Action sports athletes launch an anti-bullying effort
Image via Torin Yater-Wallace/Instagram
Whether in the classroom or online, the problem of bullying persists for kids. Nearly 1 out of every 4 students report some form of harassment from their peers. Suicide rates for children and teens have continually risen over the past two decades, with the rate among adolescent girls tripling over the past 15 years. So the X Games decided to start a movement to end bullying in schools.
Last fall, the action sports organization launched the antiharassment initiative called “Shred Hate.” The X Games and ESPN have partnered with the anti-bullying groups No Bully, GLSEN, Crisis Text Line and DoSomething.org to address the problem on a grassroots level. For instance, Shred Hate and No Bully will distribute curriculum to schools and will train school leadership on how to effectively intervene when they see bullying and cyberbullying occurring among students.
X Games athletes have joined in on the cause as well. The campaign sent winter and action sports stars to speak at schools in the lead-up to the Winter X Games in Aspen, Colorado, and are planning to visit eight more before the summer games in Minneapolis. Torin Yater-Wallace, the youngest medalist in X Games history and one of the top freestyle skiers in the world, spoke at his hometown high school in Aspen to spread the “Shred Hate” message last January. He told us about his experience and why he thinks this campaign is so important.
How did you get involved in the “Shred Hate” campaign?
The X Games were in my hometown of Aspen and they organized athletes to speak at the high school. I was approached along with Alex Ferreira, one of my close friends and competitors in the free-skiing world, who also went to Aspen High School, and they asked us to speak. High school can be a pretty tough time, so I thought it was the perfect opportunity to go back to the school where I grew up and became the person I am and speak to kids who might be moved or touched by Alex or myself. It was very cool to motivate these kids and help them push through these times or take that extra step to be kind to everyone else.
Do you think the popularity of winter sports in Aspen and the fact that you’re from there helped the students connect with what you were saying?
I still get nervous talking to crowds, but looking around and seeing all these kids go to school where I did, and even knowing a bunch of them personally and knowing they ski, definitely helped in my head while speaking.
Not everyone in Aspen is necessarily a skier or snowboarder, but there is a massive winter sports community and they host a lot of major events there, so I’d like to think that having that around them would make them big supporters of us and everything that we do. I know when I went to school there and we had skiers as guest speakers, I thought it was pretty cool because it’s somebody I can relate to. I still remember when (former extreme skiing world champion) Chris Davenport talked to the school when I was a student.
Why do you think it’s important for the X Games to be involved in an anti-bullying campaign?
Everyone in the skiing community is super-friendly. It’s an individual sport, but when we’re not competing, all of us are really close friends and very supportive of each other. I think that’s what makes it such an inviting community and industry. A lot of us wouldn’t be where we are today in our respective sports if we were bullied or didn’t have the support we did from the communities we grew up in.
In high school, I had to decide whether or not to go pro. Kids who chase their dream to be a professional athlete aren’t at school as much, skip classes, and can’t be as involved in the high school community, whether that’s being in class or socializing outside of school. So you’re not really a popular student. I don’t know what other students thought of me, but I could see them thinking it was weird. But to become the best and be at the top level as a professional athlete, you need that support around you during those times.
So that’s why I think it’s important for the X Games to start this anti-bullying campaign, because I can 100 percent say that all of us competing would not be where we’re at today without the support of others—whether it’s family, friends or community.
How can students show support for people being bullied?
Just saying ‘hi’ or reaching out to help a friend that’s being bullied or having a bad day can mean a lot. That person may not be your best friend, but that one nice comment could really mean something.
How can people get involved in the Shred Hate campaign?
If you’ve got a history with bully(ing) or somebody close to you is being bullied, get involved. If you wanted to help out, check out their website. I’ve met a bunch of people who work for Shred Hate and they’re super-cool people and I’m very fortunate to work with them. Whatever they’re doing in the future, I am more than happy to be partnered with it.