A Case Study
Parents/Looking for a safe and accessible approach to engaging children in independent active recreation, turn to skateboarding.
Parents are looking for a safe and inclusive sport or recreation environment where their child can participate with friends or siblings and achieve instant success. However most organised sports require children to have a certain level of fundamental skill in order to be able to participate effectively. This is particularly true of sports that involve a teammate or opponent. In tennis for example you need to be able to receive and return the ball to your opponent regularly in order for a rally to take place. Otherwise the game just becomes a series of individual “serves” with limited skill or athletic development taking place. The result is a lack of regular action, and because of this, children become bored and eventually lose interest in the activity.
Often in organised sports children are separated by age, gender or skill level. It’s argued that this helps to ensure even competition among participants. However, the problem with this approach is that social groups are often disrupted as friends may have different individual skill levels and therefore be placed on opposing sides. Siblings also may be separated - especially if they are brother and sister – as most sports are organised by gender.
For many parents this can prove problematic, as they try to juggle the demands of work and childcare. Fortunately for Jane (mother) our programme provides for children of all genders and abilities to participate together.
“I could take both my daughter and my son, even though they’re 5 years apart, so that was appealing to me”.
Just as importantly our programme is able to accommodate children of different skill levels.
“[It worked] regardless of their level - Zara was an absolute beginner and Luca was intermediate - there were opportunities for both of them to improve their riding skills. That was appealing to me”.
Travel to and from venues can be a significant burden on parents wanting their children to participate in organised sports. One of the major advantages our programmes provide is portability. Because we don’t rely on having permanently located, custom-designed facilities to deliver our programmes at, we have greater flexibility as to when and where we can deliver sessions. This means that we can offer programmes at venues that are close to participants. This has the effect of reducing the cost and inconvenience of travel. Having a venue close to Jane’s workplace certainly made it more convenient for her when looking for a school holiday programme for her two children.
“You were down at North Harbour Stadium which was easy for me for drop off and pick up”.
A FOCUS ON CHILDREN'S SAFETY
Skateboarding as an activity is often considered risky, with the potential for injury, particularly for young children learning to ride the board for the first time. Providing helmets and safety pads for all children has helped reassure parents that all reasonable steps are being taken to ensure the safety of their child. This was a deciding factor for Grant (Father) when he decided to enrol his daughter on one of our school holiday programmes.
“Knee pads and helmets as being compulsory and wrist guards – that is good risk management. It is very gratifying to come along as a parent and see every child wearing a helmet and when someone didn’t, seeing the instructor pull them up on it”.
This was also a motivating factor for Rachel (mother) when she enrolled her son in one of our school holiday skateboard programmes.
“Having all that gear (safety equipment) ready – that is awesome to have all the helmets and the pads and that kind of stuff. When you drop them off you think, oh well that is OK, at least there is that. They are not going to hurt themselves. Having that organised was really good”.
This philosophy of “safety first” extends to the role our instructors play in ensuring the children are taught the correct way to use the portable skateboard ramps and obstacles (see picture below). It’s important that the children are given the freedom to challenge themselves and undertake safe risk so that they can build confidence and self-esteem. Our role is to ensure that they can undertake the level of risk that they want to and not be afraid that they are going to injure themselves.
A STEPPING STONE TO HIGHER LEARNING
Allowing young children to learn to skateboard by themselves, for the first time – without adult supervision or instruction – can be a scary prospect for many parents. The potential for injury is highest among young inexperienced skateboarders. This is particularly true if the child is riding at a public skatepark and they are not familiar with the park etiquette. Equally importantly, older more experienced skateboarders can often seem intimidating to young children and this can have a negative effect on their confidence and self-esteem and ultimately affect their rate of learning.
In contrast, the risk of injury is reduced considerably and the rate of learning is increased (and more enjoyable) if the learner has an experienced rider alongside them providing instruction in an environment specifically set-up to teach younger, less experienced riders. This was a significant factor in Grant’s (Father) decision to enroll his daughter in one of our school holiday skateboard programmes.
“The thing I was looking for was a way of bridging (the learning gap) to the skate park. When you get people like yourself and Martin (OnBoard Skate instructor) teaching my daughter how to skateboard, the progress she makes in a morning is more than she’s made in a whole year. As a parent, I am prepared to pay money to short circuit that learning curve, because the ability for her to enjoy herself and to be out there and be active just takes off. I don’t necessarily want to create a professional skateboarder, but someone who can have some fun and do some tricks and generally enjoy themselves in a safe fashion”.
Grant was also keen to highlight the benefits that our customised learning environment had on his daughter’s rate of progress.
“If you had asked me in terms of my pre-course expectations, I hoped my daughter would be better at standing on her skateboard and perhaps be better at doing turns and things. I certainly didn’t expect her to slide along some rails, go over some ramps and start learning about dropping in. So, it (the programme) far exceeded my expectation. I think some of that probably is her (athletic ability), but I think a lot of it is the quality of the tuition and the design of it (the programme). I think it (his daughter’s progress) is a hell of an achievement for a relatively short course”.
This was aided by the way that the programme and learning was structured to ensure the necessary skills were taught in the appropriate order so that learners could gain the confidence to challenge themselves at a higher level. Grant made the point that:
“I found it (the learning) to be very structured. My expectations were it being a little bit more chaotic and there being a few more people going to ground (falling over). But I found the progression from just starting out doing simple things and then building up (to a higher level of challenge) was excellent”.
POSITIVE ROLE MODELS AID LEARNING
Having positive role models is an important factor in aiding young people’s personal and social development and essential to the creation of a safe and positive learning environment. This is particularly true in sport, where young children are under the care of adults serving as coaches. The coach is considered to be the authority figure in the minds of young children and therefore has a lot of responsibility for the care and welfare of the children in their charge. It's important therefore that the coach develops a positive rapport and actively engage with the children in order that they enjoy the learning experience. Jane (mother) - has for some time now - enrolled her children in our school holiday skateboard programmes. She explained why it was important to her children that they were exposed to positive role models.
"One of the things that the kids have said they really like is that the (OnBoard Skate) instructors are engaged and help (the children), because quite a lot of programme staff that help, or teenagers that help at these (other) holiday programmes just don’t engage with the kids".
In this case study, we have interviewed four parents who have seen their own children enjoy and learn in our programmes. We have addressed why parents might want to consider skateboarding as an alternative, accessible approach to engage children in independent active recreation. We have particularly shown how our approach accentuates safety and enjoyment, and how children are able to learn the skill quickly.