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Getting Involved In "Extreme Sports": Advice From Parents Of Top Extreme Athletes

Playing Other Sports

Don’t assume that a child interested in action sports is completely rejecting more mainstream sports. Many participate in both. Kelley Matthews, a professional in-line skater, was an all-star softball player and was offered a college soccer scholarship but decided to commit full-time to becoming a skater because it was the sport she loved most.

Extreme sports have evolved from kids playing together in their backyards and in their neighborhoods, being inventive, creative and adventurous and eventually developing new sports. Even as they have become more mainstream, with top athletes now able to support themselves financially, the desire to have fun is still at the core of why they do what they do.

Advice From Skateboard Legend Tony Hawk

You may hear your kids talking about skateboarding legend Tony Hawk and a trick he performed at last year’s X-Games called a "900", which wowed the action sports world. No doubt every young skateboarder dreams of being able to skate like Tony Hawk. But do they know that it took Hawk 10 years to learn how to do that one trick? Top action athletes don’t go out and just start throwing themselves off of jumps and up in the air. Their mothers will tell you that, like elite athletes in any other sport, they had to spend hours and weeks and years learning to ride and perfecting basic tricks in order to progress to the harder ones.

Asked by MomsTeam, Hawk's advice to parents was that "If their kid is getting frustrated or feels like they’re not progressing, give them encouragement. When I was learning, I never really felt like I was excelling that quickly, but my dad was always willing to take me to the park and my mom was always giving me encouraging words. I think the bottom line is to make it clear to them that skateboarding is hard and it’s a long road. You can’t just pick up a skateboard and do the things you see on TV."

Safety First

As one mom put it "I’m so proud of her but my hair is gray. I’m in church everyday saying please no more boo boos." Injuries come with the territory and there are different risks in each sport. Proper safety gear is essential, as is learning how to take a fall properly and how to interact with other athletes on a course or skatepark. There are unwritten safety and etiquette rules in skateparks including where not to stop (like in blind spots where no one can see you), when you can start your run and when your turn is over. Taking lessons and paying attention to your surroundings will reduce the chance of injuries. At the professional level there are medical staff on hand at each event, and some athletes even bring their own doctors with them.

Challenges and Rewards

"It’s an excellent sport, if the child is serious about it, but there are a lot of injuries involved," says Diane Matthews, mother of in-line skater, Kelly Matthews, age 18. "If the child is determined and is healthy about it, and is taking care of other responsibilities like school (Kelly graduated high school with honors), then it’s okay with me. If she stays clean as far as drugs and all that garbage. [Drugs are] available but if a person keeps good character, they can go really far."

The reward comes not just from the actual skating, which Diane feels is a great outlet for kids to stay focused on positive things, but also from the opportunities that can come with it. For Kelly, those opportunities include winning prize money, getting sponsors who help support her skating, and having the chance to be in ads and working with companies like Disney.

Diane has had to make sacrifices to allow Kelly those opportunities, including taking a job she wouldn’t have otherwise taken, simply because it offered a great health insurance program necessary to cover Kelly’s frequent doctor visits for her bumps, bruises, sprains and broken bones.

Planning For The Future

As in all professional sports, it is important for extreme athletes to prepare for a future after they can no longer compete. Many are beginning to get involved in the business end of their sports, and it is becoming increasingly common for them to have product endorsements (note the large number of television ads with skateboarders and in-line skaters), have their own line of products and even to start their own businesses.

Perhaps one of the greatest examples is bicycle stunt legend Matt Hoffman, whose company, Hoffman Bikes, has created a new career for him even as he continues to compete. He also founded Hoffman Productions, which runs many of the bike competitions and is largely responsible for the organization and success of freestyle biking today.




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