Right now we are working with dozens of groups in the United States that are pursuing new skateparks in their communities. Together, we know that conversations lead to commitments, so how we talk about skateparks will be the biggest factor in getting someone’s interest and earning their support. Communication is the foundation of effective advocacy. What we say and how we say it matters. So, should we be calling skateboarding “fun?” We think so!
Imagine that you’re starting a local skatepark effort. How would you describe that skatepark to your community? Would you talk about the human need to have fun?
We think that playing and having fun should be the ONLY reasons a community needs to support their next skatepark.
Of course, a skatepark does much more than just provide a curvy place to play, but playing and having fun is a critical component to healthy childhood development, and it helps adults, too. Playing helps us practice important social skills, like negotiating group dynamics through collaboration and competition, while helping us stay young and happy.
The psychological benefits of play generally fall into six categorical areas. The “playful” benefits of skateboarding at a skatepark are easy to see within them:
Cognition: Self-directed play is particularly helpful in allowing young people to practice decision-making and goal-setting behavior. Skateboarding is entirely voluntary, and the skater is interested in skateboarding … qualities that inform motivation and goals for the session. At the skatepark, the skater is constantly scanning their surroundings and the path ahead, while also concentrating on the trick being performed. The mental acuity and “hyper awareness” that a crowded skatepark requires takes practice.
Communication Skills: Skateboarding brings people together and offers a shared interest for people to build friendships around. Every skateboarder has their own unique way of skating, and their style and repertoire of tricks are expressions of the “type” of skateboarding person they are. Skateboarding fandom is rife with lingo; legendary personalities, hallowed spots, and trick names are ways of signaling a person’s cultural investment.
Creativity: Every skateboarding trick starts out as inspiration. The trick, how it’s learned, its stylistic flourish, are all up to the individual. New tricks are being invented all the time. Learning a new trick requires lots of performance analysis and creative problem-solving.
Emotional Skills: Skateboarding is sometimes scary and frustrating, but skaters become familiar with these obstacles and learn skills to manage them. Landing a difficult trick the first time is a powerful accomplishment. Habitual skateboarders frequently claim that they use skateboarding to cope with stress.
Physical Health: The health benefits of regular physical exercise are well understood, but skateboarding also offers intense lessons in balance, coordination, strength, and motor skills. Skateboarding is often daily and always voluntary.
Social Skills: Skateboarding is a way to reduce social barriers, experience camaraderie, and collaborate with others to create meaningful experiences. The skatepark will attract skaters of every age, race, gender, and economic background.
Don’t get stymied by expressions of fun and play when you talk about skateboarding and skateparks. There are powerful reasons behind “play” that everyone can get behind. Skateboarding hooks kids because it’s fun—the main reason we support skateparks is because they’re fun!
Drop us a line and let us know what you think is the biggest benefit of your local skatepark. If you don’t have a local skatepark, we’re happy to talk about those important first steps to getting one: email@example.com
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Tony Hawk Foundation
A charitable, non-profit organization, the Tony Hawk Foundation was established in 2002 by its namesake, professional skateboarder Tony Hawk. THF promotes and provides advocacy training and funds for high-quality public skateparks in underserved communities throughout the United States that promote healthy, active lifestyles, and to International programs that enrich the lives of youth through skateboarding.
Domestically, the Foundation’s Skatepark Grant programs have awarded over $10-million to 630 communities in all 50 States, including $3.6-million through its Built to Play Skatepark Program in partnership with the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation. THF focuses on working with local officials and grassroots, community-based organizations that plan to hire designers and contractors with strong experience designing and building skateparks.
The Foundation’s International Program has provided technical support to skatepark projects on every continent and awarded $150,000 to assist youth through the Skateistan educational programs in Afghanistan, Cambodia, and South Africa (www.skateistan.org).
The Tony Hawk Foundation was established by a gift from Tony Hawk. Its directors raise additional funds through events, donations, and continuing contributions from Tony and other entities. For more information, visit the Foundation’s Web site at www.skatepark.org. You can also visit THF on facebook and Instagram @tonyhawkfoundation, and on Twitter @THF.