SKATE AFTER SCHOOL: INTERVIEW WITH TIM WARD
We checked in with Tim Ward from Skate After School to learn about their new Radical Reshuffle program and more!
Can you give us a brief rundown on Skate After School (SAS) and how you got it started?
Skate After School is a non-profit after school skateboarding program for kids in the area considered to be low income or under served. During normal times, we see about 250 kids per week across 8 elementary schools in Phoenix and the surrounding areas.
SAS came from the realization that we might be able to build and donate boards using our old stuff. I worked at a skatepark at the time, started a donation bin, made some social media posts, and people started giving me their old boards. Ryan Lay, Bobby Green, and myself started building boards for a community center’s youth program here in Arizona. From there, it gained momentum, we got more organized and now it’s a whole thing.
What inspired you to start your Radical Reshuffle program? How has it been going so far?
The Radical Reshuffle Program is our response to our schools closing and us not being sure when they’ll return. We went on spring break and never came back. So the first few weeks we just kinda sat still and waited for more information but when it became clear that schools wouldn’t be back we started talking about how we at SAS could still provide access to skateboarding to the kids in our program and the greater community overall. Ryan had the idea to create an application open to anyone who wants a skateboard and we started connecting with people in the community who wanted a skateboard for a kid at home! The response has been huge. We got way more applications that we expected and we’re working to meet the need. We’ve given away over 100 skateboards and we’ve got more being built and going out each week.
Have you shifted to any sort of online meet ups or anything to keep the connections with the young skaters going?
No, not officially. We dropped off some of our ramps and rails with some of our more die hard skaters and even one teacher. Through our SAS Instagram, we’ve had a few kids send clips of what they’re working on and learning. Online meet-ups might come along down the road – some other organizations are doing cool stuff with them, but for now we don’t have anything official like that planned.
Wow – that’s rad you dropped off the ramps and rails so people could keep skating! Being an older skater, I’m guessing you didn’t have “Skate Clubs” growing up, what are some of the advantages you see to having organized programs for kids getting into skating opposed to the way we did?
I think there are definitely benefits of learning to skate as part of a club or program. I didn’t have that experience, but I was lucky to have a mix of older skate friends who weren’t mean and friends my own age. We didn’t have a lot of skateparks when I started so when we did finally get to go to skateparks we knew how to skate a bit already.
Programs like ours try to support kids in whatever way they want to or seem to learn best. We are sometimes organized and there are kids who respond well to and learn well with instruction, others just want to barge and see what works! We have time and space for all styles. Ultimately we’re not necessarily trying to train our kids to skate well, we just want them to have the access and opportunity to do whatever they want with skating.
Do a lot of your kids take to it and continue to skate outside of the program?
We definitely have a good amount of kids who take their experience with us and pursue skating further. Many of our kids do SAS multiple years in a row and through the Skateboard Angel program with Cowtown Skateboards, we’ve been able to give them all their own board each year before their holiday break. We do see some of our kids out at parks and events, which is really rad. It’s awesome when our kids pursue skating on their own but ultimately we want them to keep coming back to the program week after week. It is fun to give them some context with skating so when they see it on television they recognize it as something fun that they’ve experienced.
One thing we’ve tried to make our kids more aware of is the overall Phoenix skate community that they’re now a part of. People around here know what SAS is so if they meet a SAS kid out in the world they’re psyched. This year we started to let kids know about more of the skate events, parks, etc. that they can partake in. Now that they’ve shown interest in skating and had some “training” we want them to join in on their new community if they want to! Phoenix is fortunate to have a huge community for them to get involved in.
There are a lot of shifts happening in the world and within skateboarding when it comes to both environmentalism and inclusivity. As a lifelong skateboarder and someone who is directly influencing the next generation of skaters how do you approach the topics through your classes?
Well I can’t say that the program was started necessarily with environmentalism in mind but we are recycling and reusing skateboards and showing quite literally that skateboards and their components have in some cases years more use in them, even after an older skater is “done” with them. In some cases, we’ve also been informed that a way to view SAS is as an introduction of skateboarding as a literal vehicle to move around a city with. Again, we didn’t start the program with that in mind, but some of these things emerge as we’ve gone along.
As far as inclusivity, that’s also something that early on I was a lot less aware of. Our program seems to have an almost 50/50 breakdown of participants that are girls and boys. That being said I’m aware that even using that frame to view it in adds to the binary gender terms we are working to unlearn. In small ways, I hope that by myself and our volunteers trying to use less gendered language when describing the kids (we generally refer to them as “skaters”) helps and we hope to help in larger ways also as we grow and learn ourselves.
We have some amazing mentors with regards to inclusivity (Kristin at Skate Like A Girl, mainly) who are amazing at helping us navigate these subjects that might be newer to us. We’re very eager to learn and implement new things as best we can to make the program a safe and comfortable place for any kid who has the interest.
Skate Like a Girl has been a key resource to us as well. How can people help support the Radical Reshuffle?
Donating old gear to Phoenix area shops (Cowtown, Freedom, and Sidewalk Surfer) so we can keep building boards, or by signing up to be a sustaining donor with our new “buddies” program.
What is the new “buddies” program?
It’s our effort to try to get 100 people to sign up to be reoccurring donors to SAS. Everyone who does will get one of these pins in the mail…
Awesome. Thanks for taking the time to educate us on the happenings with Skate After School. We are excited to see more from the program in the future!