Types of Skateboard Programs
While skateboarding is unique from other sports in terms of how we learn and participate, it does have similarities in how programs can be run and organized for the community and the kids. Bringing the community’s skaters together for different events and activities can be a lot like other sports. You could have a multi-day skate camp, several one-day clinics, after-school programs, private lessons, contests and jams, fund-raising events, and weekly skateboard trips. You could develop a grant-funded mentorship programs for certain age groups in skateboarding. The ideas are endless. To get started, try one idea, and expand to others as one becomes successful. Hire local skateboarders that care about the skatepark and the kids skating and want to create their own programs.
“Ultimately the success belongs with those that want to see their parks thrive and become integral parts of our communities. One of the things I do with our local parks is to use skateboarding as the vehicle to drive charitable events. The park is used to benefit other groups, allowing people to see the skatepark as more than just a skatepark. They become a source of community service. We have run charitable events for Ronald McDonald House, Children’s Hospital, and many other youth based charities. [Also,] the community gets to see us skaters as something other than just skateboarders. They get to see us rally behind the community, and become contributing members of our communities.”
–John Leizear, Skaters for Public Skateparks [dot org]
Getting Started with a Kids Skate Camp
So how do you execute some skate program ideas, and get things moving? Let’s start with something simple that benefits a lot of kids and families. Schedule some skate camps for kids, one or two hours long, for three or four days in a row. They sign up for the week, come to the skatepark early in the day each day, and skate with their coach in a small group of four to six. The group works on the fundamentals and basics early in the week, like learning to fall without injury. Developing fundamental skills translates to safely learning and getting better fast. By the end of the week, the kids are all skating around the park improving and working on different tricks.
Many kids at the beginner to intermediate levels at younger ages can skate together at skate camp. Even the intermediate skaters, under age 10, can skate together with the beginners at a week-long skate camp.
You should, of course, offer something for the more advanced skaters too. It’s only as they get older and begin to skate better that they need a different learning environment than the younger kids. From about the age of 11 or 12, the intermediate skaters should have their own group. You can schedule the skate camp for more advanced, or older skaters, to occur right after the younger skaters’ time slot each day. The older skaters can more easily deal with the traffic that builds as the day goes on, and they need a somewhat “looser” approach to instruction. We call it a “session” in skateboarding.
A “session” is a time when there’s a group of skaters skating together in a particular place in the park, or even on a certain feature. It could even be around the whole park. All the skaters are watching each other. One goes right after the next, building on the energy from the last person’s run. Everyone cheers each other on as the skating and energy build. One skater could be at a different level, or working on a trick that may be easier for another skater, but when the trick they were working on is done successfully, other skaters recognize that person with a comment or a “yeah.” It’s more like skating as a team than it is a competition. We all skate together and learn from each other.
At skate camp, a coach can join the session as a peer with the kids, while at the same time maintaining a safe and supportive learning environment as a teacher and coach. The kids get a role model, a peer to skate with and learn from, and a supervised, positive, fun learning environment! The nature and freedom of skateboarding and how we participate in it makes the skate coach into a participant and a teacher at the same time.
You can be creative about how you plan your camp. Try a camp that lasts two weeks instead of one. Or set up a skate club, like we did here in Colorado, where we take a van-load of kids to a new skatepark every week all summer. We can hit eight or ten different parks over the summer all within two hours drive. Read more about it below.
One-Day Skateboard Clinics
You could try some skateboard clinics that happen periodically, for certain age groups, or even demographics. A women’s clinic is a good example. In a day-long clinic everyone comes ready to skate for the day, for perhaps 4 to 6 hours. The skaters come for the day, bring lunch, and skate with some coaches in a day long “session.”
In a clinic, you need a plan for the day. Depending on what the skaters want to do, you should plan some discussion about fundamentals, the roots of different tricks, safety in learning new tricks including bailing and falling, and suggestions for new things the skater’s may not have thought of. The coach should be able to watch the skaters and be able to make suggestions on improving on the tricks they know, and those they are learning. While skating in the session, the coach can give observations and tips to the skaters.
As I mentioned above, after starting with a skate camp for kids, and growing into different age groups, waiting lists, and multiple camps, we wanted to have something for the older kids. We skated with them at the park as they grew older, and we could see that they had outgrown skate camp. They wanted to explore more spots, learn harder tricks, and skate with their friends. A few years after skate camps we started a skateboard team. It was ten kids, and they would get to skate with us (coaches) during the week locally and then travel to local contests as a group a few times over the summer. It was a great program that had many mentoring-type benefits, and we wanted to offer it to more kids.
We decided to change the program after the second year from an “exclusive” skate team to an “inclusive” skate club, where any kid from 10 to 15 years old could sign up for the weekly skate trips to a different skatepark. We could offer the trips more often, affect more kids, and have more fun! Now we have a waiting list for the trips and plans to expand. On a side-note, we were able to fund the skate trips, coach’s wages, and programs through a grant we were awarded. The program is essentially free to the community. We found that a $5 fee to go on the trip was enough to ensure each trip was full, without any no-shows. At the end of the summer we have a big celebration at our own skatepark, with a party and a skate jam for everyone. It really is a great program for the skaters and the community and its families.
Private Skateboard Lessons
We’ve been offering private skateboard lessons alongside our skate camps since we started. There are always the few younger kids and enthusiastic beginners that really thrive with more individual attention. Working on the fundamentals, and building on those skills, students learn fast with their own instructor. Private Lessons are usually sold by the hour, at a rate similar to tennis or another rec. center sport. We’re at $45. Very small kids and those under age 5 should take Private Skate Lessons. With their smaller bodies and less fine-motor control, they benefit from a hands-on style of teaching, along with focus on the fundamentals. Kids as young as 3 years old can have a great time skating with a coach and can really learn to skate!
Check out the 8 Hour Skateboard Curriculum. On the Documents page, there’s four samples of some of the documents we use in our skateboard programs. Click to download and inspect!
That’s what we use as a model for our skate camps for the kids. Starting with the fundamentals, many kids are working on the intermediate tricks in one or two weeks. Many kids take more than one skate camp over the summer. We always see them skating at the skatepark, even if they’re not in skate camp anymore. It builds a great community of young upcoming skaters that care about the skatepark and respect each other. They really do become better people through skateboarding.