Sean Reilly is a regular fixture at the Whitianga skate park with his Whitianga SkateSchool.
We recently did a story of the excellent community service and activity he provides through skating lessons for the local children. (6 December - Skate Boarding Lessons.) But he’s not just a skater - he’s a teacher, a mentor, and most recently, the recipient of Sport Waikato’s Community Connection award.
The Whitianga Skate School was born out of necessity. An early childhood teacher, Sean had found himself between jobs at the beginning of the pandemic. With a passion for boarding, he said to his partner: why not offer skateboarding lessons?
What began with 30 kids grew week-on-week, until he found himself teaching 84 kids - and their mums, too.
Sean provides all the gear the children need to learn, and he also has support from the local supermarket, who provide food for the children every afternoon. It’s become a small community in its own right, with many of the participating families becoming friends and supporting each other. Several home-schooling families from across the peninsula have also joined the skate school, and use it as an opportunity to socialise.
“It’s one of those things you have to persevere at. It’s not like kicking a ball – skating you have to be able to fall over and get back on again. It’s a good metaphor for life, really, shake it off, get back up and keep going, don’t let it deter you,” Sean said.
“I think the thing that hooks people [is] once you land a move, how good it feels to put so much time and effort into something and achieve what you want from it.”
Sean is now looking to collaborate with some schools and expand his skate classes. He says, “I have had such great support. Ian Cooksley (pictured), the Youth Engagement Advisor for the Waikato region helped me when I was starting up the school. Whitianga Countdown has been amazing providing the fruit and other food for the children for their afternoon tea. The skate park is an excellent resource in this community and I thank our local authorities and this community for making it a reality. Sean believes it can be repeated in other places across the Coromandel Peninsula.
Some of this article is extracted from a piece written by ALICE PARMINTER, Public Journalism funded by NZ on Air.
Caption: Sean Reilly, middle, with partner Sharon Freytes on the left and Ian Cooksley, the Youth Engagement Advisor for the Waikato region,
at the recent Waikato Sport and Active Recreation Awards.