, click here.
And just one year into the 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. Football programs are the most popular, but Skyhawks also offers introductions to basketball, volleyball, golf, track and field, and many other sports.
Skyhawks also connects the academic and athletic through STEM sports camps, where each class covers an aspect of science, technology, engineering and math.
In all camps, the students learn about life.
After-school programs remove barriers for Nampa families
Skyhawks offers after-school programs at Nampa’s Iowa Elementary – a school where approximately 66% of students qualify for free or reduced-price lunches.
“Most of our families are working class,” said Jennifer OwenTillotson, the school’s family and community involvement coordinator. That’s why many families rely on after-school programs to care for their children until they can get off work and pick them up, usually around 6 p.m. each day.
The Skyhawks programs ease that burden for parents, according to OwenTillotson. Students can attend the programs to learn and get active, then head to the Boys and Girls Club on site to unwind and wait for their parents.
About 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 every student.
“The kids really got more positive influences in their lives,” OwenTillotson said. “Post-COVID, we are seeing an increase in mental health issues among college students…so having really solid sports programs with really solid role models has made an impact.”
And whether it’s due to finances or lack of time, many of the Nampa students never had a chance to play sports before joining Skyhawks. A third grader came to soccer camp this spring in a dress and high heels and exclaimed, “I’m ready for soccer!” said OwenTillotson, laughing. After the school gave her a pair of shorts, a T-shirt and tennis shoes, she hit the soccer field.
“Exposing children to more opportunities is everything,” OwenTillotson said.
In Greenleaf, Skyhawks helps kids come out of their shells
According to Skyhawks coach Nate Freeman, who also serves as athletic director and PE teacher at the private Christian school, students at Greenleaf Friends Academy have gained confidence through the Skyhawks camps and after-school programming.
According to Freeman, many students start out quiet and intimidated — some are getting their first taste of sports. But as time goes on, they build confidence not only in their athletic abilities, but also in their social skills.
Each week, students explore a different life skill or character trait. Students learn to take responsibility for their position – strikers or goalkeepers in football, quarterbacks in football, point guards in basketball. They learn to be inclusive and make sure their entire team is taken care of. They learn to be patient with their teammates, coaches and themselves.
Then they get homework.
Each student takes home a ball. Taking care of a ball and getting it back in good shape, according to Freeman, is a step toward being able to take responsibility for homework, belongings, siblings, friends, and more.
“It was great for them,” Freeman said. “It really means a lot to the kids.”