Creativity In Sports: 3 Coaching Lessons From Your Local Skate Park

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Creativity in sports, is somewhat the holy grail.

However, to the modern day team sport coach, an athlete that is able to successfully adapt to the dynamic nature of their match environment seems not enough anymore.

They want great decision making under pressure, plus the skill execution that will always place team mates in advantage.

Problem is coach, that just  by telling them where to stand and how to pass won’t cut it for what you expect from them.

If you really want creativity then why is your coaching pedagogy (sorry, methods) still pointing at an instructional (right or wrong/this or that) approach?

Well, before moving on, we should together agree on the definition of “creativity”

Ok, let’s put this (almost) dictionary description, in our pocket for a moment and carry forth.

Now, if you look around the corner from your house, or even the next town across from you, there’s a good chance you’d find a skate park.

I know, right, not a sport. They are a sub culture of trouble makers and kids wagging from school 😉

Careful, I was a skateboarder back in the day, and sort of turned out ok as a fully functioning adult. (not always mature, however).

This story is about the mighty “Coops” skate park in inner suburban Brisbane, Australia.

It just happens to be my local skate park, and I have a 12 year old son that has been real keen this past year to try it.

One thing that struck me when we first started going was how such a mash up of ages and skill levels could get there fun done without really impacting on anyone else.

It just works.

Plus, the dudes who are almost pro (maybe these ones wag?) have so much patience with the little kids who are just starting out.

There are so many good manners being passed around it’s a sight to see. This in itself is inspiring.

When it comes to taking a half step back and considering the learning environment, here’s what my science research has discovered…

3 things skateboarding teaches participants (even 40+ year old dads):

Self Awareness – just look at the chaos , yet very few collisions. Skateboarders seem to learn how to use time and space very well (by themselves and with peer feedback)

√ Innovation – they make stuff up from what’s presented then and there. Think of all the science involved (motion, forces etc), yet no over academic conversation ever happens here!

The researchers will call the fixtures of a skate park  affordances, whilst you would know them rails, steps, planks, ramps and ledges.

Skateboarders, on the other hand, see these things simply as challenges to out-create themselves and land a trick.

 Resilience – yes it can hurt when you fall off. But just get up again. Self preservation doesn’t enter the mind of a skateboarder as it would only serve to distract from the task at hand.

For all the fussing from over-protective parents, you so rarely see anyone get properly hurt. Grazes don’t count I’m afraid.

My fully customised (home made) ‘Zarptor’ deck (yep, them PP rib bone rails!)

3 things that skateboarding teaches sports coaches about creativity:

Communication & Feedback – No one in a skate park tells or instructs others what to do. They respect and know that given time and space a fellow boarder will figure it out. So coach, try instructing less and encouraging more

√ Adaptability – The skate park experience highlights the fact that there are multiple solutions to a challenge.

Just to watch several young people attempt the same jump or trick is so great to watch.

The answer is – they are all correct!

√ Emergence – I am convinced this mystery beast called creativity emerges from the environment from which it lives deep underground. If we are to place more focus and emphasis on our coaching environment, then I am convinced our players will develop creativity.

To see this eco system (ok, I’ll admit I have been a few times this year!) at work on a busy day leaves no doubt that any sport can can develop creativity if we set up the practice/development environment and feed it the right stuff

For the record, I did get up the ‘guts’ to try and be fully sick and rad to the max on the half pipe

[Read Another Article About The Coaching Environment Here…]

As it turns out, I have the photo image you see above saved onto my iphone’s screensaver/wallpaper as a constant reminder of my learnings from Coops skate park.

That’s J’s Z-Flez Street Rocket because he loves the 80’s (strange kid, right?).

A constant reminder, if you will, of not just endless freedom and fun, but a check point to reference when I am working with other players and coaches in team sports.

[Video] Watch these wickedly sick moves whilst you ponder removing the ‘practice rigidity’ from your court, field, track or pitch:

Warning: You should try these at home. How else will you learn how to do it?

Oh this story doesn’t actually end, because Japser and I (now with his 7 year old kid sister Izzy in tow), hit Coops skate park every few weeks to sit our lessons on creativity.

And (no joke), Japser participated in skateboarding as a term sport at school earlier this year. Awesome right?

No teacher (coach) interference, just lots of Ollies and Pop Shove-Its.

I am convinced this whole experience has had a profound effect on my approach to practice session design and feedback to players.

Now, I could tell you all this, but you’d need to hit your own local park to experience it for yourself, remember? 🙂

Send me a message HERE.. if you have some feedback or a comment you’d like to add? Maybe we can compare childhood decks? (I had a Santa Cruz, Jason Jesse btw)..

If this is your first visit to the website, then start exploring HERE…

Yours In Sport,


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