Dive Brief:

  • Partnerships between schools and skateboarding nonprofits, acknowledging the diversity among the skateboarding community, and linking skateboarders to internships and opportunities to use the skills they’ve developed through the sport are among recommendations researchers at the University of Southern California offer in a new report.
  • Based on case studies in seven U.S. locations, as well as a survey of over 5,700 respondents — including a large proportion of middle and high school students — the study, supported by the Tony Hawk Foundation, says being able to “stick with a challenge,” “think outside the box” and “solve tricky problems” are among the 21st century skills skateboarders believe they have gained.
  • Skateboarding also fosters communication, social-emotional and navigational skills, write the authors, led by Zoë B. Corwin, whose research usually focuses on college access. They recommend educators take an “assets-based approach” in helping skateboarders find paid internships and link their skills to education and job opportunities.

Dive Insight:

With skateboarding making its Olympic debut this year, the study contributes to a shifting perception of skateboarders from loitering youth who don’t respect public property to resilient problem solvers who are eager to apply their skills to areas such as filmmaking, photography, music production and apparel design.

“Skills and social connections obtained through skateboarding appear to have ‘exchange value,’” the authors write. “For example, we learned of skaters receiving mentorship on school-related matters, support on class projects, and assistance on completing homework through skateboarding connections.”

One skateboard shop where that is taking place is the Garage Board Shop in East Los Angeles, where students from as many as 15 area schools skate in to complete their homework in exchange for time in the skate park behind the retail floor. And some schools are beginning to add after-school skateboarding classes and even competitive teams.

Students, the authors write, have learned to navigate different attitudes among school leaders toward their sport.

“In some instances, skaters had to be strategic when bringing skateboards to school; in others, skating was supported by school personnel,” they write. “Skaters knew which teachers would not mind if they stored their boards in their classrooms, and which teachers would hassle them.”