The mission of the Skyhawks Sports Academy parallels that of the Positive Coaching Alliance, seeking to instill qualities beyond playing skills, with greater goals in mind.
Skyhawks, created by Jeff Heimbigner in 1979 as soccer-specific camps in the Pacific Northwest, emphasized sportsmanship, teamwork, and winning and losing with grace. Skyhawks has since blossomed to include more than 10 different sports and is expanding to all regions of the country and beyond.
Skyhawks prides itself as a welcoming place, where young athletes can focus on excellence on their own terms by using sports as a means to build confidence, and to grow excited about working as a team.
Skyhawks, based in Spokane, Washington, and now in its 45th year, has been an ideal partner with the Positive Coaching Alliance and is recognized as PCA’s Partner of the Month.
Skyhawks’ coaches are mostly in the 17-25 age range. All are paid, trained and certified as Double-Goal Coaches® with Skyhawks funding and training. The hope is that each coach will pass along these same skills, values, and knowledge to athletes in club or school settings, and even to their own children.
“That really excites us,” said Jason Frazier, Skyhawks’ president and COO. “Just being a small part of bringing those types of resources and training to a coach to hopefully create a lifetime skill that they can use throughout everything they’re doing, not just coaching.”
Skyhawks coaches are certified by PCA annually and participate in in-season PCA workshops. The hands-on training methods are effective and impactful and complement PCA’s online resource material.
“We’ve embraced and folded PCA’s core principles into our curriculum so that coaches are living it every day,” Frazier said.
The PCA partnership helps Skyhawks as it expands to new regions. The partnership helps emphasize the values that Skyhawks stands for and provides an assurance of the type of high-level coaching that will be provided.
“We promote the partnership as much as possible,” Frazier said, “because we believe in it and we want more people to use the platform, even our competitors. It creates better coaches for us all.
“Everyone looks at PCA as the standard-bearer in the training and positivity in coaching and working with kids. That certainly helps us get our foot in the door” in fundraising and franchising, “and makes some of these relationships even stronger.”
Paul Piscitelli, director of recreation in Milford, Connecticut, is among the many community leaders who have seen the impact of Skyhawks.
“Skyhawks’ philosophy of running sports camps in a safe, fun, and positive environment has resonated with our residents,” Piscitelli said. “The children have benefited from our relationship with Skyhawks every summer. Their staff is always punctual, responsible, and full of energy, which translates directly into a fun learning experience."
Frazier, a native of Cincinnati, Ohio, was drawn to Skyhawks from the corporate world. Living in Silicon Valley and traveling the world did not bring fulfillment and caused Frazier to do some soul-searching. He found himself being drawn to some of the best times in his life – playing youth sports.
In researching companies and programs in that field, he sought out Skyhawks and began coaching with the program. He was attracted by its national scope and by the fun the kids were having.
“I had no idea what I was doing,” he said. “But even those first couple of times coaching really sold it for me. I decided I wanted to make a career out of this.”
In heading the company, Frazier makes it a goal for coaches to try to connect with every child.
“Every single one of those kids is going to be different – with their development, their needs, and their goals,” Frazier said. “We take pride in meeting kids where they are. We’d like to position Skyhawks as being a safe place where kids really look forward to coming to, where they feel included, and where some of the anxiety can go away. It’s trying to create that relationship, trying to find a connection with those kids. Sometimes, it’s just coming up to a kid after camp and saying, ‘How are you doing?’”
With PCA’s help, Skyhawks can be that special place.
“Before we started our non-profit process, our mission statement was to provide sports programs for every kid no matter economic background, demographic, income level. Our biggest mission now is to make sure that foundation is solid."
“We want to become a household name, be in 50 states, and provide these opportunities to everybody. But we still need to remember our core of: One kid at a time, positive experience, changing lives for the better. Giving this to every kid -- not just kids that can afford it -- is really our goal. We feel if we can do that and be successful at that, everything else takes care of itself.”
To learn more about what it means to partner with PCA, click here.