This past summer at Emerald Ridge High’s Jag football camp, co-coach Darren Erath stood in the center of the field in the middle of the chaos of 217 kids running around.
Amazed at what a little bit of effort and care can do for the football program he cares so deeply about, Erath was nearly left speechless.
“This is incredible. I’m really at a loss for words,” said Erath as he gazed around the camp. “This is all because of what (co-coach Troy) Halfaday and the Jaguar Moms put in to this program.”
Right on cue, Halfaday walked up and echoed Erath’s statement by adding his own voice to the scene scattered about the fields behind the high school nestled on South Hill.
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“Would you look at this — isn’t this incredible?” Halfaday said. “This is all because of the parents who get involved. A football team lives and breathes by the moms who come into our program and say that all these boys are their own.”
Halfaday paused for a second and then turned to look over his left shoulder, staring at a senior 25 yards away who was smiling and laughing with some of the youngest kids at camp. In seconds, both Emerald Ridge coaches turned to watch senior Logan Skoda organize a small section of the camp, huddling up boys and girls telling them his plan of action.
The best images in life tend to move slowly, and for the coaches, this was one of those moments.
As the kids flew by on streaks, post routes and deep comebacks, Skoda, working with kindergarteners through fourth-graders, faked out a group of older campers while soft-tossing a pass to the smallest camper in the group, whose eyes lit up when he caught the ball.
Without missing a beat, the old coach finished his thought.
“These camps are special,” emphasized Halfaday.
This is all because of the parents who get involved. A football team lives and breathes by the moms who come into our program and say that all these boys are their own.
Emerald Ridge co-coach Troy Halfaday
A lifelong joy
That Jaguar football camp over the summer was the dream of Krystal Skoda, Denise Overhulse and Kris Castle, among others.
On April 19, Krystal was laid to rest after a two-and-a-half-year battle with ovarian cancer, a loss that greatly affected the Skoda family and the Emerald Ridge High community at large. But her legacy lives on through the “Jag Moms” program.
You don’t have a lot of time for friends outside of this, but these people become your friends and family.
The Jag Moms took over all the football team’s organization — including overseeing the booster club — and provided mountains of meals to the growing 100 boys throughout the program each year.
Once a small group of parents coming together during the football season — and for the baseball season also known as “Ridge Moms” — their mission now seemed much greater: to help nurture the growth of these kids in the program.
“Krystal was kind of the one who came up with the idea, along with some of the other moms, like Denise (Overhulse) and others,” said Jeri Roten, whose son, Jake, is one of Logan’s closest friends. “Krystal was a fighter and she always had the boys’ best interests at heart. We took the idea (from her) that all these boys will be treated like our own. You don’t have a lot of time for friends outside of this, but these people become your friends and family.”
It was 27 years ago when Krystal married Jeff Skoda, and within two years the couple had their first son, Justin.
Over the next eight years, the Skoda family became complete as sons Kort and Logan soon followed. This was Krystal’s dream.
She wanted nothing more than to see her boys happy. Sometimes I would come second to that, but you know what, that was okay. I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
“She wanted nothing more than to see her boys happy. Sometimes I would come second to that, but you know what, that was okay,” Jeff said. “I wouldn’t have had it any other way.”
The goal for Krystal and Jeff were the same as many parents: provide for their boys and make sure they have the best life possible.
The second part was a tricky subject for Krystal, though. It wasn’t about wishing her boys had a better life, it was about making it happen.
“She made their lives her life,” Jeff said. “She would wake up in the morning, go to work and then get off by 5:30 p.m. From there, she would go straight to the boys’ football or baseball practices and be there until 8:30 p.m. That was our life and we were happy.”
Just being there still wasn’t enough for Krystal, so when her boys joined the Puyallup Roughriders youth football program, she took over the vice president duties for the entire program, making sure not just her three boys had everything they needed, but every family that came through.
“She was dedicated and would fight for every boy out there,” said Carole Wagner, whose son, Garrett, just finished his freshman season playing for the Jaguars. “It’s one of the reasons why I wanted to come and be a part of the Jag Mom community. It’s because of the community she helped create at Emerald Ridge and with the football team.”
When Justin Skoda was at Rogers High, they supported their eldest each season. But Rogers wasn’t for Kort and Logan — their home was a little farther away.
It’s not the same without her. We’re trying to carry the example what she left us.
“We got special wavers to allow them to go to Emerald Ridge because Logan and Kort wanted to be a part of the school’s (ER) aviation program,” Jeff said. “And when the coaches took that job that just made it easier.”
Krystal always wanted the best role models for her boys, and she felt they would have that with Halfaday, as he and his wife, Julie, have been like family to the Skodas.
When ER hired Halfaday, Erath, Torey Donovan, Adam Schakel and Brian Anderson as co-coaches for the football program, they all wanted to make the Jag Nation into something incredible, something impactful and lasting in the community. The coaches saw Emerald Ridge could be great, but they couldn’t do it alone. They needed an army ready to fight, not for them, but for every single kid who joined the Emerald Ridge football program.
“And that’s the best part about who she was as a person,” Halfaday said of Krystal. “No matter who came into this program, Krystal was going to make sure you were treated just like how she would treat Logan or Kort. She had an incredible amount of heart. She’s really missed.”
From the very beginning roughly a decade ago, Krystal didn’t sit back, she didn’t wish for her sons to have a happy and joyful life. She made it happen.
With some strong women on board, Krystal left a legacy that is the Jag and Ridge Moms of Emerald Ridge High.
“It’s not the same without her,” said Susan Rankin, whose son, Brett, played for ER for three years (2012-2014). “We’re trying to carry the example what she left us.”
The Legacy of Krystal Skoda
Part 2: Krystal built a support community of “Jag Moms.”
Part 3: A strong source of inspiration for one family going through tough circumstances.