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Could Skateboarding be the Answer to Truancy Problems in Schools?
Skateboarding and Physical Fitness
If you have never watched a skateboarder in action, you should. It requires an amazing use of physical coordination, motor skills, dexterity, physical strength and balance, all at once. Check out Fuel TV sometime, and you will be amazed. It is a true sport, although not recognized as one in school systems. The "real" sports involve a ball or a track, like most of the team sports regularly offered in schools all across the nation today. Outside of school, it is a different story. Although not usually considered a team sport, there are skateboarding teams or groups. Although the two sons I raised were true "jocks" and played many team sports in school such as baseball, basketball, ran track, and the revered game of football in Texas, they both bear lifetime damage to their bodies (shoulders and knees) from playing contact sports. They chose to play these sports, and we let them, knowing the dangers involved. They were not pushed by anyone, except their coaches, and because they loved the sports they played, they made sure to make passing grades and show up for school so they could continue to play and participate in the sports they loved. "No Pass, No Play" was a Godsend for me with my oldest son! He was a bit of a handful his last two years of high school, and I believe this rule literally kept him in school and me sane. But read on for why I think implementing skateboarding as another choice as a part of Physical Education class in school could make a difference in keeping more kids, both male and female, in school until they graduate.
Skateboards In Schools
Many children and teens don't care for the regular, mainstream sports offered in most school systems. Physical Education classes usually involve some sport that involves a ball, like basketball, volleyball, dodge ball, etc., or climbing ropes, running lines in the gym, running up and down the bleachers, and other activities that may help the kids get some exercise, but lets face it, THEY'RE BORING! At least to me they were, and I was also one of those kids that didn't like team sports, except for the years I played fast pitch softball (it was a summer league that had nothing to do with school). There are a lot of children in our school systems today that feel the same way. They aren't what is usually considered a "jock" in the mainstream sports, but they may love, or would love to try riding a skateboard.
Most of our communities do not welcome skateboarders. Skateboarders have received a bad reputation as a general rule, which is unfair, plus there are signs posted everywhere, warning them to not skate on parking lots, sidewalks, paved walking trails, etc. This is mostly for safety, as a fast moving skateboarder darting out in front of a car or hitting a person could cause serious injuries, even death. I understand why they don't need to skate in public areas where it would be unsafe, and I am not even going to suggest that it is. What I have in mind is entirely different.
A man by the name of Mike Vallely, who has been a prominent figure in skateboarding since the late 1970's or 1980's, has a show on television on the Fuel TVchannel. This is a channel devoted entirely to skateboarding and extreme sports. My husband has gotten me hooked on this channel, as he is a skater from the 1980's. I was watching this show one day about Vallely, who has started going around the world spreading his message of staying in school, staying off drugs, and still promoting skateboarding especially for children that want to skate but may not have the resources at hand that they need. He visited a school where the PE teacher, a man named Mike McDonald I believe, had introduced skateboarding into the PE classes in an old basketball gym. There were boys and girls, riding around on their skateboards, wearing the appropriate safety gear (helmets, knee pads and elbow pads), having the time of their lives. You could tell these kids were really enjoying themselves, while getting physically fit at the same time.
McDonald talked about how the truancy rate had improved immensely since he had started this program. More kids were staying in school and graduating, their self-esteem had improved, and it had fostered relationships between kids that would probably never have been friends without the common love of skating. The more experienced skaters were helping the novices learn how to skate, and there wasn't any of the humiliation that went with having to pick "teams", with one kid always being the last one chosen.
Skating fights obesity, helps develop motor skills and coordination, builds muscle tone, burns fat, and helps build self esteem. It is a sport that both males and females can participate in, and crosses the borders of ethnicity, gender, and teenage "cliques". I think if schools would be more open minded and come up with innovative, modern approaches that appealed to those students that don't necessarily fit into the "mainstream", less students would fall through the cracks and end up quitting school and not graduating. Some of the kids considered on the fringe of society would no longer feel alienated, and some of the "loners" would no longer feel so alone. This approach could result in more kids graduating, which helps schools when being rated by the Board of Education and other entities. This all translates into a better success rate all the way around for both the child and the school system. It's a win-win situation, with very little cost to the school, and only a small amount of changes involved. Using a creative, modern approach when dealing with children and teens will get a positive response.
If we show our children that we are willing to meet them in the middle and consider their interests and have faith in them, they will respond in a positive way. Respect and tolerance on both sides will begin to grow, and our fundamental, shared goal of seeing our kids graduate from high school, and possibly go on to college will begin to come true more often. I figure anything we can do to keep our kids in school as long as possible is worth a little thought and consideration. Since it has already been tried and proven to work, shouldn't we at least consider trying it in more of our schools?