Skateboarding is a positive and empowering activity, especially for young girls and women – and it’s a great tool to develop leadership. That’s why last year, Skateistan joined up with Women Win (an NGO that focuses on empowering women through sport) to launch the first round of the ROLL Models program. The aim of ROLL Models is to empower the next generation of women leaders through leadership training and seed grants. A total of 26 womxn were selected to be part of the 2020 ROLL Models program and carry out their own skateboarding projects for girls and women in Greece, Germany, the Netherlands, the UK and Belgium. They also attended an online Leadership Camp.
The following two ROLL Models had the common idea of developing a Skate Week in their cities aimed at getting more girls on boards in their local areas. In contrast to the previous ROLL Models interviewed for this blog series, Beatriz and Lina applied for the call as individuals – without the support of an existing organization. We think this point of view may be interesting to anyone wanting to run a skateboarding project on their own. Learn more about their projects below!
Beatriz Gomez de Silva
Originally from Mexico City and based in the Netherlands, Beatriz developed a Girls Skate Camp in Leidse with the aim of creating a safe space for girls in skateparks, while also teaching them the basics of skateboarding and its values.
Lina Czerny lives and works in Cologne in Germany. She saw a lack of opportunities for girls in learning how to skate in her hometown Essen. The city has no indoor skateparks and therefore limited possibilities to plan and organize structured activities and classes. In her words, Essen is located in the middle of a big melting pot, where girls form surrounding cities could come to be part of her project. In this way, Lina worked on a Girls Skate Week in Essen and the surrounding area.
About Beatriz’s Leidse Girls Skate Camp
Bea definitely has a strong connection with skateboarding and the 2020 ROLL Models program was a great opportunity to spread it. Despite the difficulties of last year, the ROLL Models showed huge adaptive capacities to lead their project sduring challenging times. Beatriz’s project idea was to provide a skate camp for girls at the local park of Dwergwier/Merenwijk in Leiden,The Netherlands. She planned to schedule it for a week during the “Herfstvakantie” (autumn vacation).
Despite not belonging to a bigger organization to help her design and run the project, Bea had the support of two friends that were happy to help her as volunteers on her project. Together with these two volunteers, they created a safe space for girls at skateparks by encouraging them to get on board, teaching them the basics of skateboarding and its values, and spending time together in skateboarding spaces. However, the main focus was on the fun aspects of skateboarding such as playing, empowering each other and meeting people. She believes that people can easily be discouraged in the beginning if they miss the fun.
“The idea was to create a week to teach skateboarding at all levels – skateboarding one to one. We were there to support everybody who wanted to learn. It was here in Leiden (The Netherlands) where the park is not hostile but I still don't see many women going regularly. Then I met two who were interested in learning how to skateboard, but they were kind of intimidated because of being beginners and skating in a park with the pros. Then we started to go to the skatepark together and they started skating and supporting each other.”
She started through one-on-one skateboarding lessons for all levels and encouraged girls to go to the local skatepark more often. The main objective of this project was to make participants comfortable rolling on their boards and hanging at the skatepark in middle-long term. In this way, they would be able to continue their skateboard progression after the camp without feeling discouraged. She didn’t have any exact learning goals in her project because she believes that everyone learns skateboarding at a different pace and the exact learning goals depend on the participants themselves.
Bea and her friends approached local schools and community centres in order to reach their participants who were girls between 10-15 years old. They created posters of the project and spread them through the city. They also used a sign-up form which asked about things like skate equipment needs to improve their planning. In this way they managed to plan and get anything that was needed before starting the skate camp. She also contacted the local skate shop (Wood Be Hero) and they agreed to support Bea’s project.
During the interview, Bea remarked on the adaptations that most of 2020 ROLL models had to make due to the COVID-19 situation. In her case, they had to change the dates of the skate camp. Originally they wanted to carry it out during the summer vacation in July but restrictions at the time banned any kind of event, so they changed it to October Herfstvakantie vacation. This also allowed them to start the registration along with the school year and they could adapt the project to take into account the COVID-19 safety considerations and restrictions.
“I think that most projects created still continued to the end. It just kind of postponed a lot of the plans. We were supposed to do more things as part of the project as well, so that did not happen. It would have been nice to do the whole program with the leadership camp and everything, but I was still interested. Despite all we did, a lot of webinars, connected with each other, met all the ROLL models… we still managed to go through [with our projects], which is pretty impressive considering what happened. “
Bea mentioned that in the beginning she was a bit scared and worried about how everything was going to be regarding the changes she made into her project. She was wondering if the new dates she chose were appropriate to get enough participants because of vacations and lots of people moving from the city. She assumed that her initiative was not going to be something involving a lot of people, but she was happy because those who were involved were really motivated to participate and learn.
“My project was small, it was a bit difficult to get participants. It was in October and between the weather being a bit messy and the vacations, not everybody wanted to join. So at the beginning it was like ‘Oh no, this is going to be difficult, is not gonna go well…’ But I thought it was good because even if it was a small group of young adults participating, they were really into it. They were all beginners and they started to help each other up , they seemed to be really motivated to do the thing they were doing. They even created a Whatsapp group so they could go out and skate together. Really happy with it, that worked out!”
One of the greatest strengths of ROLL Models program, which has become even more evident during C-19, is the relationship that has developed between the ROLL Models. Early on in the programme, Women Win and Skateistan also set-up a WhatsApp group in order to encourage the ROLL Models to get to know one another. Since then, they regularly communicate on this platform, offering support to one another, sharing successes and challenges, asking for advice and sending photos and videos of their projects. For Women Win and Skateistan, the consolidation of this group as a close-knit community has been one of the highlights of the program. Beatriz also supported that idea and says she found a lot of support and help from other participants and she also met those who were based in the Netherlands.
When we asked Bea about her experience and learnings during the program, she added that she learned a lot about project planning, as well as aspects related to the self-management needed in order to achieve her goals. Besides this, the relationships she made during the experience meant a lot for her and she is deeply encouraged to continue moving forward.
“I learnt a lot of things. Of course organizing a project from scratch and learning how to deal with your strengths and weaknesses to achieve something you want to make happen. I learnt a lot about the social skateboarding world, met a lot of inspiring people… a lot! I absolutely want to continue on womxn leadership through skateboarding”
Nowadays, Bea is working as a part-time skateboard teacher at “Project Fearless”. Merida (Project Fearless’s founder) and Beatriz met each other during last year’s ROLL Models program as both were based in The Netherlands. This is about synergies – we love to see how the paths of different people with the same purpose come together.
About Lina’s Girls Skate Week Essen
The main goal of Lina's project was to promote self-love and empowerment in young girls. After previous experiences in skateboarding, she is aware of the power skateboarding can have. In particular, she sees the sport as a key to improving young girls' self-confidence.
"Even just learning small steps on a skateboard, it already feels like you can conquer the world, and that's a feeling I'm eager to pass on. When you understand that in skateboarding everyone has to put in the same effort to achieve something, it doesn't matter where you come from or what you look like"
Lina’s project took place in the second week of the fall school break. Besides skateboarding, the project included diverse creative activities like a Painting/Graffiti workshop, jewelry workshop, lino print workshop, screenprinting workshop and a movie night. In designing the project, Lina was interested in developing her program over the long term to continue to provide a safe space for girls to learn to skateboard in Essen.
“Basically I did a whole week of different events. I set different skate sessions all over the rural area in Germany and in different cities also. I organized different workshops and a skate contest at the end, which did not happen until today due to Corona”.
Regarding the limitations due to the COVID restrictions, Lina stated she was lucky because her project was set before the hard lockdown happened. Even if she had to adapt her project to the new situation, she was able to carry out her project almost at 100%.
"A maximum of 40 girls could participate in the skate sessions and there was capacity for 10 participants in the screen printing and graffiti workshops. So the girls had to sign up before on the website, then they got an email with all the information. That helped me to track the information about the participants. Everything worked out pretty well!”
“We had to adapt the program to Covid restrictions but luckily the events took place before the hard lockdown. One skate session was indoor, and another was planned in that skate park, but unfortunately the day before the skatepark was closed due to corona. But it was only one day; 5 out of 6 days went well, so I was really lucky."
Regarding the target group of Lina’s project, she focuses on girls aged 13 to 21 years old as it was easier to organise suitable activities for this age group. However, she did not want to exclude younger or older kids who were passionate to join the project. She also wanted to help address the issue of many young girls not knowing what to do with their time (especially with so few recreational opportunities during the pandemic).
She had an interest on working mainly with girls from difficult backgrounds and with a low socio-economic status. Her flatmate and friend is social workers in Essen – that is why she knew how great the demand is in this area and how many ideas there are that unfortunately could not yet be implemented due to lack of money.
The project was advertised in youth centres, schools, living groups for young people with a difficult background, refugee accommodations, and orphanages. Besides advertising her project in that way, she also used the budget to work on digital resources like a project website with all the event info.
At the end of the project, Lina felt proud and happy of what she accomplished; girls supporting girls in skateboarding. As her project was a success, we are pretty sure that she will keep working hard in this field.
“I was overwhelmed because of the reactions of the girls, because they really pushed and supported each other up. That was really beautiful to see. The reaction was so positive, a total success!”
Lina is motivated to develop her project in the future. She said that the ROLL Models program could be a long-term initiative. At the moment she is planning another Girls Skate Week for this summer, you can find updates about it on the Instagram account @girlsskatevents.