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.
About María Voth Velasco and Girlsskate Aachen
When we spoke to María Voth Velasco we quickly realized that she is highly passionate when it comes to sharing skateboarding. During the ROLL Models 2020 leadership program, María carried out “Girlsskate Aachen” which was designed for all girls and women in Aachen, Germany, who were interested in skateboarding, meeting more girls and connecting with each other.
Pursuing the main objective of creating union and building up a girls' skate community in Aachen, she emphasized inclusion and the integration of every girl / womxn – making sure her sessions were accessible and welcoming for any skate level. During the skate lessons she worked on developing tolerance, acceptance and growth. She was focused on applying skateboarding as a tool for pushing boundaries – mentally, personally and physically.
Through her program, María wanted the girls to strengthen their self-confidence through meeting and skating in public spaces, while encouraging an attitude of being comfortable going out with their board wherever. She motivated the participants to be brave, have fun and reach the goals they set between them.
“For me it was great. I reached out to a lot of participants and I did not expect it but they were really into it. At first most of them did not know how to skateboard but then the progress came and I was really proud of it. Hearing them say “yes I can do it!” was really pleasant and joyful. They continued practicing during this time and they are friends now.”
During the sessions, María covered various aspects relating to learning to skate, such as learning what skateboarding is about, using proper equipment for skateboarding and supporting and helping each other while learning and doing tricks. She also covered the physical aspect of the activities, for example how a good warm up before every session is important to start the session happy and motivated. The location of the regular skate lessons was mainly at an underground spot in Aachen known as the ‘Unti’ but she also moved to more locations like other street spots, skate parks, bowls or a pump track.
Besides the regular skate lessons, she had originally organized a “challenge moment” and a contest at the end of the program, where the girls could win something related to skateboarding. Sadly, this final event could not be celebrated due to the Covid restrictions.
Since María also has her own sustainable clothing brand “Turtlehorn”, she integrated some creative workshops related to skateboarding into her program as well. This includes: making a batik (fabric dyeing) workshop, a personalized sticker workshop and showing some videos of girls skateboarding as an inspiration before starting the main program. These creative workshops took place at the Bleiberger Fabrik in Aachen.
Despite times being challenging and difficult due to Covid-19 pandemic, she found a way to adapt her program to the situation. Apart from adopting basic sanitary measures such as wearing masks and gloves, keeping a safe distance and having hand sanitizer at the sessions and using a broomstick to hold on instead of touching the participants, she also integrated the COVID Skate Guidelines that came out of the Goodpush Alliance webinars to support social skate projects during the pandemic.
Speaking about the adaptations she made during quarantine, María says: “We decided to make some videos in the meantime for the girls so they can practice at home or find a spot and practice there. We are also spot-checking and making videos. That was helpful and inspiring for them for sure.”
It was great to hear that the resources from the ROLL Models leadership program helped people like María to plant these seeds and we hope that this will encourage more and more people to find and share the love for skateboarding!
“In general the project was great. The organizations supported us and also there was a budget for the equipment which was really helpful. Also the guidelines about how to train people or how to make activities with them, how to lead a group… Those online sessions were really helpful.”
Maria clearly highlighted that she wants to keep working on her project and everything the future has to offer her related to skateboarding. This statement reflects the aim and objectives of our ROLL Models program: more skateboarding for girls and women. Hearing this is absolutely joy for us and we are sure that she is going to achieve great things. Good luck on your journey María!
"Once you start this kind of project it's hard to stop. People texted me asking for more information and advice, then I wrote an article about womxn skateboarding which people found really interesting. More and more people want to apply for skate courses… the groups can’t be enormous because I can't control them! I have to make some different sessions. We are also hoping to do a summer skate camp, let’s see what happens!”