Skating, teaching, and learning how to do both: Rico’s story

Ricardo Whyte is 23 and has been skating for over ten years.

Ricardo Whyte is 23 and has been skating for over ten years. He’s pretty good. Actually, he’s very good. He’s been teaching children at YMCA Camp Williams to skate for almost a year now and he loves every minute of it.

How did 12 year old Ricardo get into skating? And what does he think of teaching a skill that he lives and breathes every day? I caught up with him a few weeks ago to satisfy my curiosity and share the answers with you!

-Kersti Fourcin, Nottinghamshire YMCA

As Steffen said recently, we all begin somewhere. What’s your story?

When I was like 12 or 13 my parents bought me a skateboard for my birthday…I didn’t ask for one, I didn’t really ask for much to be honest, but I think a lot of kids had one at the time so they figured it was something I would want. I guess I thought ‘I might as well give this a go’ and yeah, I really liked it.

Pretty early on I fell over; I got scared and stopped skating for a while. Then I saw everyone around me progressing and I was jealous. I got back on it again and that was it, for a couple of years anyway.

Have you always been an active and sporty person, and do you think of skateboarding as a sport?

I wasn’t really into any other exercise as a kid. Skating was a great way for me to keep active – so I’ve got my parents to thank for that! I do go to the gym now I’m older but back then it was basically the only exercise I got. I was on my skateboard every day. Is skateboarding a sport? I’d say it’s a skill and a sport, for sure.

So from 12 – 14 you were fully in the skateboarding zone…

Yeah, it was all pretty great until I was about 14…then suddenly skateboarding wasn’t cool anymore. Avril Lavigne* was really big; she’d done a song about how rubbish ‘sk8er bois’ were so no one liked us! I quit. But I’d come so far and I’d learnt so much; I couldn’t just give all that up. It wasn’t long before I picked my board back up again and I haven’t looked back to be honest.

Watching your videos and hearing you talk about skating; it sounds like it came pretty naturally to you. Is it an easy skill to pick up?

Not at all. Skateboarding is a really difficult skill to learn. It doesn’t happen quickly. As a beginner it feels clumsy and you really feel like you’re no good at it. It’s such slow progress. That’s been something I’ve had to work around whilst being a Programme Leader at Camp Williams. The kids aren’t patient, man! I’ve learnt how to teach them to just enjoy the feeling of skating. It feels like floating. We put the tricks behind us and just get used to the feeling of skating; the tricks can come later.

Is there a ‘learning to skate plan’ that you follow each camp?

Not really; everyone learns differently and is at different stages. We get a real mixture of abilities and personalities at camp. Some kids fall over and they laugh about it; some go silent. I’ve learnt to spot stuff like that and how to help different personalities through the process.

… towards pro skater status!?

Well I realised pretty quickly that some of the kids – most of these kids – aren’t going to skateboard for the rest of their lives. My job is to teach them something new; to inform them of this cool activity that they can try. That has definitely made the whole experience more relaxing – and enjoyable!

I can spot the kids who are going to stick at it when they leave camp. It’s so easy to give up. Like I said, I gave up twice! I know a few kids have asked their parents for skateboards once they’ve left camp; they’ve told me they’re going to carry on skateboarding. I like that feedback!

You’ve been part of Nottinghamshire YMCA and Camp Williams for just over a year. What have been your first impressions?

Something really cool about Camp Williams is just how much these kids are getting taught about really interesting stuff. I mean, I never had anyone to teach me how to skateboard. I’m a bit jealous to be honest! I’d have loved that.

I think this kind of thing is important; there’s so much in the way of getting out and just being a kid these days; social media, TV and so many other distractions. Here kids can just get involved with really cool, fun stuff.

I’ve learnt a new skill too. Teaching skateboarding is obviously completely different from just getting on with it yourself. Steffen (Camps and Adventure Service Manager at Nottinghamshire YMCA) and the guys here have given me this opportunity to teach something that I really love doing.

Did you ever think you’d be teaching children to skate during the school holidays?

Well, no! When I got here, I wasn’t that outgoing. I’d never taught kids before and I struggled with how to get my head around how to approach it; they’re all at completely different levels. You know, you learn so much from kids. I’ve really come out of my shell and it’s been great. The fact I’m getting paid to teach the next generation of skateboarders is really cool.

I’m skateboarding for a job! And I’m learning things! I love it. I really do.

It was great chatting to Rico. He has a lot of time and love for what he does. He’ll be teaching 8 – 15 year olds to skateboard in May half term on the grounds of The Nottingham Emmanuel School… which, by the way, backs onto the River Trent where children can also have a go at kayaking and canoeing!

We have loads of exciting activities planned for children and young people all over Nottinghamshire. Find out more on our website or download our prospectus. Plus, stay in the loop and keep an eye out for more articles and exciting announcements (new skills clinics anyone!?) before the summer on facebook.

*this is Avril Lavigne; although I’m sure many parents reading this already know who she is