Come spring all Sooke School District middle and high schools will have skateboard teams, thanks to Debbie Qayum.
When her two teenage sons expressed interest in learning to skateboard, Qayum hopped on a board and learned alongside them.
Five years later, Qayum, 44, teaches beginner skateboarding lessons at her indoor skateboard centre Sidestep in Langford.
She connects with teens through skateboarding and is on a crusade to make the sport available to anyone who wants to try.
She spearheaded school skateboard teams in all of the middle and high schools in the school district.
“I didn’t understand why there wasn’t a skateboard sports team in the schools,” Qayum said. “It catches a bunch of kids who wouldn’t have been on other school teams.”
The project began last year and West Shore Centre for Learning and Training, Pacific Secondary, Belmont, Edward Milne, Journey and Dunsmuir schools were the first to join.
Both Spencer middle school and Metchosin technical school signed up to offer teams in the spring.
Teams meet once a week and practise different tricks and techniques. At the end of the school year all the teams compete against each other in a SD 62 skateboard competition. Last year’s competition drew a crowd of 200 people.
It was a tough start for the pilot program due to the teacher’s job action.
Qayum sought help from school administrators, youth liaisons and counsellors to help coach, when teachers weren’t able to.
Following her passion Qayum attended all of the school’s weekly practices.
Journey middle school had the largest team with 28 skaters.
Her purpose of adding skateboarding to school teams was to change an individual sport into something that rallies school spirit. The skateboard teams also give kids who don’t enjoy traditional sports an opportunity to experience the fellowship and pride associated with school sports.
But the formulation of school skateboard teams is only the beginning and Qayum would like to see more girls join. She even offered to teach other mothers who would like to learn.
“I want people to realize it is a sport and it takes a lot of skills and it’s challenging,” Qayum said. “I want kids to feel empowered.”
Students are able to use the hours on the team towards graduation credits. Some schools also allow students to join the skateboarding teams in lieu of taking a gym class.
Each school will have students sign up for the skateboarding teams in February and the season will begin in the spring.