Sam’s Skate School: Free Skateboarding Lessons Build Resilience for Children and Teens in Tauranga
Sam’s Skate School was created by a passionate school teacher who wanted to help kids with their grinds, ollies and tricks. Dozens of children in Tauranga are now heading to his free classes, as Scott Yeoman reports.
The little pink and white sneakers are suddenly very heavy.
“OK, come put your back foot here,” says Sam Robertson.
The 28-year-old stands on a ramp and holds a skateboard in the air, gently persuading one of his new students to step forward.
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The tail of the board behind the wheels is on the ground at the top of the ramp, but the rest hangs over the edge in the air. The girl comes and goes.
Sam looks at her. He feels the hesitation. The apprehension. He smiles.
“I’ll catch up to you, I promise I won’t let you down.” I promise you, okay? “
The girl places her foot on the back of the board. With a little more encouragement, she then manages to lift her other foot off the ground. His leg is shaking. She walks slowly. One foot in front of the other.
Sam holds both hands as he counts: “one, two, three …”
It is 4:15 p.m. on a Wednesday afternoon in a public skate park in the center of Tauranga.
There are at least 40 children and young teens here for Sam’s skate school; they are a blur of noise and color against the pale concrete, drowning out the rumble of cars passing from the nearby freeway.
“Oh man, it’s starting! Sam said excitedly at one point, sweeping the stage.
There were only five or six students when he started Sam’s Skate School, a social project to help young people get into skateboarding for free.
It was for those who may not have the means to buy a skateboard or have no one to teach them.
“It’s a super fun sport that I’ve been playing since I was 12, and I just want to involve as many kids as possible without the socio-economic barriers.”
Sam is a teacher at a local school and runs skate lessons in his spare time. There is one session every Wednesday afternoon during school term, and four sessions per week during school holidays.
Sam’s Skate School moves to a different skate park every three weeks to make it accessible to children from different parts of the city and the wider Western Bay of Plenty district.
“I’ve seen tremendous confidence and a huge amount of progress too,” Sam says.
“We’ve only been doing it for a little over a year, and now you have kids who come on their own, who grind, ollies, learn all of this stuff – partly because of the school fees. , but also they just managed to meet other skateboarders, which was really motivating for them.
Sam grew up in a small village in the UK and remembers picking up a skateboard and trying it out for the first time.
It’s that “addicting” feeling of learning something new, of riding after completing a new trick, which he now tries to make easier for others.
“I think it’s a pretty personal thing. When you first start skateboarding it’s something you can do individually, and I spent hours and hours in the garage all by myself in the raining UK, training for hours. And then you meet other skateboarders, and you share that link immediately. They understand the passion associated with it.
This special bond is crystal clear when speaking with Leighton Walker, 11, Theo Doyle, 13, and Ezra Welman, 12.
These three pals are crazy about skateboarding and all say they got better once they started coming to Sam’s Skate School.
“It took me about seven months to do a kickflip, and I still can’t do it consistently, but it was really cool and I landed it about five times, so Sam gave me this t -shirt, ”Ezra said.
As the number of students at Sam’s Skate School has grown, so has community support.
The project received more than $ 30,000 in funding from Sport Bay of Plenty, BayTrust and the Local Legends grant from Tauranga Crossing.
Sam says the money was used to buy equipment, get on more coaches and pay for them, and he’s donating a skate ramp to a section of town in need.
As you walk around and watch the young skateboarders learn to stand on their boards, learn how to push, kickflip, ollie and drop on ramps of different sizes, you can see the parents soaring. around the edge of the park, some with their phones filming, and more than one with big, proud smiles on their faces.
Tina Allen says her 7-year-old son Quinn came over on a Wednesday afternoon about two months ago “and he’s been hooked ever since.”
“I think he learns a lot more here than when he skates himself, just watching the big kids and then listening to Sam. He thinks Sam is like the holy grail, which is really cool.
Dianna Kingham here looks at her two daughters, ages 4 and 9, and her 6-year-old son. This is their fifth session at Sam’s Skate School.
“They have so much confidence in themselves, honestly,” she said.
“I just think it’s so great that it’s in the community, it’s free and it gives the kids something to do. I even started skateboarding, and it’s pretty cool.
Donny Allan, one of the coaches, says there was nothing like it when he was growing up in Tauranga and trying to learn to skate.
“That’s why I love the existence of Sam’s Skate School, because it provides an environment where a group of young boys and girls can come together and skate in a safe environment,” says the 26-year-old real estate agent.
“I saw them progress a lot faster than I did at that age because no one was showing me how to do it.”
Sam says skateboarding develops essential life skills – persistence, bravery, patience, practice.
He says skaters give up all the time, learn from their mistakes, get up, make changes and try again. They keep trying, learning and correcting until they are successful.
“And these kinds of lessons, they apply to every aspect of your life.”
You could see these lessons playing out in real time throughout the skate park this Wednesday afternoon.
The children hit the concrete, get up, dust themselves off and try again. You saw it with the girl in the pink and white sneakers.
As Sam counted to three and tilted him forward over the edge of the ramp, the skateboard wheels grabbed the concrete and started picking up speed as it descended the slope.
His feet came off the deck, but the plank kept moving.
Before she could fall, Sam lifted the girl by both arms and put her back on her feet.
“Ohhhhh, that was so good!” He shouted. “It was so close!”
Another skater retrieved the runaway board and brought it back.
“Try again?” Sam asked the girl.
She walked up the small ramp, punched Sam, and walked to the back of the line.
Her father, standing to the side, had been watching closely the whole time.
He was beaming.