Skateboard Programs and Skatepark Stewardship
If your skatepark doesn’t have programs, then your community’s skateboarders have no obvious direction and leadership. Your community’s families might not come to the skatepark with the kids. You might be leaving some skaters out of your community. You could encourage the skate community, users of the skatepark, to grow and use the park and take care of it themselves. Use skateboard programs to do that.
An Individual Sport
While it’s true that skateboarding as a sport is for the individual, the group dynamics and interaction are a big part of the draw of the sport. The fundamental differences between skateboarding and other sports like baseball or soccer are the very reasons why kids and adults become passionate and lifelong skateboarders.
What are the differences? The most obvious difference is the “team sport” aspect. Team sports have certain types of interaction between the participants: camaraderie between team members and competition between opposing teams. In team sports, with a common goal of winning among team members, participation encourages teamwork, leadership, and allows the individuals to learn about themselves and each other through the activity. And, it’s fun.
Skateboarding is fun, too. But skateboarding is an individual sport. You can skateboard without other people, anytime or place that you want, and you don’t need any organization or planned event to do it. That fact alone is one of the biggest reasons why many kids gravitate towards skateboarding as an alternative to other team sports. Just because the sport doesn’t automatically require organized interaction, doesn’t mean that its participants don’t benefit and enjoy when events are organized around their beloved sport. On the contrary, events organized around skateboarding have historically been few and far between. Skateboarders have almost always had some form of competition going in skateboarding, but compared with baseball leagues and other sports, we haven’t wanted to be too organized.
A high percentage of the skateboarders in any community are already having the best time they can when they’re skateboarding, precisely because there are no organizing factors limiting their creativity or their expression and search for fun on their skateboards. How can a community find the balance between freedom of expression for those who want to skate with no structure at all, and a community-supported youth and adult skateboard program that brings new participants to the skatepark, promotes family activity at the park, and lets all users enjoy the park when and how they would prefer?
That’s a big question. There’s a happy middle-ground between two extremes that will make all skatepark users happy. It’s a community-used park with all age groups using it at the same time and getting along well. It’s a scene that brings together different participants in the sport who wouldn’t necessarily skate together or get to know each other. When the skatepark has offerings for all possible skateboard desires, from the “leave-me-alone-and-let-me-skate” to the “I’m 5 years old and I REALLY want to learn” the community and all the skatepark users begin to take ownership of their park and take care of it themselves. It happens automatically and without intervention from any town rules or efforts to control trash or vandalism. It just stays clean and undamaged. The stewardship of your skatepark by its users is a trait that can be fostered, made to grow, and nurtured. It takes a few caring people to make it happen. Finding the skateboarders in your community who want the role of skateboarding and skatepark leader is an important step in getting your programs off the ground. The Rec. Directors and Program Coordinators must find the local skateboarders who can at least consult with them if not work for them directly, to assure the success of their efforts.
What types of skateboard programs can I organize and offer for my community? That’s the topic of the next in the series: “Types of Skateboard Programs.”