Sports in Society Nowhere to play

After-school skate program provides more than bruises

When Covid-19 hit, Skate After School in Arizona still had plenty to give to kids. The skateboarding organization has shifted its priorities to try to support its community during the shutdown.

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Project Play’s 2020 study found that three in 10 kids who previously played sports are no longer interested in participating. Kids who continued to play are spending about 6.5 hours less per week on sports during the pandemic.

Tim Ward is the program director for the Skate After School, a Phoenix, Arizona-based nonprofit that partners with schools to provide skateboarding instruction to underserved youth. Ward knew that Covid-19 was going to be a real challenge to his program’s mission, but SAS was never about making children into pro skaters. It was about encouraging the innate resilience and problem-solving capabilities inside every kid. Ward knew he could continue that mission even amidst a pandemic shutdown of schools and regular events. 

Skate After School began as a small community project in 2012 and is now a nonprofit organization providing weekly after-school programming to more than 240 underserved children across eight schools. Through donations, Skate After School is able to supply each student with the equipment and protective gear necessary to participate. A team of trained volunteers leads instruction and ensures that fun and safety are top priorities.

SAS participates in community outreach events at Phoenix-area homeless shelters and refugee centers throughout the year, donating refurbished skateboards to people who can use them as an accessible form of transportation. Since closing down its usual operations in March 2020 due to Covid-19, SAS has been distributing skateboards and equipment for kids to use. In a program the group named “Radical Reshuffle,” SAS distributed free skateboards to kids under 14 in the Phoenix/Tempe area in April 2020. 

The organization has also repurposed its big truck to haul donated goods around the area: Ward uses it to pick up large donated items such as beds and refrigerators from Mutual Aid PHX and drop them off to recipients. He also used his truck to help relocate goods to the SAS warehouse when the Mutual Aid warehouse flooded.

Skate After School also awards annual summer camp scholarships to go to Woodward West in California for a week of skateboarding and mentorship. Although this was canceled in 2020 due to Covid-19, Ward and SAS instructors have been considering hosting a local camp or some form of summer enrichment so the kids can get out and skate in a Covid-safe way.

SAS has been trying to adapt and innovate and keep connected to the community as priorities have shifted. 

Iggy Spetrino, 13, of Phoenix is one of the youths who normally participates in the SAS after-school program. During the pandemic, the group has given him ramps and gear to use in his family’s driveway. He skates all the time, and the gear has helped keep him occupied and engaged with the sport during this downtime. 

Principal Sean Hannafin of David Crockett Elementary in Phoenixis an occasional skate instructor for SAS, and he helps run a community food pantry program that has expanded significantly since the Covid-19 pandemic. He helps disperse food to members of his school’s community. His work is part of the loosely connected SAS community members who are trying to recalibrate their work to meet the current need despite being scattered by the pandemic.  

“In the immediate sense,” Ward says, “I wish we were doing our daily programs and planning our annual summer camp trips to Woodward West and the YMCA skate camp in California. But in the bigger picture sense, I wish programs like ours didn’t exist solely because of the generosity of our donors, but actually were sustained by a robust and fully-funded school system here in Arizona.” 

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