By Scott Prater
Les Stewart, a native of England and an Air Force veteran, has taken on the challenge of becoming Schriever’s first youth sports and recreation administrator.
As construction crews continue to complete more homes on the base’s north side, more children are pouring into the housing area. By August, Mr. Stewart and his 50th Force Support Squadron leaders believe more than 400 children will call Schriever home.
With such a significant influx of families moving in, the 50th FSS, missing many of the neighborhood staples most kids come to rely on, is charged with finding venues and activities to support family and children who now live on the base.
Toni Hansen, Airman and Family Services flight chief here, thought of Mr. Stewart almost instantly upon learning the 50th FSS received word it could hire a youth sports director.
“We’re thrilled to have him,” Ms. Hansen said. “We worked together for a few years when we were both at Peterson. He has a ton of experience managing youth programs and he has a clear passion for this type of work, so it only seemed natural to try and get him to come here. We’re happy he was available.”
Mr. Stewart unlocked his office door here for the first time April 19 and has been working at a breakneck pace ever since. He’s already developed Schriever’s preliminary youth sports plan for the year ahead and has begun the task of purchasing equipment for the fall sports programs.
Meanwhile, the base housing area community center has opened along with a 25-meter indoor swimming pool, and construction crews have also started building a youth soccer field, a baseball field and outdoor basketball courts north of the community center.
Mr. Stewart’s next challenge will be to initiate sports and recreation programs, and find volunteers and coaches to help implement them.
A former professional soccer player (4th division) in England, he spent five years as Peterson Air Force Base’s youth sports and recreation director and two more overseeing Peterson’s special fitness center programs. Under his watch, the Peterson AFB youth sports and recreation program won the National Alliance for Youth Sports award for best Youth Sports Program worldwide in 2005.
He says he jumped at the chance to come to Schriever upon learning about the opening here.
“We’re about to blow people’s minds,” he said, referring to the activities the youth sports and recreation program will begin offering the next few months. “I don’t want to say it’s a challenge, but as you can see there’s not much out here [facilities wise]. I look at it this way: There is a need and we’re going to do whatever it takes to get (youth) programs here. I’ve hit the ground running and we’ve already picked out our colors (navy-blue and silver) and our mascot.”
Mr. Stewart said Schriever’s youth sports mascot will be the General, and its logo features a powerfully built cavalry type general.
Stewart said Schriever’s youth sports mascot will be the General, and its logo features a powerfully built cavalry type general.
“Our motto is teamwork, fairness and excellence,” Mr. Stewart said. “The logo will give kids an identity as well as show a sign of excellence.”
Though its sports programs won’t kick off until August, the youth sports and recreation program here will begin offering camps and clinics this summer.
“We have 11 events planned for the summer months,” Mr. Stewart said. “Besides the camps, we’ll also sponsor small one day trips like hiking, camping and rafting, then once August rolls around, we’ll begin with outdoor soccer and flag football.”
Right now, the base is home to some 266 children ages one to 19, and of those, 240 are eligible to participate in youth sports and recreation.
“I’ve looked at the ages of our kids and as of now we can offer programs for ages three to 18 in pretty much every mainstream sport,” Mr. Stewart said.
He plans to offer league play in soccer (both indoor and outdoor), baseball, basketball and flag football. The league-play setup for each sport will be determined by age group and participation. So, some teams in some age groups or sports may suit up against other Schriever teams (interleague play) while others will suit up against teams from other bases or organizations around the city.
As much as he would like to see large numbers of participants, he was careful to say that a quality program depends more on the level of parental involvement. All of the program’s coaches will be volunteers.
“The more parents we get involved the better the program is going to be,” Mr. Stewart said. “Because those parents will have a fuller understanding of what the program is all about.”
He said his first priority will be to meet and educate parents on the various sports and events the programs will offer and that his first opportunity to do this will be at the Family Fit Fun Swim event May 22 at the Community Center Swimming Pool. The event will take place from 2 to 5 p.m. and everyone is invited to meet and speak about the youth programs.
“While people are celebrating the Year of the Air Force Family, I’ll be talking to parents,” he said. “That event will give me a chance to listen to parents here, find out what their priorities are, and what they would like to see here.”
People who are interested in volunteering with the Schriever Youth Sports and Recreation program can contact Mr. Stewart at 567-4501.