A free skateboarding club in Chichester gave young people the chance to learn and develop a new skill.
The six week club was organised by The Young People Shop Project, with Dale Lay, founder of South Coast Skate Club, in Worthing, coaching the young people.
The free club was held mainly outside at the skatepark in the grounds of Westgate Leisure Centre, but on bad weather days the club moved inside into one of the leisure centre’s halls.
The Young People Shop offers free counselling, emotional support, advice and guidance to any young person aged between 11 and 25 years old in Chichester and the surrounding areas.
This particular project was aimed at children on free school meals, and then opened up to all young people who would benefit from improving their mental/physical health.
Active Sussex gave The Young People Shop Project £1,470 for three projects – one of which was skateboarding.
The 11 young people who attended the club had varying levels of experience and expertise, with some owning their own skateboard and others having never tried it before.
The club provided skateboards, helmets and indoor ramps for those who needed them, making it accessible for everyone.
One young boy who took part in the sessions was a Ukrainian refugee called Sacha Koltsov, who attends the local school and cannot speak much English.
During the session we attended, Sasha was determined to master a particular trick going down the ramp, slowly building his confidence with the help of coach Dale and colleagues who gave him encouragement.
But what was even more heartwarming was the encouragement his fellow skaters gave him, giving him the thumbs up and demonstrating how to do it.
Aly Oliver-Edes from the project said: “The young people bonded over the six weeks through skateboarding, and after session snacks and games with myself and Olly from YPS.
“We enjoyed healthy snacks and played Dobble and Connect 4 – it was so lovely to watch Fletcher helping Ukrainian-born Sasha with these games.
“Their confidence increased each week, with some of them swapping numbers arranging to meet at the skatepark on other days between sessions.
“A few of the young people have signed up to continue the sessions with South Coast Skate Club which is fabulous news!”
Caroline Daines, from Barnham, said her 11-year-old daughter Molly had ‘loved the club’.
“She is a little bit shy, so me dropping her down at the skatepark would not work. But because she has got a teacher to show her the tricks it has given her confidence. She has really enjoyed it.”
She added: “It is nice to see some girls doing it. It is definitely a confidence booster, especially as there is somebody teaching them a few things.”
Molly added: “I was never good with my balance before so I have learned a lot about that, and going over a few small ramps I have boosted my confidence with that too.”
Felicity Strange, 11, from Selsey, described the club as ‘exciting’, adding: “I have fun, but it is scary doing all the drops and everything as I feel like I am going to fall over. I would like to continue skateboarding.”
Mum Elizabeth Storton has two boys at the club, Olaf, 13, and Toby, 11.
“I think it is absolutely wonderful. It is somewhere where they can learn skills in a safe environment, but also feel independent and proud in being able to move forward with this.”
Olaf said he particularly liked going into the jumps and jumping off them, adding: “It is very, very, very fun. I look forward to it.”
One of the main draws of the club was the coaching provided by Dale, helping the young people learn how to skate safely.
Charlie Ashdown, 11, from Chichester, heard about the project through his school and signed up.
“The coaching is amazing – I have learnt how to do a kickflip and ollie,” he said as he then proceeded to show us all the different things he could now do.
“There are some other skateparks that cost £10 a session, but this is better because you get supported as well,” the confident 11-year-old added.
Lucas Cool, 11, from Pagham, said: “I have really loved it. I have learnt new tricks and I am a lot better than I was. It has given me a lot more confidence in flying over the jumping ramps.”
After the last session one parent wrote a testimonial praising the club.
“Thanks so much for this amazing opportunity for our young people.
“My son didn’t feel wealthy enough to fit in at triathlon club, he didn’t have all the fancy gear.
“He couldn’t cope with all the shouting at football club. And he was gently asked to leave the running club for being too slow!
“So many sports just crush their confidence. The skateboarding has been great for him because it’s so relaxed.
“And now he knows all about skatepark etiquette, he feels more confident to visit the skatepark and try things on his own.
“We would love this course to run again.”
You can find out more about South Coast Skate Club here: https://south-coast-skate-club.org/
To find out more about The Young People Shop Project, visit https://yps-south.org.uk/young-people/