BY ISABELLA COOPER

For the first time in my life, I feel like I am a part of a community where I belong. Skateboarding gives me the feeling of extreme happiness when I complete a trick, but also humility when I fall. Committing to skateboarding requires a tremendous amount of perseverance as it can take months to accomplish simple goals, especially when getting hurt is part of improving your abilities. My self-confidence has grown along with my skateboarding skills and I am proud to say I skate like a girl.

​Skateboarding has completely changed my life. At age eleven I was diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). I dealt with irrational thoughts and anxiety around cleanliness that continued throughout junior high school and my early high school years. Entering the world of skateboarding was a challenge because my OCD impacted my ability to explore outside of my comfort zone. At the end of my sophomore year I began learning to skateboard. As a beginner skater, I knew very few people that skateboarded, and I had never actively engaged in a sport before. This soon changed when I found a community of non-traditional skaters.

“Skateboarding gives me the feeling of extreme happiness when I complete a trick, but also humility when I fall.”

About six months into skateboarding, I was introduced to an organization called Skate Like a Girl (SLAG), a non-profit promoting diversity and social justice through skateboarding. I joined a program within SLAG called Youth Employment Skateboarding, which gave me the opportunity to volunteer within my community and learn leadership skills. Within a few weeks I was hired as a staff member. I worked with children as a skate camp counselor and as a volunteer with SLAG where I reinforced the ideas of perseverance and inclusion. The camps were co-ed and I often had to explain to the campers the importance of inclusion and treating everyone equally. Seeing the campers’ skateboarding skills progress and become more accepting of others because of what I taught them was very rewarding. Currently, I am the co-lead at SLAG’s Ladies Night where non-traditional skaters can learn to skate in an inclusive environment. ​

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Through skateboarding and my work with SLAG, I am helping to promote diversity in skateboarding especially for females and non-traditional skaters, as skateboarding is traditionally a male-dominated sport. I do this by actively helping to create safe spaces for all skaters through encouragement and understanding. My experience has enlightened me in how to act and view the world. Just like SLAG’s mission, I will continue to advocate for those that want to engage in activities regardless of their differences.

Skateboarding has shown me that new opportunities can be frightening and challenging, but they are well worth the effort. I have noticed that many of the skills acquired through skateboarding can transcend into other aspects of life. I have gained the ability to persevere through hardships, be a positive leader, and promote diversity and inclusion. This is why I am proud to say I skate like a girl.

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The Awesome Sports Project is an online journal committed to inspiring girls’ and women’s voices in sports. We publish every Tuesday between November and June. Submit your own story or enter our Awesome Sports Writing Contest by February 15, 2018.