East Bay elementary school adds sports league with a safe play strategy
LIVERMORE -- Buffalo Bills player Damar Hamlin has a clean bill of health to play professional football once again after a sudden cardiac arrest during a game this past season.
The incident shocked fans of the sport across the country, and it raises the question of safety when it comes to sports and kids.
Skyhawks Sports Academy is a sports camp in the Bay Area that focuses on safety while still allowing kids the opportunity to learn to play the game.
Every week, a group of kids at Jackson Avenue Elementary in Livermore hit the field. For one of these kids, it is a chance for him to finally just play alongside his friends.
"He was born with one leg shorter than the other so he wears a brace to kind of help balance out his hips and his knees and things like that, allowing him to walk and run better than with one short leg," said Jennifer Bunn, a mom of kindergartener at Jackson Avenue Elementary.
Bunn's son, Liam, has just as much fun as everyone else. For Jennifer Bunn, it is a gift to watch her son joyfully compete with his classmates.
"It is the first time we have ever done sports with him," Bunn said. "Just because he has had surgeries in the past on his leg and things like that and we wanted him to have more of like a fun, like physical therapy experience."
This is Jackson Avenue Elementary's first afternoon enrichment program since the COVID pandemic.
"A lot of these children have never experienced a sports program before," explained Diane Woodruff, mom of a first grader at the school. "So, it feels good to bring it here."
Woodruff is a parent volunteer at her son's school. Her first grader, Kingston, has taken part in other Skyhawks leagues in the community. Woodruff figured out a way for her son's classmates to participate by bringing it right to them at school.
It ended up being a perfect move too, so Kingston could still get exercise in a safe way.
"In December he had surgery," Woodruff said. "I wasn't even sure if I was going to enroll him in this because he just had the surgery, but after talking with Sergio, I felt safe and comfortable. He said he would make sure that he was being careful and no one would knock his ear."
Sergio Parra Jr. runs the East Bay Territory Skyhawks programs. He coaches kids on the fundamentals of all kinds of sports so they can safely learn how to play and figure out what sports they want to pursue in the long run.
"We use foam bats for baseball, training balls, for dodge ball we use foam balls," Parra Jr said. "And we tend to change our equipment to help out the kids, not get hurt. And help them out with the longevity to play the sport."
It is part of the "Stay Safe in Play" strategy as a response to the concerns of parents.
"He could do something this physically active and he is out here doing something that he loves and his leg never bothers him," Bunn said. "And that he can come up against all these things and still love it and have fun."
The kids can have fun, while playing it safe, thus allowing all kids to just be a kid.
Skyhawks Sports Academy is for beginner to intermediate-level athletes. The leagues usually run for a set amount of weeks with a new sport to learn each week. To join, there is a set fee to participate in per program.
Learn more about Skyhawks Sports Academy: https://www.skyhawks.com/.
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