Public opinion about skateboarding has experienced a huge shift over the last few years. Today, Tony Hawk is a household name and the curiosity and interest of non skateboarders toward skateboarding is in full bloom. What was once considered a destructive waste of time by the general populace has now transformed into a viable career for skateboarders. Today, parents can be seen standing in crowded bleachers cheering for their kids during their 45-second run on the course. Ten years ago this sight was much less common. All things considered, it’s important to ask how parents regard their children’s involvement in skateboarding.
Talking to various parents about their children’s skateboarding revealed that most are very supportive, and they encourage their children to progress. Jane Malkoff from Noblesville, Indiana is mother to seven-year-old Joel Malkoff, a skater who competes in the United Skateboarding Association’s Grom contest circuit. Malkoff has watched her son skate since he was four years old. “Skateboarding is a sport where you set your own personal goals and work at your own pace to accomplish those goals,” she says. “It builds inner strength.” Valuable lessons such as these allow young children to learn their limits and how to deal with failure until success can be reached.
Clearly, kids benefit from parents who take an interest in their life. So it should be no great surprise when kids whose parents are nurturing their lifestyles feel good about the choices they’re making. “If my mom wasn’t involved I don’t think I would skate,” says thirteen-year-old Lauren Perkins from Huntington Beach, California. “It’s cool to look up at my parents after I’ve done a good trick.” Perkins’ impressive list of sponsors includes Vans, Oakley, World Industries, Nixon, Volcom, Clive, Tensor, Joker Rails, Jacks Garage, and Aurora Wheels. Perkins has appeared in various magazines and on television, as well as earned top-ten contest placings.
Being involved in their children’s skateboarding is a way for parents to stay in touch with their kids. Lyn-Z Adams is a twelve-year-old ripper from Encinitas, California. Representing Gallaz, Lyn-Z has also done well in contests. Lynn Adams, her mother, appreciates the time Lyn-Z’s skateboarding allows them to spend together: “Taking them to skateparks or contests is a perfect opportunity for me to spend time with my kids without interruptions from anyone else.”
John Mirschel from Awelia, Florida started skating with his son Evan in front of their house eight years ago. Now Evan’s a regular in the Beast Of The East contests and still skates with his dad, who also helps him with tricks. “I watch him skate and tell him what he needs to do to land a certain trick,” says John. Skateboarding can be an excellent way to bridge the generation gap between young and old. It’s similar to how Riley Hawk and Lance Mountain Jr. look up to their parents for spending time with them doing something they both can enjoy–without the pressures of having to emulate them.
With the amount of money filtering through skateboarding via the involvement of huge corporations like Nike, adidas, and Sobe Beverages, as well as through ESPN’s X-Games bringing skateboarding into the living rooms of average citizens, kids now have the option to look at skating as a career opportunity. Now a viable long-term vocation, skateboarding is ranking up there with other sports like basketball and football as something children can aspire to. Asked whether they regard skateboarding as a long-term or short-term goal for their child, most parents seemed optimistically indifferent. “If my child wants to skateboard for the rest of their life, that’s fine,” says Jane Malkoff. “If they want to quit tomorrow, then that’s just as well.”
“I try to help him do whatever he wants to do,” says John Mirschel about son Evan. “Recently he’s shown a lot of interest in skateboarding. I teach him to have fun at whatever he’s going to do, ando the best he can.” Clearly, trusting children’s decision-making abilities directly affects a their self confidence. Plus, pressuring kids to make such weighty choices at a young age is oftentimes overbearing and confusing for children who have yet to figure out what they can excel in. And not just parents look at it this way.
Ryan Sheckler is a twelve-year-old skater who rides for World Industries, Etnies, Volcom, Oakley, Champs Sports, Tensor, Darkstar, Nixon, Ninja, Etnies, Joker Rails, Clive, and Shorty’s Hardwear. He’s been seen around the world in various skateboard ads, articles, and contests, and says his parents are very involved and very supportive of his skating. “They take me to all my skate contests, and make me all my ramps,” he says. “They’ve always supported me, and even if I skate or not, they just support me in whatever I do.”
With contests taking place all over America and outside of the country, many parents of competitive skateboarders are naturally concerned with how skateboarding affects their children’s schoolwork. Jane Malkoff doesn’t regard skateboarding any differently than other sports: “I let Joel miss school just the same way that kids on swimming teams or whatever can leave early.”
Although Joel is home-schooled, other parents whose children attend regular schools see no problem in letting their kids miss classes now and then. “I do half of my homework on the plane ride there, and the other half on the way back home,” says Sheckler. “When I get back to school, I’m usually ahead of the class.”
Aside from missing school, the lessons learned through traveling enable these young skaters to experience cultures, landscapes, and ways of life foreign to the average student. The parents and skaters interviewed agree that these experiences are invaluable.
On the flipside, there are young skaters who don’t have the support of their parents. Some parents regard skateboarding as too dangerous. Certainly, skateboarding–like other sports–can be dangerous (that’s why there’s safety gear). But it’s equally dangerous for a child to feel their parents aren’t supportive of them.
What’s the best way a parent can be involved in their children’s skateboarding, or moreover, in their lives? The kids interviewed had a pretty good idea. “Listen to your kids,” says Lauren Perkins. “Take them to skateparks and just be there for them when they need you.”
Ryan Sheckler offers similar advice: “Don’t push them, let them do what they want to do. I know of a lot of parents who push their kids to do things they don?t want to do. That’s when they end up getting hurt–when they’re ten or eleven, they die out and don’t want to skate anymore.”
Lyn-Z Adams agrees. “Take them where they need to go if you can, and try to understand that they go through all the boards and shoes and stuff because they’re skating hard,” she says. It’s pretty simple, according to the kids. And the parents seem to agree.
“It’s kind of like the kid who wants to be an artist,” says Lynn Adams. “Its classic when parents say ‘You’re no artist,’ or ‘You can’t make a living doing that.’ I mean, yeah, I’m encouraging my kids to get an education and think of something else they might want to do with their lives, but I think if that’s what the kids want to do, then we just have to get them the best equipment, and help get their pictures and portfolios together, and encourage them to keep doing it.”
“Listen to your child,” echoes Jane Malkoff. “Ask them what they need to achieve the goals they have set for themselves.”
The recurring theme is listening. The parents and children interviewed all agreed that listening is the number-one thing a parent can do to best be involved in the kids’ lives.
No one expects parents and kids to always agree. If kids could have their way, they’d skip school, sit at home, watch cartoons, play video games, and eat candy. Skateboarding is one avenue for kids to learn self-expression and confidence without alienating their parents. And if that’s not reason enough to encourage them, skateboarding is pretty fun, too.thout alienating their parents. And if that’s not reason enough to encourage them, skateboarding is pretty fun, too.