Extreme Sports: Thrills and Spills
By KRISTEN STERNBERG
NIE EDUCATIONAL CONSULTANT
Skate parks, recreational areas for in-line skating and skateboarding, among other uses, are in high demand among kids in Central Florida. The opening of a new outdoor park in Deltona not long ago generated a lot of enthusiasm among local kids. Recently, The Daytona Beach News-Journal also reported plans for both outdoor and indoor skating facilities in the DeLand area, an announcement that was happily received by many. Just what kind of sport is skating, what is its attraction--and why can it be considered dangerous?
Come fly with me
Ronnie Sweeting, 18, of Deltona sails through the air as he makes a jump at the Deltona Skateboard Park in Deltona on Tuesday afternoon. (Photo: News-Journal/Kelly Jordan)
Skating on wheels in its various forms-skateboarding, in-line skating and grinding, for example-is considered an "extreme sport." Some other extreme sports are biking (mountain and freestyle), snowboarding, skydiving and surfing. Athletes skilled in these sports may perform stunts that seem impossible to bystanders. In general, in extreme sports individuals compete against one another rather than as part of a team. Performers are attracted to the excitement of the sport, much like some people are attracted to roller coasters and other thrill rides. Unlike at amusement parks, however, where rides and passengers are safely controlled and contained, extreme athletes are in charge of themselves. It's up to individuals to protect themselves from injuries.
Some say skate parks offer a relatively safe and supervised place for kids to practice, and providing such places is a good way to keep youths off the streets. They feel that having specially designed parks legitimizes the sport, too: Parents are more likely to give permission if they're aware of a nearby, accepted facility and the popularity of the sport. Many also support the opportunities for kids to watch, talk, listen and learn from others.
Not everybody is enthusiastic, though. Some feel that providing parks for such sports will encourage kids to pull dangerous stunts and run risk of physical injury. Injuries take many forms, unfortunately. Extreme athletes routinely encounter health issues as well as risk spills and other accidents. How do participants minimize the risks? As with traditional sports, athletes who are serious about their performance are trained, disciplined and focused, and they keep themselves in top physical condition. They practice hard, exercise to build endurance and stay fit. During workouts, practice or competition they drink plenty of water and eat properly.
They also take precautions against accidental injury by wearing proper clothing and safety gear, observing rules posted for their protection and not taking unnecessary risks. It's hard to find an experienced skater or rider who doesn't wear a helmet and make sure his or her gear is working safely. Many athletes who don't use designated parks practice the "buddy" system to make sure that someone knows their whereabouts in case an accident occurs. Those who use public streets tend to follow the "rules of the road" and wear special clothing or accessories to make themselves more visible to traffic, so as to minimize the risk of a traffic accident.
Even though athletes may take many precautions, it's hard for some to condone (accept) extreme sports given the risks involved. What do you think? Should such sports be discouraged on the grounds they're too dangerous, or should communities provide kids with skate parks to practice extreme sports? Why not check out the newspaper activities and web links provided below before you make up your mind entirely?
Try these interesting activities using The News-Journal
- Wearing proper clothing and accessories is, for many sports, important for your safety. Search your newspaper for photos and other graphics that illustrate both safe and unsafe practices in sports and fitness. Create headings for those two categories on a blank sheet of heavy paper. Clip the examples you found and glue them in the appropriate section. Display your poster on a bulletin board to promote safe sporting/fitness issues to others. (Sunshine State Standards: HE.A.1.2.2, HE.A.1.2.8, HE.A.1.2.10, HE.B.1.2.2, HE.C.1.2.1, HE.C.2.2.1, HE.C.2.2.2, HE.C.2.2.4, PE.A.2.2.3, PE.B.2.2.1)
Wingwalker Teresa Stokes practices a manuever as Gene Soucy pilots "Showcat," a Grumman Ag Cat bi-plane. (Photo: News-Journal/Nigel Cook)
- Check out the special surfing section that appeared recently in The News-Journal. How do savvy surfers stay on top of the sport? Before you head for the beach, open your newspaper to the weather page and hunt for all of the following: temperature outside, wind speed and direction, wave height and surf temperature. Tides, too, play a factor in surfing conditions. Find the tide chart your paper provides and think about the patterns of the tides. Then, check out weather predictions for the next few days. Finally, skim headlines for local news reports that surfers need to stay informed about, like unsafe swimming conditions: rip currents, shark sightings and red tides are examples. Next time you talk "surfing" with your friends, you can impress them with how savvy you are. (Sunshine State Standards: HE.B.1.2.2, MA.E.1.2.1, MA.E.1.2.3, MA.E.2.2.2)
- Sports are one of the many reasons people read newspapers! Talk with a friend or teacher to find a favorite sport you have in common. Check your newspaper routinely to find articles and information about the sport. Read what you find out loud to your new sports "pal" and share your ideas afterward. (Sunshine State Standards: LA.A.1.2.2, LA.C.1.2.3, LA.C.3.2.3, PE.C.1.2.1, PE.C.2.2.1)
- Imagine you've planned a weekend of outdoor sports. Locate the national weather map in your newspaper and use it to predict what weather the weekend might bring. Write down your predictions and keep them handy. After the weekend, check to see how close to the mark you were! (Sunshine State Standards: MA.D.1.2.1, MA.D.2.2.1, MA.E.1.2.3, MA.E.2.2.2)
- Use your newspaper's classified section to find used sports equipment or accessories for sale. List each item along with its cost; then create a chart ranking the items from least to most costly. Did you come across any items from your favorite sport? If so, indicate where it ranks in your chart. Poll friends about their favorites and politely show them the relative costs. (Sunshine State Standards: LA.A.2.2.5, LA.A.2.2.8, LA.B.2.2.2, MA.A.1.2.2, MA.B.2.2.1)
A copy of Florida's Sunshine State Standards can be found at intech2000.miamisci.org.
Check out these links to learn more
Here's a ThinkQuest site put together by two kids who are wild about skateboarding. Learn trick tips, play games and check out the hottest new skateboarding equipment.
"X" Games, as extreme sports are sometimes called, are covered thoroughly at EXPN's web site. Check out the calendar of events, read interviews with some noted athletes and much more.
How can you reduce the risk of injuring yourself? Check out this site for the lowdown on safety equipment and etiquette, along with a glossary or terms, especially for in-line skating and grinding fans.
Learn more about all kinds of sports issues, including big-league competition, fitness and extreme sports for boys and girls at these family education web pages devoted to the topic.
The Newspaper Association of America's web site contains links to many newspapers in the U.S. and around the world. Visit the site and check some of them out, to see if they have recently published any articles on risks involving skate parks or extreme sports. To access the newspapers at the site, select a state. Click on the "Internationals" button to view choices from other countries.
Published December 3, 2001.