Whether you run a skatepark or are working on a skate project, you’ll notice you have a lot more boys and men turning up each session than you have women. So how can you address the balance and encourage more girls and women to get involved? We’ve picked up a few things to help encourage girls and women when it comes to skateboarding. Check out our list below and watch your girls skate scene flourish.
Girls only sessions
After speaking to a few different skateparks about ‘girls only’ sessions, I am often met with a response such as: ‘oh we do girls half price once a week’. Which is great if you have an existing girl skate scene; if you don’t though, it is not enough.
On a personal level, I got back into skating after going to my local girls’ night and I would never have gone to the skatepark to try skating again after 14 years if it hadn’t been a really relaxed and supportive girls-only night.
I can understand that a park with a really good turn out of men would be reluctant to put on a girls-only event for fear that they’d lose out on income from the guys that they would’ve had. The fact is, yes, it may be a slow start, but if you build it they will come… and I have the stats to prove it. In Manchester at Projekts’ Skatepark…
“Girls Night was re-launched in June 2017 and quickly became our busiest and most successful session with between 20 and 60 people showing up each month.
Since then we have also launched a weekly women and girls only coaching session in an attempt to keep up with demand and give proper support to this new group of skaters. The weekly sessions see between 15-40 people participating which makes it our second most successful session behind the monthly Girls Night.
In the past 6 months, we have also seen more women and girls using the skatepark during regular hours than in the history of the organisation. The increase in female users visiting the park per year has gone from 82 in 2012 (the year the first girls night was launched) to 1669 in 2017 and we believe that this is due mostly to the women and girls only sessions serving as an introduction to skateboarding, our increased number of female coaching staff and the encouragement of the girl skate community that has flourished at Projekts, Manchester.”
– Jonny Rose, Coaching Development Manager, Projekts, Manchester
It takes investment, a dedication to getting more girls and women to your park and the understanding that there may be a few quieter sessions before word gets around and things pick up. However, if you invest in building your local girl-skate scene, you’ll be rewarded with a vibrant, enthusiastic and growing new community at your project.
If your skate project runs a loaner board system where limited boards can be borrowed then Girls Only boards could be a great way of letting both male and female participants that the park is for girls too. A good trick to get the guys on board (pardon the pun) is to get the guys to mark the girls’ boards themselves. They might not be super enthusiastic but it opens the conversations and allows them to feel ownership of the initiative, rather than feeling it’s something imposed on them.
There are two benefits to having female coaching staff. Firstly, it gives your female attendees strong female role models that they can look up to. They’ll see first hand that there are girls skating and that the space is just as much for girls as it is boys. This is the easiest way you can show, rather than just tell, girls that your skatepark or project is for them too.
The other importance of female coaches is that they break down some of the cultural barriers to women’s’ skateboarding. In some cultures, after a certain age, women aren’t allowed physical contact with men. This means that if the participant wants someone to hold their hands while they try something new and there are no female coaches available, they simply won’t try it.
Once you have female coaching staff you can create fully women and girls only sessions with no men at all, meaning the session will be open to those who for cultural or other reasons don’t want contact with men.
Competitions are a great way to build confidence in young skaters. Having competitions specifically for girls, as well as specifically for certain ages or abilities allows skaters to compete in an environment that’s fair and fun. It allows new skaters to build on confidence gained from taking part in competitions and it also offers inspiration for those watching the competitions, win-win.
‘Girls free’ days
Once you have the beginnings of a girl skate scene at your park or project then ‘Girls Free’ days are a great way to cultivate it and encourage integration with male attendees. The thing to remember with this is that this will help encourage girls who have a basic level of confidence when it comes to skating and help them feel more comfortable skating the park with guys there and higher ability levels. It’s a mistake, however, to think that on its own this is enough to cultivate a girl skate scene without any of the other methods mentioned above.
So that’s our list of top ways to encourage girls to come to your skatepark or skate project. What barriers do you see to women getting involved in skateboarding? How have you worked to encourage more girls and women to attend your skatepark? We’d love to hear your ideas!