On the surface it sounds like a dream job. Wake up and spend the day skating, visiting various skateparks and areas of the city while getting to share your passion with the next generation. Yeah that part is amazing, no doubt. But what everyone forgets is that with any dream job comes the reality of what the day to day looks like. No one could have prepared me for the countless runaway boards that would soar straight into my ankles and shins on a daily basis, or days that you’re sore and just not feeling it but you gotta be at your best anyway. At the end of the day though, even a bad day doing something you love is a blessing. I wanted to share a few of the ups and downs from the life of teaching skateboarding.
The Best Case Scenario
Imagine that you just opened your eyes and you feel calm, ready to face the day. As you turn to your alarm clock you’re surprised to realize you’re up 10 minutes before your alarm is set to go off and you get to skip hearing the blaring speaker jolt start your day for once. After a decent breakfast you skate down the street to work in a tshirt letting your body bathe in the warm sunlight poking through the leaves of Pin Oak and London Plane Trees (yes, there is a tree map that allows you to identify every tree on your street.). First thing you do is check out the roster for the day. Lo and behold it’s a small group, maybe 5 or 6 kids who are regulars and have already been bitten by the bug. These kids live and breath skating and happen to be fast learners, too.
Everyone is in high spirits as you get to the skatepark. You cruise around, have lunch. Some of the kids learn new tricks…hell maybe even you add a few new things to your bag of tricks. Take some pics, a clip or two and head back to camp Headquarters for parent pickup. Easy, right? Well, yeah of course. No stress days rule, this is what we hope for everyday. Unfortunately, life loves to throw a few pebbles under your wheels every now and then.
Skateboarding Is The New Soccer
The biggest morale killer are the kids who just don’t want to be there. All of the students have different levels of interest and that’s great. Some kids simply like to skate but it’s not their absolute favorite. I get that so we try to keep them entertained with other stuff like skate videos, art projects, obstacle courses and games of tag…the usual kid stuff. The worst is the kids who absolutely refuse to skate and tell you flat out that they are only there because their parent made them. At that point skate camp morphs into daycare and instead of teaching kids how to drop in you’re stuck dealing with behavioral issues. I’ve had a child fight me on watching a skate video because “a skate video is not the same as a skate movie.”
It’s not like I don’t attempt to get to know the kids and find a way for them to have fun. I do, and it can be exhausting. The biggest lesson learned is how hard it can be when you really want to share your passion with someone and they step all over it. Watching Cole Wilson’s part from Oddity gets a little less enjoyable with a four year old sitting next to you sighing “Not Cool!” after every trick. For someone who had to learn by falling, getting hurt, and watching videos analyzing foot placement with zen like focus its super disheartening to see a kid with all the opportunity you wish you had and they couldn’t care less. I also empathize with these kids because I know how much it sucks when someone pushes you to do what you don’t want to do. It’s part of why I was drawn to skateboarding in the first place. The one activity I could just go do without anyone to tell me what to do, anytime I wanted. If you’re a parent out there reading this, please share your passions with your children. If they don’t share your enthusiasm then talk to them and get to know what they do like rather than push them into something just because it’s an option.
Rainy Days and Injuries
With the biggest bummer out of the way, let’s dig into the more obvious negatives. Rainy days give everyone cabin fever and there’s only so much you can do before you get bored. This serves as inspiration though and I’ve had some of the funnest days inventing new games or ways to use the space I work at when stuck indoors. Being stuck indoors also makes you feel cramped though and more likely for collisions and injuries.
For the average skater, we’re accustomed to scrapes, bruises, and all sorts of pain….but we skate anyway. Most of us don’t even wait for the injuries to heal before we’re back on the board. This makes it hard to take the kids injuries at the same level of seriousness as they do. A lot of kids will take small tumbles and look at you to gauge your reaction before they decide how much that last fall hurt. They will show you cuts that aren’t there demanding band aids and treatment. Most of the time you give them the old “rub some dirt in it” treatment and everything’s cool. It can be pretty heartbreaking when they actually get injured. I had to “lie” about how much an alcohol wipe would sting while cleaning out a scrape and I thought the kid was gonna hate me for life. He got over it in like 15 minutes but there was fire and rage in his eyes when that pad made contact with him.
Connecting With Kids on a Personal Level
The biggest plus of the job that people might not think of is getting to know a bunch of rad kids and having an influence on their young lives. These kids are ages 4-14 most of the time and look up to the adults in the room as role models and examples of how to act. Our actions, and reactions shape their perception of the world. I’ve gotten to meet some really talented kids with interesting thoughts. Another note to parents out there: Be careful what you say and teach to your kids because they do repeat and model after you. I’ve had kids get into fights on the way to the park over Trump and Hillary. One of the boys put up his hand to anothers face and said “you like Trump I can’t talk to you.”
I had to sit down and explain that was not okay. I told him that we need to understand why each other has different opinions and how to talk through things even with people we disagree with. It was a teachable moment and when it really came down to why they held such opinions on topics above their age is because their parents had imparted their own views onto their children. I’ve had one kid tell my co-worker (who is black) that his dad told him never to trust black people. That’s where skateboarding is key because to us (at least how we all like to think) a skateboarder is a skateboarder, end of story. I’m glad I am there to help change their young minds about such big issues and how to handle conflict. I thought going into it my biggest conflict was going to be goofy vs. regular. I learned quickly how fast bad habits and attitudes can travel and embed themselves into people. It’s my job to counteract that and give these kids a safe place to have some fun and be kids.
It’s All Good in The Hood
Please pardon that last cheesy line but I couldn’t think of a better way to say it. Yes, there are ups and downs to every job, even our dream ones. But everyday I get to go back to work with a smile on my face looking forward to another day. I look forward to learning about the students and helping them overcome fears. Sometimes I just help them overcome boredom and that’s ok too. There’s a couple skate schools in New York City and they all run admirable programs that will enrich the lives of the kids that go there. Some may be the next big names of skateboarding, while others may just look back on a fun summer that they tried skating. Either way I truly love what I do and wouldn’t trade it for anything. I might try and invent some type of ankle pads though, that would save me a lot of pain along the way. I say it’s all good in the hood because no matter what, I have to remember that these camp days are these kids childhoods and they are making memories. They are also going through the process of learning and shaping how they will be as future adults. It takes a village to raise a child they say, I’m just trying to do my part so that they grow up being a rad person and not some security guard trying to kick me out of the spot.