new life as teaching tools, and thestudents who are practicing on them arelearning lessons that stretch far beyondskateboarding.
When Rohan ﬁrst came up with the ideafor the skatepark, he didn’t think it wouldlead to a teaching job. “We just wanted aplace to skate,” recalls Rohan, age 28, who won the 1997 Vans world amateurchampionship in street skating. OpenRoad, a New York City–based nonproﬁtorganization, had developed the park onthe land next to East Side Community,converting it from an old bus garage, andRohan and others would skate on the basketball courts during after-schoolhours. With Open Road’s help, Rohan began to turn the courts into a skatepark. Although the park isn’t technically onschool grounds, the reception from EastSide Community’s administration wasn’t warm at ﬁrst. “The principal came outone day, and he wasn’t having it,” saysRohan. “He’s like, ‘You can’t do thishere!’ I said to him, ‘Look around. Yourstudents are out here.’” One of thosestudents was Tyriq Holloway, a 10th-grader at the time. Holloway picked upthe sport after seeing Rohan and othersskateboarding at the park.“I didn’t skate back then,”he says. “I was on the basket- ball team. [Skateboarding]looked cool, and
I wantedto try it, so I saved up my money and
got a board.”Holloway thought that askateboard class at school would be a fun way tolearn the sport. “At ﬁrst someteachers thought that it was acrazy idea,” he says, “but theprincipal is a really cool guy. He was like, if you can get enoughkids to sign [a petition], we willthink about it. I got every kid atthe school to sign it and someteachers, too.”Despite his initial reaction,the school’s principal, Mark Federman, could not ignore thesupport for a skateboardingphys ed program, and he called Rohanto make it happen. Two skateboardcompanies, Zoo York and CCS, donatedthe gear, and brands like Red Bull and Vans chipped in money to help pay for theobstacles in the park.It only took a few months for the schoolto add the class to the curriculum. “We gotthe parents to sign permission slips,”says East Side assistant principal
TomMullen. “We really didn’t ask
anybody. We just did it. It turns out that it’sright in line with the Department of Education’s philosophy of trying to getkids interested in sports that they willthen do on their own time.”
With the green light, Rohan now had toﬁgure out what the class should consistof. He worked with theschool’s gym teacher todesign a program. Rohanestimates that 70 percentof his students had never been on a board beforetaking his class, so thegoal of the program is toget kids to be active andinterested in skating,not to create the nextRyan Sheckler. “Everyone starts fromthe ground up,” says Rohan. When itcomes time for grading, enthusiastic
participation and attendance weigh more
heavily than skill.Each class consists of 15 minutes of stretching and warmup exercises, 10minutes of drills, and 20 minutes for freeskating. The drills include things like buttraces, where one student sits on the board while another pushes. In the “MichaelPhelps” laps, students lie on theirstomachs on their boards and pushthemselves with their arms. During the wall crawl, the kids stand on their boardsand push along a wall with their hands. As the classes progress, new drills likerelay races are introduced.The exercises are designed to teach balance and control. They also level theplaying ﬁeld so kids of all skill levels canparticipate. Just because an advancedskateboarder may know how to kickﬂip,it doesn’t mean he or she can’t be beatenin a relay race by a faster student who isusing a skateboard for the ﬁrst time.
For Rohan and other skateboarders, being accepted by the school system is amajor step forward. “When I was inmiddle school, you would get suspended
circulated a petitionto add skateboard physical education to theschool day.