Inspiring Tanzania to get on board with Skateboard GB
The growth of skateboarding worldwide was perhaps an unexpected consequence of the emergence of Covid-19 in early 2020.
Whether participants simply craved more excitement on their restricted excursions outside at the time, or whether many just wanted to learn a new hobby, the popularity of skateboarding boomed like never before.
In the UK, participation nearly doubled year-on-year, with Skateboard GB, the sport’s governing body in Great Britain, recognising how the trend had been prompted by pandemic-induced lockdown restrictions.
On a roll
However, the truth is that skateboarding had been on a roll long before the pandemic arrived. By the turn of the century – some 50 years after the activity entered the mainstream in the US – skateboarding had overtaken ‘America’s sport’ baseball in terms of under-18 participation.
Then in 2016, skateboarding was one of five new sports added to the programme for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, with the park and street disciplines eventually making their pandemic-delayed multi-debut at the Games in 2021.
Athletes participating in the park format perform on a hollowed-out course – a bowl-like structure, pulling off tricks such as grabs and spins out the top of the bowl. The street format, widely considered to be the most popular discipline of the sport globally, quite literally takes influence from the streets, with tricks performed on apparatus such as stairs, handrails, benches, walls and legends.
The same two disciplines will be on show, for men and women, at the Paris 2024 Olympics, with a total of 20 spots available in each event – 80 in total.
Athletes qualify through their Olympic World Skateboarding Rankings, gaining points by competing at Olympic qualifying events throughout the year.
There are currently two more Olympic qualifying events in 2023, with a street event scheduled for Switzerland in September and a park event taking place in Italy in October, but it is clear that skateboarding now has a platform to continue its growth worldwide, building on strongholds in countries like the US, UK, Brazil and Japan.
With this in mind, Skateboard GB has been keen to play a leading role in broadening horizons. The national association recently launched a partnership project with the Tanzania Skateboarding Federation to support the development of skateboarding in the East African country.
The new collaboration will be supported by investment through UK Sport’s International Partnerships Programme (IPP), which is in place to help UK National Governing Bodies build relationships with international and national federations around the world.
Objectives of the project include establishing a development programme to roll out to further African nations, support the inclusion of skateboarding in future Commonwealth Games, and strengthening Skateboard GB’s links with Tanzania and other African nations.
The partnership is also aiming to increase the skill and knowledge base of skateboarding coaches in Tanzania and increase the skill base of skateboarders in the country.
Skateboard GB’s partnership with the Tanzania Skateboarding Federation kicked off with a recent visit to Tanzania to deliver a coach education programme. This initial trip will be followed up by a visit to the UK for a small group of Tanzanian athletes and coaches in October.
The delegation boasted staff from Skateboard GB and UK Sport, including Dame Katherine Grainger, the current Chair of UK Sport who won one Olympic gold medal and six World Championship golds in an illustrious rowing career.
As part of the programme, the two-day ‘Get Rolling’ course was delivered to coaches to help support the development of skateboarding education and participation.
“The aim of the project was to create a coaching infrastructure in Tanzania, allowing local coaches to deliver sessions to youngsters."
“The aim of the project was to create a coaching infrastructure in Tanzania, allowing local coaches to deliver sessions to youngsters. We had 14 people complete the Skateboard GB ‘Get Rolling’ course who will then, each individually, be able to deliver sessions to groups of up to 15 people per lesson,” Neil Ellis, Head of Engagement, Skateboard GB, tells Global Sustainable Sport.
“The project will have three phases, starting with the visit by the UK delegation to Tanzania to deliver a coach education programme. This will be followed by a visit to the UK for a small group of talented athletes and coaches. The third and final phase is still to be developed with the partner, but will likely be delivered online with knowledge transfer sessions and ongoing mentoring support that could include other African nations.”
Alongside the training sessions, there were additional workshops held to support further areas for development including strategy, governance, skate park development, and grassroots and community development.
The visit also saw meetings take place with Tanzanian governing bodies, the Tanzanian Olympic Committee, the High Commissioner and the government to learn about potential challenges and the necessary support needed for growing participation in international, Olympic and Paralympic sports.
Ellis explains that the Tanzanian Skateboarding Federation initially approached Skateboard GB around coaching, with the link-up then blossoming into the newly launched partnership.
“The Tanzania Skateboarding Federation contacted Skateboard GB after seeing some of the coaching work that we have done over the last few years,” Ellis says. “This happened around the same time we were in joint conversations with UK Sport, Commonwealth Games Federation and World Skate around the inclusion of skateboarding in the Games at some point in the future.”
Unlike some sports that may require investment in clothing and a range of equipment, joining a club or team and travel, skateboarding only requires a board and safety wear like a helmet and pads.
“Skateboarding is very accessible and relatively cheap to take part in,” explains Ellis. “It gives a fantastic opportunity to engage with hard to reach young people who are ‘turned off’ by traditional sport and physical activity. Many skateboarders don’t regard skateboarding as a sport, but as a lifestyle, culture and art form, as well as a mode of transport.”
With the partnership now established, Skateboard GB’s relationship with Tanzania Skateboarding will continue to be supported through UK Sport’s International Partnership Programme, and an investment of £15,550.
James Hope-Gill, Chief Executive of Skateboard GB, says: “We are delighted that funding from UK Sport has enabled Skateboard GB to create a partnership with Tanzania to train coaches, support grassroots infrastructure and give talented skateboarders some specialist coaching.
“This a fantastic opportunity for us to support the growth and sustainability of skateboarding in Tanzania. As well as delivering skateboarding sessions, this work has enabled us to start building good long-lasting relationships with the skateboarding association, government, and National Olympic Committee.”
Skateboard GB is the home of Olympic skateboarding in Great Britain. You can learn more about the organisation here.