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Why I Keep Coming Back To Skyhawks

May 24th, 2017

The following is a guest post written by Jacob FIll, returning Skyhawks coach in San Jose, CA.


My birthday is coming up this summer.  I’d say I’m pretty lucky to have a summer birthday, especially as a college student.  One of the great things about a summer birthday for me is that I get to spend it with my family.  One of the bad things about spending it with my family is that my mother, every year, forces me to look through her old scrapbooks of my childhood.  Every year we sit down, against my will, and look through some embarrassing pictures of me as a child, but every year I take an extra long look at one picture in particular; it’s a picture of me as a toddler, being held up by my father to dunk on a plastic Fischer-Price basketball hoop.  This picture in particular is special to me because it symbolizes my love for sports.  

I have played sports my entire life, both at a highly competitive level and at a recreational level in college.  Once I realized my basketball playing days would be over after high school, my initial thought was, “How can I continue participating in sports without playing at the college level?”  I quickly realized coaching was what I wanted to do.  Having good and bad coaches throughout my playing career helped me realize what makes a good coach.  My good coaches taught me what works well, and my not-so-good coaches taught me what doesn't.  In addition to my basketball coaching knowledge, my love for working with kids had ignited in me a desire to coach. There’s just something about being able to pass along my love for sports and make a positive impact on a young athlete’s life that makes me excited to get up every morning and go to Skyhawks camps.  

I had worked as a volunteer sports camp counselor near home before, but that doesn't come close to comparing to how Skyhawks operates.  Skyhawks is a very unique summer camp organization.  In my opinion, Skyhawks’ best attribute is their ability to give each and every child individual attention.  When I volunteered previously, I saw some kids being left behind in certain games or activities.  For example, one time I noticed a child struggling to shoot the basketball, and I knew exactly how to fix the problem, but because of the unfavorable child-to-counselor ratio, I wasn't able to take time to give him individual coaching.  As a Skyhawks coach, this is never a problem.  When something like this happens, there is always at least one coach available to teach the child how to properly shoot the basketball.  And let me tell you, the feeling you get when a camper takes your advice, makes a shot, and his/her face lights up with excitement, is absolutely priceless.  


As a junior in college, I could have taken a lot of different routes this summer.  I could have chosen a full-time paid internship.  I could have chosen to work at a restaurant and make tons of spending money off of tips.  I could have chosen to take summer classes.  Instead, I chose to come back as a Skyhawks coach.  What better way to make money than to do what you love every single day? I come home on Fridays knowing I made a difference in some child’s life that week.  I come home feeling good about how I was able to pass along my love for sports to the next generation of athletes.  At the end of the day, I come home on Fridays glad to be a Skyhawks coach.  

Try Everything This Summer!

May 9th, 2017

This article was written by Skyhawks Franchise Owner Brett Gardner and is cross-posted from Redwood City Parks, Recreation & Community Sevices blogClick Here To View The Original Aricle.


Much has been written over the past several years about specializing in one sport vs. letting kids play as many sportsas possible. There is all this literature that benchmarks what age kids should be when they specialize. I come down firmly in the camp of NEVER. Unless your child is an elite gymnast or dancer, there is no argument to be made for specializing in a sport. Ask professional athletes how many of them “specialized” in the sport they now play. I’d hazard a guess that the answer is none.

But, sports have gotten really out of hand thanks to the business model behind competitive sports. Coaches are hired to develop players for college sports programs. That’s what they are paid to do. I hear parents talking about this even with a team of eight-year-olds!

If you are reading this and you have teenagers, I hope you’re nodding your head in agreement. Parents of younger children, read on. Sports is not a career for your child. It’s an activity and it should be one of many.

But, more importantly, not all kids like sports. As the parent of two very athletic children and the owner of a company that runs sports camps, I should be shouting from rooftops about the benefits of sports. But, I have also seen what happens when kids are pushed too hard.

I am a big believer in the “try everything” model of parenting. You never know what’s going to stick. When my kids were little, we tried it all — from ball sports to gymnastics to theater to martial arts to dance.  Some of it stuck and much of it didn’t. The questions we asked our kids were, “was it fun?” and “did you learn anything worthwhile?” Next, we asked them if they wanted to do that activity again.


With child number one, the answer was invariably, yes. With the other one, it was almost always, NO! Different kids, different interests. Even though child number one seemed to like everything and child number two seemed to hate most things, I still think the try everything model was good for both of them.

With limited time during the school year, we often used summer camps to let our kids try different activities. Many families didn’t understand why we would do this. If my daughter was “an athlete,” why weren’t we sending her only to sports camps? She plays ball sports nine months out of the year. Does she really need more sports at age eight? We thought it was far more important for her to experience different things. So we encouraged her to try science camps, cooking lessons, etc. She loved some of them and was less enthusiastic about others. But, she got to try something new, which was the most important thing.

As summer is looming, think about things your kids have never done before.  It could be a new sport, like flag football. Or, it could be dance or robotics. Try everything. You just never know what will stick!

Earn Camp Discounts at the ParentMap Eastside Camp Fair in Bellevue, WA!

February 2nd, 2017

Camp Fair Info

Baseball Hall of Famer John Smoltz on the Benefits of Playing Multiple Sports

May 31st, 2016

Speaking at an MLB event at the Field of Dreams movie location, the newly elected Hall-of-Famer weighed in on the importance of playing multiple sports year round, rather than focusing solely on a single sport like baseball all year round. 

“People think you have to play year around to be able to eventually play professional baseball or basketball or football. That’s simply not true,” Smoltz said. “I love where I grew up (Lansing, Mich.). Seasonal changes meant seasonal sports. I played three of them. The opportunity to get outside and play sports is one of the greatest things kids have.

“I know there are a lot of distractions, a lot of technology,” Smoltz said. “But playing year around, in places like the South and the West, is just not as advantageous as people think. The history of injuries, all the things that go on, that’s why places like here and Michigan and the Midwest, getting the opportunity to play seasonal sports and be athletic is something that ... parents, you just don’t understand how much time your children have.

“As a player who grew up and loves sports, who got a chance to play multiple sports, and that’s the reason I was able to play baseball as long as I did (21 years). It’s the reason, for the most part, that I stayed as healthy as I did. I didn’t consume myself with one sport."

If there's one thing Smoltz knows, its longevity. Smoltz pitched in the majors for 21 seasons with the Braves, Red Sox and Cardinals. 

Sign up your young athlete for a new sport at a Skyhawks Sports Academy summer program! Find programs near you at

This article contains exerpts originally published on May 28 at

To Shout or Not to Shout?

August 16th, 2015

It was awkward when I realized my own husband was sideline-shouter. It was nothing disparaging, mind you, just random things like “Yeah, cross to the middle,” and “Get it get it, woo!”

There are few things that embarrass me, for this for some reason, did. I tried to gently broach the subject by asking:  “Umm, do you think it’s confusing for the girls when they are hearing from lots of different adults?” I really tried to sound innocuous.

“No, I’m just encouraging her; she likes it.”

According to our daughter, she does.

But the issue with our young athlete, like so many kids who participate in rec soccer leagues, is that while she appreciates encouraging cheers, I also think
the finer mechanics of the game are unfamiliar and she gets easily distracted.

Wow. I do sound like a prude.

But imagine how distracting it would be to have these same kinds of well-meaning parents encourage kids from the back of classrooms during math lessons:

“Hey, great job! Algebra’s hard, but you had that first step! Just remember you have to multiply before you divide, buddy. Good try, woo-hoo!”

I asked the coach if the parents’ sideline yelling bothered her.

“Only if they tell them something different than I am.”

On the third time I hassled my husband about it, he became eerily quiet; punishing me with pretend indifference.

Am I just a jerk, as his hurt silence suggests? Am I withholding cheers simply because, understanding the game little more than my 10-year-old, I don’t know what to shout? Perhaps I’ve just done way too many in-depth stories about parental participation in kids’ sports.

Let me tell you, if there’s anyone who takes youth sports more seriously than involved parents, it’s child psychologists. Granted, their main concern is abusive yelling (which is supposed to be addressed when parents sign the code of conduct forms at the beginning of the season).

“A new study found that ego defensiveness, one of the triggers that ignites
road rage, also kicks off parental ‘sideline rage,’” according to Science Daily, “…that a parent with a control-oriented personality is more likely to react to that trigger by becoming angry and aggressive.”

Oh brother, that’s just not at all what I was looking for. Here’s something a little more benign from Psychology Today:

Never instruct your child from the sidelines. You may be telling her one thing, while the coach is advising her differently. Your intervention can easily confuse her, diminish her ability to perform and undermine the coach's authority,”

Right!? But then in the same article, the author says this:

“Act as your child’s cheering squad. When you stand on the sidelines, your child should read encouragement and love in your face.”

Now I’m feeling defensive for my husband; for all the shouters! We are supposed to “cheer” by showing encouragement and love in our faces? Our kids will be so distracted trying to read our loving expressions, they’ll get pummeled!

In Canada, Ireland, and Australia, some clubs have banned parents from yelling criticism or praise. The “Silent Sidelines” movement has signs and logos. (Seriously, couldn’t they have sprung for more than a creepy clip art ghost head?)*
Quiet sidelines are a goal for some teams in the U.S., too. For instance, when St. Louis Cardinals Manager Mike Matheny coached his son’s youth baseball team, he set strict guidelines:

“We encouraged (parents) to play with their kids at home…take their kids to go get some ice cream after a game, even when we lost,” Matheny told NPR in an interview this Spring, “But mostly, during the game, do whatever you could just to take yourself out of the picture. The kids don't necessarily need you to be yelling words of encouragement… they interview collegiate, high school and even lower-level athletes: ‘What do you want your parents to do at the game?’ And the overwhelming answer is ‘absolutely nothing.’”

When I shared this quote with my husband, he was incredulous. “Well, it will be really quiet when I’m not there AT ALL. If I’m getting up at 7am on a Saturday and freezing my butt off, I want to be able to cheer.”

Then I was the silent one. Nothing kills a post-victory celebration like parents giving each other the silent treatment after yelling about the merits of yelling.

So now I’m working to interpret unsolicited verbal feedback as excitement and joy, because at the innocent beginning of sports participation, that’s the real goal, right?

Letting go of Safety-obsession

March 23rd, 2015

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

Everybody loves this quote. You can find it on maritime sales websites and outdoorsy magazines. (It’s usually credited to Mark Twain, but was discovered by scholars to have nothing to do with Twain, and likely written by H. Jackson Browne in the 1990’s. The author, not the musician. But I DIGRESS)

We LONG for our kids to sail on that theoretical boat, but not without a waterproof navigation system, a helmet, and a GPS tracker. You see, two essential goals of modern parenting are fundamentally juxtaposed. For us to be successful parents, we must help our children create their own enlightened, strong, successful personalities; to take risks and learn to fail with grace. BUT! We also want to keep them from social and physical harm. And from the point that buckle them into their first tiny five-point restraint car seat, we sincerely believe we can.

The clash is incredibly evident in the way parents interact with organized sports. OF COURSE we want the social and physical benefits of team play including friendships and problem solving and exercise. But what if they get hurt? There are injuries inherent in any impact sport, but nothing gets more media attention than football, because of the fear of concussions (basketball is the second leading concussion-causing sport)

However, even though (USA Today) an estimated 1.35 million kids are injured playing sports each year, only about 164,000 of them suffer a concussion. Considering 35 million children play organized sports each year, just .005% of young athletes are injuring their heads.

Yet a well-publicized statistic from a recent NBC news report asserts that since 2005, “the concussion for high school athletes has more than doubled.”

So which of these two seemingly opposing trends do we trust? If you accept the research findings of author and “Free-Range Parenting” advocate Lenore Skenazy, it’s the scariest one.

“Parents in the past 20-25 years indulge in ‘extravagant worry’…inflating remote possibilities into looming threats that we think we have to watch out for,” she writes.

The current safety device under debate is an impact sensor in children’s football helmets. While the NFL so far isn’t willing to test them, a handful of high school and recreational sports programs are piloting the sensors, which adhere inside the helmets and communicate via handheld device with athletic trainers on the sideline (you know parents will figure out a way to hijack the signal onto their own phones).

The devices cost between $75-$125.00, and sensors light up when an athlete takes a hit to the head at 80G or more. The player checks in with the coach or trainer before being put back in the game.

One school administrator who opposes the use of sensors asserts that opponents could use the sensors to manipulate results: “... targeting a specific player not to injure, but to remove him from the game from a strategic standpoint.”

As I read more about helmet sensors, most articles pointed to a conspiracy by powerhouse manufacturer Riddell to keep the monopoly on helmets. But, hey, this is a blog, not a Dateline NBC episode, so I’m just wrapping this up.

Grown-ups ruin playing. We get involved, and we put our adult-influenced, liability-focused rationale and need for control rationale all over young athletes who are trying to belong and have fun. Give it back to the kids. Let them sail away from the safe harbor. It’s cool if you want to still be able to see the boat, but trust them to get out there.

Seasonal Affective Dissorder and Children

November 24th, 2014

Even for the most Nordic-minded—those who LOVE skiing, snowshoeing or hunting trips—the struggle of starting and ending our (school and work) days in the dark can range from drudgery… to depression.

Once the Autumnal Equinox and the loss of Daylight Savings Time cuts our daylight hours nearly in half, it’s no surprise a large majority of us do our own version of hibernating; we are slower (who can speed walk in Sorels?) quieter, more tired, and particularly during holidays, likely to slip into egg nog and pie-sourced semi-consciousness. 

Fighting this slothy, often potentially gloomy “new normal” requires encouragement; new ideas and vital routines. 

Yet, about six percent of people around the feel trapped by this sense of emotional and physical lethargy.

People who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), are depressed by the lack of daylight; their bodies are programmed to be sleepy and withdrawn. And more than one million of those people grappling with SAD are children.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, SAD is linked to the hormone melatonin, which affects the body’s sleep-wake cycle. “And when there is less daylight, melatonin production increases” which makes us more tired. 

The main distinction of children who suffer from SAD is that their weight gain, lack of energy and concentration are only seasonal. Kids who are positive, active and engaged during the sunnier months but whose moods and activity levels tank as the days get shorter may be falling into a SAD cycle. 

The recommended treatment for people with SAD is light therapy, which helps regulate melatonin levels. And while the affect of exercise on melatonin levels is nominal, there is a proven benefit of exercise on depression! 

Even Harvard Medical School concurs. In a 2011 study, researchers showed “Aerobic exercise is the key for your head, just as it is for your heart. It has a unique capacity to exhilarate and relax, to provide stimulation and calm, to counter depression and dissipate stress,” they report. And, “exercise and sports also provide opportunities to enjoy some solitude or to make friends and build networks. The mental benefits of aerobic exercise have a neurochemical basis. Exercise reduces levels of the body’s stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol. It also stimulates the production of endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers and mood elevators.”

But you knew that, right?

Even in the absence of a game or a scrimmage, being out sledding, ice skating or trudging through the snow can also be an emotional, non-medical treatment for kids suffering from SAD.  

So if your kids are bummed about having to stay inside, give them opportunities to leave the house, and participate in play they’re not responsible for generating (Who has the energy for THAT) And if the lethargy and sadness still seem to be getting the best of your kids, research SAD further, and know that it will pass as the days get longer!

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