Missoula’s parks and rec skate camps teach more than just skateboarding
Kevin Moriarty/Missoula Current
Equipped with helmets, pads and skateboards, kids who signed up for week seven of Missoula’s Parks and Recreation's skate camp prepare to hit Mobash skate park every day for the next week.
While the kids are likely to become more confident on a skateboard over the course of the next week, the camp has the potential to teach lessons that go beyond skateboarding.
Skateboarding can be a great teacher for the challenges that life brings. Learning to fail over and over again until you get it right is what skateboarding is all about. It is something that takes countless hours of hard work and practice to learn, but the sky is the limit when it comes to skill level.
Simply put, you get out of it what you put into it. And this philosophy rings true for so many other areas of life besides skateboarding.
Brandon Murak has led summer skate camps through Parks and Rec for the past three years. He said he has seen kids change their entire demeanor in just a day after discovering what they are capable of on a skateboard.
Murak typically gives kids the freedom to skate around on their own, but will look for teachable moments, offering tips as needed or guiding a kid through something they have never done before.
Some kids get discouraged when they aren’t progressing as fast as they wish they would. In this case, Murak reminds kids not to compare themselves to one another. Whether the goal is to learn how to ollie or simply roll down an incline, success on a skateboard looks different for everyone.
“I’m trying to build up my confidence and not be afraid of falling,” said Majer Caton, 10.
According to Nemours Children’s Health, self-esteem is invaluable in helping kids cope with mistakes and giving them the confidence to try new things.
Nola Vorkoeper, 10, was sporting as fresh bruise on her hip from falling the day before, but she didn’t let the fear of falling again stop her from continuing to skate.
Many of the kids in the skate camp, including Vorkoeper, like the freedom and minimal structure that the camp offers.
“The other camps I have been in, there have been a lot of rules,” said Vorkoeper. “I feel more free in this camp.”
Murak believes that in the skateboarding environment, kids can gain a better sense of self-management and resilience - skills that kids may not learn in a more structured environment, like school.
“They like the freedom of it. They're organized on their own,” said Murak as four kids as they skate by.
Skateboarding teaches kids to be confident in themselves, while also respecting others around them. The camp fosters a sense of community and teaches kids how to interact with one another.
Interactions that often involve yelling “look out” or “incoming” before rolling down a ramp.
The Parks and Rec skate camps bring together a group of kids from diverse backgrounds, who otherwise may have never met. Although the camp only lasts a week, Murak has seen relationships built in that time.
“Kids teach me that it's really easy to connect with people,” said Murak.
This summer, Missoula Parks and Rec offered a traveling skate camp for the first time, giving kids the opportunity to visit skateparks in the nearby towns of Lincoln, Alberton, Stevensville, Hamilton and Darby.
It may come as a surprise to some, but Montana is somewhat of a skateboarding oasis. Thanks in part to the Montana Skatepark Association, there are skateparks scattered throughout the state, some in small towns or rural areas without cell service.
“I think that my supervisors see how much the kids are enjoying it and they are investing more,” said Murak. “Getting that travel skate camp was kind of a monumental thing.”