Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Skateboarding changes kids' lives

Maybe it's a kid who doesn't feel so good about himself. Maybe he doesn't have a lot of accomplishments he can point to and be proud of. Maybe he hasn't participated in summer camps, arts programs, or sports leagues. And maybe he never had the chance to.

That kid gets a board, and if he's at all normal, he's terrified at first. But he faces his fear and he practices and practices. He learns to sharpen his mental focus because he has to. He learns discipline, determination, and no matter how many times he misses a trick or falls, he keeps getting back up. He keeps working on it until he gets a trick and gets it right.

Now that kid does have something to feel good about, and he's probably doing tricks he never imagined he'd be able to do. And it changes his whole outlook. He feels better about himself. He feels happier.

Also contributing to his happiness is the instant community every skater finds when they start skating downtown. If you skate, you are accepted. It's as simple as that. Doesn't matter what race or nationality you are, where you live or go to school. You have people to hang out with, to talk to, and to look out for you.

One day I ran into a group of skaters in DTSS that I'd never met before. Communication is always easy with me and young skaters, and we started talking about all kinds of things — why they started skating, where they skate, and how they feel about skateboarding. I unintentionally opened up a can of worms when I asked if they felt like skating kept them away from bad influences. There were 5 skaters and they all started talking at once, going on and on about things they used to do, or almost did, or what they might have done that would have led them down a bad path, were it not for skateboarding.

Many times, we've gone to skateparks and stayed all day. Just skating. And being happy. And peaceful. These kids are really very easy to please. If they have a skateboard and a decent place to skate, they're content and don't ask for much else.

Is it wrong for me to want this community to encourage and support this? To support these kids? I grew up in the hood and I know where these kids can go and how powerful the pull of negative forces can be. And I know it really isn't that hard or that complicated, to give them something better.

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