Creative activities to promote health and wellness among youth become more abundant in the summer months. Being outside the classroom, kids seek outdoor play to occupy their time, so it’s important to be mindful of your programming and offer relevant activities.
Since 2005, the Mukilteo Family YMCA has offered their youth an indoor and outdoor skate park to provide a safe place for recreational activity. “We recognized there was a large population of riders and potential riders who either didn’t have access to a park or would benefit from the supervision of caring staff members,” said Carl Funnell, the director of aquatics and recreation at the Mukilteo Family YMCA.
Featuring both transitional and bowl elements, the skate park is able to accommodate multiple skill levels for a variety of riding styles among skateboards, scooters and BMX bikes. “Both the quantity and demographics of our riders have changed and fluctuated over time,” said Funnell. “Currently, we see a fair spread of elementary, middle and high school-aged youth, along with some adults during open skate times. We primarily have elementary school age and younger kids for our skate lessons.”
The park offers open skate times and a number of skate lessons, ranging from group skate and group scooter to private. The park also offers a summer camp that is popular among elementary and middle school-aged youth.
All staff of the skate park are trained in first aid and CPR, and go through additional training to develop relationships, de-escalate conflict and maintain a safe atmosphere. “I find the skate park very effectively supports the Y’s mission to promote youth development and social responsibility, providing positive role models to youth and teens who enjoy skating and turning recreational and social time into a pretty intense workout,” said Funnell.
Most of Funnell’s skate park staff are past participants who grew up using the park and developed a passion for it. “While the park is open, our staff ensure it remains clean and orderly, that safety rules are being kept, and everyone has the equipment they need to be successful,” said Funnell. “Assuming all of that is accomplished, they ride the park with the youth, developing relationships and providing skating tips.”
Offering a new program such as a skate park can reach youth who may not be coming in to your facility. It can also be a great physical and social activity for youth already at your facility to learn and potentially cultivate a new passion. “I think the key to operating the park is having great staff — with strong role models who are safety-oriented, kids are free to have fun in their own way while still being safe,” said Funnell.