For roller skating and skateboarding coaches, the hardest trick is staying in business

For Trint Thomas, pursuing a passion meant moving across the country

Trint Thomas at East York skatepark in Toronto, Ontario, May 30th, 2021. Thomas coaches skateboarders in Toronto during the pandemic, waiting to return to Vancouver. Here he poses for a photo ALEX VAROUTAS /TORONTO OBSERVER

In the last 100 years, few global events have caused the level of disruption we’re currently seeing in the world of sports.

From the Olympic Games to the NBA, major professional sports franchises around the world were brought to an abrupt halt as organizers scramble to minimize the financial fallout and reshuffle calendars to accommodate wave after wave of shutdowns, lockdowns, and restrictions. 

For skateboarding coach Trint Thomas, though, reshuffling calendars isn’t an option. He needs to eat.

When COVID-19 restrictions shut down the West49 Indoor Skatepark in Vancouver last year, Thomas found himself out of a job. 

Lockdowns and restrictions

Thomas came to Toronto because he was still able to coach at indoor skateparks here, despite the mask mandates and social distancing rules.

“We didn’t even have mandatory masks yet when I left,” Thomas said.

He originally moved from Saskatoon to Vancouver to pursue his dreams of becoming a professional skateboarder. Eventually, he began coaching and set out to train the next generation of athletes which led to the creation of Elite Squad, his club for young skaters. He has been coaching for over a decade now. 

Trint Thomas at East York skatepark in Toronto, Ont., on May 14th, 2021. Thomas left Vancouver due to restrictions at indoor skateparks. Here he practices as he perfects a trick

Thomas said that for his younger students, the ability to get out and get active with him at the skatepark has made all the difference.

“They’re so over the moon. It helps the kids and parents so much to put that energy and focus somewhere,” he said. “It creates a more normal cadence to their life, like a school routine.”

Roller-skating phenomenon

Stephanie Salazar, a professional roller skater and fitness coach, has also had to make the most of the last year. She’s been roller skating competitively since she was a child and coaching for almost as long. This year, she saw an opportunity to put this experience to use.

Stephanie Salazar tries on her new roller skates before a class at Ashbridges Skatepark, Toronto, Ont.

“Because of the pandemic, everybody found a new hobby. And for many, that hobby was roller skating,” Salazar said.

Having noticed the lack of real, in-person, roller skating classes, she decided to put all of her energy into coaching full time. 

Salazar says that social media is the main driver behind the spike in popularity. What was once a quirky, retro sport with an underground following has now become the hottest new pastime.

“Honestly, it’s just been crazy with this whole roller-skating phenomenon reinventing itself all over again,” she said.

Salazar hopes to ride this wave into the future, sharing her love of the sport with anyone that’s looking for a way to get their mind off of the stresses of life, especially the ones that have come about during a pandemic. 

“At the end of the day, roller skating is a cool thing because it makes everybody forget about what’s going on in the world,” she said. “The minute you put those skates on you’re in a totally different state of mind.”

Young skaters look on as Stephanie Salazar warms up before a class at Ashbridges Skatepark, Toronto, Ont.

Planning ahead

Looking ahead , Salazar’s next challenge is to figure out how to maintain this momentum beyond the summer months. While it’s warm out, she has the luxury of outdoor spaces to use as classrooms, but that’s not the case year-round.

“Planning for winter is what I have to figure out…I need to find some sort of indoor space,” she said. 

Unsure of whether the pandemic will pick up again when the weather gets colder, many small business owners are struggling to make long-term commitments for fear of more shutdowns.

Life planning can be difficult when restrictions that affect your line of work change so quickly. Thomas is anxious to see where the chips will land for privately run, indoor skateparks.

Ideally, his dream would be to get his skateboarding club off the ground and open his own skatepark. 

“That’s long-term goals though,” he said. “I gotta make it through the next day. This whole COVID thing has forced everyone to be creative and come up with new solutions.”

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Posted: Jun 18 2021 4:31 pm
Filed under: Side Hustle Spotlight On Small Biz