Back to school time usually means its back to sports time.
Do you remember the story I wrote about Annie Guglia, the Canadian Olympic skateboarder who narrowly missed the initial Olympic cut but travelled to Tokyo as an alternate? When a South African skater pulled out due to an injury, the Montreal-born athlete was thrust into the mix 36 hours (or thereabouts) before the competition was to begin.
My then five-year-old daughter at the time was enamoured by the skateboarding competition and could not believe that boys AND girls participated in the action.
She was so into the Olympic skateboarding events that we wrote a postcard on the back of a Cheerios box and mailed it off to Guglia via the Canadian Olympic team.
“My daughter dutifully dictated her message to Guglia and followed it up with some colourful artwork of skateboards. Later, I snapped a photo of her putting it in the mail and, on a whim, we sent the photo to Guglia’s Instagram. I didn’t think anything more of it until my phone buzzed the following day and it was a reply from Guglia herself.”
(I just quoted myself from my previous column. That’s weird. )
Naturally, I was grateful that Guglia took the time to reply while on her flight home from Tokyo. My daughter, well, she was inspired.
She asked for, and received a skateboard (and accompanying safety gear) for Christmas that year and it was pretty cute to see her trying to manoeuvre a board around that was almost as tall as she was.
Fast forward to back to school this year, and back to sports. I was leafing through the CVRD’s recreation guide and came upon a girls only learn to skateboard series. Just four 90-minute classes taught by Carla Hyslop.
“Learn how to shred all of the gnar with these skateboard lessons…” said the listing.
I mentioned the class in passing one evening and my daughter didn’t say much about it. A few days later though, she surprised me when she said, “you know Mom, I’ve been thinking about it and I’d like to do the skateboarding classes.”
Because soccer and rugby weren’t enough, now we’ve added skateboarding to our autumn roster.
She was the youngest at six, and girls up to 12 could participate. In the end, I think there were three first graders and two fourth graders there the first day. She was so nervous for that initial class. The bigger girls had clearly ridden before and they were intimidating for my diminutive six-year-old whose board was nearly as big as her.
But then something changed. We got out of the car and my daughter looked up to see a girl wearing a Minecraft t-shirt skate by.
“Mom!” she whispered in my ear as I pulled her gear out of the trunk. “She likes skating AND Minecraft!”
It turned out three of the five girls were wearing Minecraft shirts and they all obviously liked to skateboard.
It was a fun 90 minutes watching as my little skater went from wanting to hide behind me to chatting it up with the other girls and her teacher. She went from being scared and shy, to learning how to fall safely, to wanting to practice ollies and other tricks with names I don’t remember.
As a mom, the best part was watching my child try a trick over and over again until she got it, and hearing the bigger girls give her tips and then showering her with positive feedback when she succeeded. They didn’t have to support her — they just chose to.
Those fourth graders don’t know it, but they’re who she’s really looking up to. Sure, getting a special message from an Olympian was nice, but seeing girls that dress like her, that like the same things she does, and that live in her own community that are trying tricks, failing at tricks, and succeeding at tricks — all the while cheering her on — is who truly inspires her.
We got in the car after that first session. She was all sweaty and she had the most beautiful glow in her cheeks and the biggest grin on her face.
“How much longer until we get to do that again, Mom?” she asked.
Inspiration does come from where you least expect it to. Like I said in my last column about inspiration, “It’s my job as a mom to jog alongside my kids as they run to wherever that inspiration takes them. That’s why I’m always wearing sneakers.”