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hey friends, I'm working on sharing our philosophies at SOLID with the world, and I would love your critique... Just finished my first blog post. You're welcome to rip it to shreds and give me some feedback.

the post:




Hi Steve,

Just read your blog and think it is a great and simple introduction to mentorship within skateboarding. I especially liked this bit:

"The challenge is - when I accept that I have a level of influence and that my actions can impact another - am I willing to accept the responsibility that goes with it?

Most skateboarders do not want to add responsibility to skateboarding. That’s okay. This work is not for everyone, but for us to move toward a better world, someone’s gotta take ownership."

Some ideas to add to this topic (maybe in a follow up blog post?) is digging a little deeper into that responsibility, to talk about things like setting appropriate boundaries and child safeguarding, ie. being a mentor is not the same as being a friend. Friends are peers and don't have that same responsibility dynamic. A mentor (even if this is just informal, such as hanging out at a skate spot together) should be conscious of age differences and that certain things are not cool to do together with a kid, ie. drinking and drugs.

I think for those of us who are formal mentors, such as people who work with skate programs as coaches/leaders, it's really important as well to not show favouritism and to avoid things like personally giving gifts to certain kids. It's better to try to always be fair, and if giving away things like skate gear, to do it through the organization with some kind of merit or needs-based system, rather than personal gift-giving. A couple reasons for this are: 1. it makes the other kids feel bad and 2. Gift-giving can be a form of "grooming" for sexual abusers so best to have a policy against it.

Another thing your blog made me think about is something that Joel Pippus from Push to Heal said about how, for example, when working with kids affected by trauma, the actual quality of the relationship itself is more central to any lasting change than the actual intervention strategy or model. This is kind of jargony, but basically it's not skateboarding as an activity itself that can have the biggest positive effect in our work with young people, but the quality of the relationships between mentors and participants. This is why mentors making a long-term commitment to those they are supporting (formally or informally) can be so important, and why short term volunteering can be less effective, and I have personally seen to be disruptive for young people who might be attending skate programs with a high rotation of volunteers/mentors. 

Thank you Rhianon - that's excellent feedback. Yes, I hope to make this the beginning of many posts. 

so many thoughts and comments to respond...

First off, one thing we are working through is learning how to support a kid with certain needs (maybe he needs a board or shoes) in a way that gives dignity and support without perpetuating or creating a harmful environment of entitlement. Know what I mean?

We've been getting donations from our local VANS retailer and it would be super easy to give them all away each month. However, we are asking if this is really the best way. Any resources or insight here?


Second, we're also working to empower and train our older skaters to be great mentors. We have a base-line "code of conduct" we've outlined for a healthy and thriving skate-scene, but one challenge is that there is little we can do to stop an older skater from befriending or mentoring without our training or guidance. 

In one sense - it's a success of the work we've been doing for the past few years that an older kid is even interested in making a positive difference in a young kid's life. But at the same time - we have little control over what the older kid is talking about or modeling when we're not all together. 

At this point, our approach is to keep inspiring and training the older guys we see doing the mentoring/befriending of the younger kids, but if an older guy says, "F#%!$ that! I just wanna skate and do it my way." What can be done to protect that young kid (if needed)?


Thanks again!


Hi there, 

I think I have a couple ideas that could help out with your questions here.

If you have a surplus of gear you could consider holding a skate contest or demo event (could make it a BBQ for fun) and give out gear as prizes in the contest, as well as making up prize categories for everyone there, such as most likely to show up at the skatepark before noon, most tries before landing a trick, best old school trick, best style, most colour coordinated, loudest, quietest, etc. Then everyone gets some gear and has fun without feeling entitled or like a charity case.

In terms of not having control over the behaviour of older skaters that's a bit of a tricky one. You could focus on a few that are more confident or grounded natural leaders and have some conversations with them to set the norms. They can then help set the culture at the skatepark and help call out bad behaviour. You could also empower the kids with info to protect themselves and recognize bad behaviour. You can have informal conversations or go a more formal route of handing out informative pamphlets to the kids about what kind of behaviour is ok and not ok from adults around them and what to do if someone is out of line. Obviously needs to be done in the right way for them to be receptive to it, but I could imagine this actually catching on even if only in a joking way at first. It could get the groms talking about it at least. Here's an example from a guidebook we send home with our students, you could adapt/rework some of the messages for your context.  

guide for kids at skateistan

- Talia

great suggestions - thanks.