071. US Parkour Association (part 2 of 4): National governing bodies, Board of Directors, and getting involved

Podcast episode


Craig: Welcome to the Movers Mindset podcast, where I interview movement enthusiast to find out who they are, what they do, and why they do it. This episode is part two of a four-part series on the United states parkour association. (USPK for short). In this episode, each of the transition board members explain what a national governing body is, what it does, why it’s important and their specific vision for how USPK will work. They discuss USPK’s board of directors, who currently sits on it, and how it will function as the organization grows. They also delve into who USPK is meant to serve, who should join the organization and how to do that. But first, you already know there’s more to the Movers Mindset project than just this podcast – a lot more! In fact, there’s so much more; we’ve put together a webpage that describes all the different things we’re currently doing. From athlete questions to guest follow – ups, from transcripts to show notes, the comment our mailing list … and more. To learn more, go to moversmindset.com and click on “overview” in the menu.

Craig: Mark, one of the first questions people ask about USPK is why do we actually need a governing body? What does this governing body actually do?

Mark: I think there are a number of reasons that a governing body is necessary. The forefront for me is if there is an activity that people enjoy doing, somebody is going to try to control it and who that somebody is dictates a lot of what the public sees that activity being. So in this case, and this gets personal for me, my reason for wanting to be part of that governing body is because I’m very passionate about parkour and the benefits that parkour brings to people’s lives, and I’m very passionate that parkour is not about certain things. And so I want to make sure that the vision of parkour that gets passed on to the public eye is one of health and helpfulness and community and self improvement. I think that those are very important aspects of parkour to me. And so whoever is stewarding parkour, I want to make sure that that’s on their plate. I want to make sure that those are things that they are actively driving as the things that parkour should be known as.

Mark: I think that another thing that a governing body brings to the table, really and this is a funny word, but I’m going to use it anyway, is the safety of everybody involved. It really protects everybody’s interests. If we have owners of gyms, how did they know that their equipment is up to a standard and what should that standard be? And how does a mom bringing her four year old to that facility know that the instructors are at a certain level and how do they know that the equipment’s been built well and the curriculum has been done well. And I think that those are things that a governing body can help guide.

Mark: I use the word guide very, very specifically because it’s not about dictation. It’s not for me personally, it’s not about standards. It’s about guidelines. And there’s a huge difference there. And the difference is we want as an organization to provide guidelines for you as to how to make a safe environment, how to make a successful program, how to enjoy parkour as a practitioner. And these are guidelines and you can check them out and go, “Oh cool, that’s something I hadn’t thought of. Or that’s one that I just didn’t know. And yeah, I really like that and I’m going to take it under my consideration and I’m going to use it.” And then you can look at a guideline and say, “Hey, you know what? I feel like my idea is way better than that. I’m going to suggest it to these USPK guys and, and maybe they’ll take it and change it or maybe they’ll stick with their thing.” But that’s, that’s where I fit into the mold.

Mark: So I think something that is very important, critically important that maybe people don’t, in my opinion, consider enough, is that somebody is going to be running parkour. Somebody is going to be in charge of parkour. Somebody is going to ask a question. Somebody from a government or a school or an insurance company or another sport is going to ask a question and who they ask is critical and that who they ask is a very important thing and that is what a governing body is. The governing body needs to be the who they ask and what we really want is that that question gets answered by the parkour community. That’s what transparency is. That’s what a government that governs the will of the body that it’s governing does. They are just spokespeople for the larger group.

Mark: They gather the opinions of the larger group and then when they are asked by an outside entity, what do parkour people want for this? They say, “Well, out of our 5,000 members, 3,500 said that they really prefer A over B.” And so it’s not that some member of the board said this or that. It’s our membership said this is what they want. So that’s why it’s important for each person, their collective voices are what the governing body is.

Blake: I think the first thing that we get is legitimacy. And legitimacy is really valuable in the larger context. parkour is a sport that’s growing very quickly and we’re developing a lot of things from gyms to certifications to clothing lines, to courses for four year olds or 80 year olds. And when we’re looking at the larger picture of parkour and how that’s represented to the media, to the general public. And a lot of people still see it as young kids jumping between rooftops.

Craig: Yeah, very wild, organic, crazy activity.

Blake: and having an NGB is really valuable to get that legitimacy, but also to have people that can advocate you at municipal or state or national levels. Having a common network of similar providers that are doing the same thing and that you can network with, you can talk with, you can share ideas with that already exists organically within the parkour world. But in a lot of ways, the goal of USPK is to bring a lot of that together and to expand access. Because right now it’s a select group that has access to that and we want to make sure that parkour remains and continues to be inclusive and representative for all.

Frost: The number one thing that USPK is set up to do is represent the people in the US who care about parkour. It’s literally in the name. It’s an association of people who care about parkour. There are a lot of people that do care, that are just looking for a way to connect with each other. I think one of the things that we’ve seen growing within the community is there’s lots of people that want to participate. There’s lots of people that want to support. There’s lots of people that want to go to gyms are start gyms, or make T-shirts, or make videos. But, there isn’t anything, right now, that really takes all those people’s appreciation and love, and support for this community and puts it towards something that’s about giving back to that community.

Amos: So, as I mentioned before, it seemed as though we were fine in the United States without a national governing body for quite a few years but we started to see these things come about that definitely left a bad taste in my mouth. For example, I was at a gym up in the northeast and I jumped a precision eight feet off the ground and the bar that I landed on broke under my feet and thank goodness it was me and not like maybe one of their students. I fell out of it okay and came away from it. And then you got some other examples. I think an entire balcony at Vault PK earlier this last year collapsed with people on it. And so we’re starting to see these things where it’s like, “No, we can’t ignore those.” Now that parkour’s growing, naturally you’re going to have a lot of wealthy business people who want to make a profit off of parkour and they aren’t really a part of the culture, they don’t understand what’s important about building standards or curriculum and such.

Amos: And so, we’re seeing mistakes made that have dire consequences. And I think that’s one of the strong ways this national governing body can bring something beneficial is to have build recommendations, a collection where we’ve all learned these lessons we can pass on because these entrepreneurs are going to come in, whether we like it or not. Any time there’s something beautiful in the world, in my experience is that capitalism can rear its ugly head and come try to commodify that thing and sometimes the consequences can be terrible. So that’s going to happen no matter what. We can at least make sure parkour’s safer, people are getting the right information. One of the other ways I see it being very powerful, it gives us all a voice. Maybe take a scenario where a news media outlet just completely misconstrues something that happened, this has happened multiple times already, it’s really frustrating, and then we have really bad press about parkour altering people’s perceptions of what we do.

Amos: And we can each individually as organizations or people speak out, say a thing here or there, but comments on the end of a news article is not going to do much. With an organization that can collectively field our voice and have some power behind it, we can address those things. We can be a resource for media to come to us and ask us questions if we’re the definitive kind of representative. So, you know, when it comes to build standards, representation of the community, making sure that we have a lot of diversity, and our events are being run safe we’re filling that void so other organizations who don’t know parkour and are trying to monetize it can’t step in and fill that void for us, whether it’s legitimizing certain coaching certifications and also just making parkour look legitimate to outsiders outside of our community. Right now, maybe not so much these days, but before, it just looked like a ragtag gang of teenage boys running around jumping off things like skaters. And if we have a national governing body that sends a completely different message to the greater public.

Amos: So, I guess that’s the tip of the iceberg. There are tons more that it can do and ultimately it’s going to do what the community wants it to. It’s going to speak for this community. And that’s what I’m excited about. What does this community want? Like this is power in numbers, we can come together and make stuff happen.

Craig: is it actually run? What literally happens behind the closed doors, kind of thing.

Caitlin: The United States Parkour Association is a 501©(3), nonprofit, registered in Delaware. It’s run by a board of directors and governed basically by its members. The board meets once every few months, four times a year at least, presently run on a biweekly schedule, to make basic decisions, help push organization initiatives along, and support the various sort of member driven ideas [crosstalk 00:09:18], exactly, initiatives.

Craig: Frosti, can you run down the current board members and what their roles are?

Frosti: Yeah. We have an amazing team set up for our transition board. It was really, almost simple to look at who are some of the pillars of the community that have been involved for a long time, that are making current strides towards bringing us closer together. I’ve been working with Mark Toorock from American parkour for a long time. I think that he represents such an amazing part of our community that has already been moving in this direction for a long time. He’s really built up a solid foundation of people that care about, almost the philosophy and the idea of parkour, more than anything else and keeping that safe and protected.

Frosti: Amos Rendao from APEX has been really innovating in the space of education for a long time, and I’ve been a close friend of his for years now, and just seeing the way that he has involved himself in the ever expanding part of knowledge base of parkour, I think has been so great. To not only see for young athletes learning and growing, but also for the community to see that there’s still more for us to expand into. Blake Evitt from Parkour Generations Americas was an essential component towards connecting with the more traditional, fundamental side of parkour that is more internationally focused. Bringing together some of what’s going on in the Parkour Generations community overseas, and connecting with what we’re doing here. It’s been really great to bring that perspective and experience into the group as well.

Frosti: And the first person to reach out to all of us was Caitlin. She really took the first step towards moving us into making this happen. I think it was really great for her because she was in the process of transitioning from the East Coast to West Coast, from her own creative projects into more specific work with Parkour Visions. It was a really good transition for seeing how, as a group, we could come from where we were starting towards a more unified, more powerful position overall, and with that grouping overall, I think we managed to cover such an incredible spectrum of the interests and energies of what’s going on in the current parkour community.

Caitlin: Yeah. You know, we’re a small board, but we are all really active members of our community. We all have our ears to the ground, a big focus and kind of, a shared drive that we have, or vision. Each of us are interfacing with our communities and our regions, ’cause we are from all over the country, and trying to hear people directly what we can do in this early stage of development. Obviously, there’s a mechanism later on for people to individually create and pursue their initiatives.

Craig: Right.

Caitlin: Yeah. Right now it’s … We are very much dedicated to giving and creating something that we really think the community wants.

Craig: Blake, it’s clear who the current board members are. We’re interviewing them and talking about what the organization is going to look like. And the obvious next question is who will be the board members? Who should be in charge? Like who should get the baton of leadership and take control of this thing?

Blake: To be honest, I don’t know who it’s going to be. Right now we have a transitional board in place and that was basically started, this is the group that kind of got momentum going and wrote up the bylaws and has really started things moving. But at the end of the day, and actually really soon, we’re going to start electing board members. And none of us know who that’s going to be. That’s going to be representative and chosen from within a USPK members and membership. And the process for that is outlined in the bylaws and is designed to be representative of the larger community and will have fair access and transparent voting. And that’s one of our big goals for USPK is transparency and access.

Craig: I think, from my understanding, that’s one of the big goals for the transition board, is to make sure that not that you govern the entity correctly, but that you oversee the transition to whatever the government, the board will be that runs it. So it really is a transitional role.

Blake: We’ve gone into this very much with the expectations that we want to be setting this up for the next people to take the torch. This is not the five of us that got together and will be on the board for the next 10/15 years. We are in it to get it up, get it moving, and then pass it on to the people that … whoever gets elected. So we want this to be … The board will grow, and with a small group of people and some amazing volunteers we were able to get things rolling, but at the end of the day, this is not an organization that can be run by five people, by any means, and we’re going to need to tap into the larger community to make this successful.

Craig: One concern I’ve heard from several people is that if there’s a board of directors, their immediate ideas that that board of director sits at the top and dictates down. So can you talk a little bit about who the board of directors would be and what their roles are, what their actual tasks and duties are?

Mark: Sure. I think when looking at the board of directors, I would actually approach that from a different angle and say the structure of the organization dictates what the board is allowed to do and not allowed to do, and the goals of the organization dictate what the board should and shouldn’t do. And in my opinion, the board and the organization is there for the members. So the board is not there to do a thing. The board is there to do the will of the membership and carry out the mission of the organization.

Mark: So one of the things that’s important to me about the board is not only a diversity of experiences when we look at, okay, we really want an experience spokesperson and we want an attorney and we want someone who’s good at running a business and maybe we want someone with entrepreneurial spirit and we want someone with sports management background. One of the positions that I have suggested is that we have a 13 year old kid on the board because after all, this is a board for an activity that we want to be enjoyed by a broad range of people. And so I think it’s very important to keep a youthful, fresh fun. What is fun about parkour aspect right at the board level of the organization.

Craig: USPK is an association of individual practitioners and people and interested businesses. The first obvious question is, who should join and why should they join?

Caitlin: Membership is open to both individuals and organizations. I think that anyone who interfaces with parkour, enjoys parkour, whether you’re a parent or student, a coach, or a business owner, or maybe someone operating within the sphere of parkour on the periphery, I believe that membership in the organization is and can serve you. The organization is very agile, and is meant to kind of provide again, a neutral space for all the interests, inside and around parkour to be represented, explored, and again, ultimately create shared resources, in those spaces for those people. The more perspectives the better.

Craig: Mark, can you tell me a little bit about your vision for who the membership of USPK would be? Who would the people that would join and why would they join?

Mark: Sure. I think some of the people who may not feel like they should join are people who love doing parkour in their backyard by themselves and feel like, “Oh well, decisions of other groups aren’t really going to affect me.” And I think that that’s true to a certain standpoint. You can always go train in your backyard, but if you want to go train in a park and someday somebody has made parkour illegal, then you have in fact been affected by it.

Mark: So I think that it’s important for individual practitioners to speak up, to have a voice to help guide what the world sees as parkour. I think there are a lot of groups that could really be involved here and it goes back to the mission, not only of the board which has a specific mission and I’m in no way overriding that, but I’d like to give a 30,000 foot view of the mission and my involvement in parkour. We are fighting obesity and depression and drug problems and all kinds of other problems that are absolutely 100% scientifically proven to be combated by physical activity outdoors. Getting outdoors and playing in the sunshine is absolutely, and I’m not calling it a miracle cure, but it is a big step towards a lot of those issues and problems that we have in society. So I would like to see people in the healthcare world at higher levels being involved in what parkour eventually means to people. People in the education system being involved in what parkour means to people.

Mark: US people in the sporting world, there are going to be competitions whether people like it or not. I’d like to see those competitions have a certain flavor of brotherhood, of respect, of camaraderie, but that needs to be protected as well because it is going to be viewed as a sport. So having sports people involved, there are a lot of people who could be involved in this. People who want their children to be doing this activity and want to know what are the guidelines about this gym that I bring my kids to everyday. Or even most of the gyms I know have full on camps. We have parents who leave their kids with us for an entire week. They want to know, what are the benefits of this parkour training for my child. So really I think there’s a wide range of people that could and should be involved with the group.

Mark: I think it may even be particularly important if somebody feels strongly against the group. That’s someone who I want to be part of it because frankly, if you don’t become part of the group, we can’t hear your voice. To be the voice of the community, you have to hear the community. And if there’s a certain part of the community that doesn’t like what we’re doing but they don’t speak up, then we can’t possibly include their opinion. So those are people that should join and vote.

Amos:, anyone who cares about the future of parkour in the U.S.A. and even internationally really this is going to play a big role should join USPK and that is not limited to just practitioners, that could be anyone who thinks this is a beautiful art and wants to see it go in a positive direction. But I could also see parents, for example, being very passionate about it even though they might not be practitioners. And, why should they join? As I mentioned before, there’re so many ways that we can have power in numbers and make sure we increase the safety standards of gyms and programs. There’re so many resources that we will have collectively that we wouldn’t have alone, whether it’s access to certain insurance, all sorts of things even just awareness of events being run through maybe a calendar through the organization. So, anyone who wants to be a part of that and take the benefit of it as well as support something that’s going to be good for parkour in the U.S.A. should join.

Blake: The goal of USPK is to make sure that everybody is involved, whether it’s the parkour for life person, that parkour is their employment, their hobby, what they eat, what they drink, what they wear. But also for the parent of the kid that goes once a week or occasionally, the older practitioner that has been to a few classes, the spectator that is interested in the growth of the sport. Basically anybody that has an involvement with parkour, this is something that’s going to affect them and that they can help to influence and help be a part of stewarding. And we want everybody’s opinion and we want everybody’s input to make sure that we’re doing this right.

Blake: And there are so many ways to get involved. The membership is set up to make sure that it’s accessible and inclusive, both financially and in terms of a time commitment, for anyone. And also the SIGs that then are kind of the next step from general membership, allow people to get into the nitty gritty of things that they care about. So whether it’s certifications or competitions or parkour shoes, or

Craig: Build standards …

Blake: Or, yeah, build standards or, really, anything under the sun that somebody could be passionate about or a group of people are passionate about, that’s what the special interests groups, the SIGs are started for.

Craig: Caitlin, what’s the biggest ask that USPK has at the moment? What’s the actionable item when people press stop at the end of the podcast? What should they run out and do?

Caitlin: Go become a member. Become a member. Join the forums. Start communicating with us about what would most help you as who you are in your community. As a parent, if you had this resource. As a student, as a coach, man, wouldn’t it be great if this. As gym owners, it’d be amazing to have building standards.

Craig: Right.

Caitlin: We need to start collecting and figuring out where the concerns of our community are, where we can collectively work together to do some good.

Craig: USPK’s at USPK.org.

Caitlin: Yes.

Craig: It’s also a Facebook group. There’s a Facebook page. You can go to any of those three places and find your way to the other places.

Caitlin: Yeah, please do.

Craig: The membership registrations are also open. You can join immediately that way as well.

Caitlin: You can also view our bylaws online, add comments. Yeah.

Craig: Participate that way.

Caitlin: Yeah.

Caitlin: People can connect to the organization through our website at http://www.uspk.org. You can also find us on Facebook through our page and our group, so you can continue the conversation with others. I personally invite anybody who has a question or a concern or an idea of something they want to create, to reach out to me directly at caitlin@uspk.org.

Craig: If you’re interested in becoming a member or learning more about USPK, go to uspk.org. You can also reach out to any of the transition board members through their social media, and you can join the USPK group on Facebook. This was episode 71. For more information go to moversmindset.com/71. The Movers Mindset community is designed to be used with keyboards and big screens. It’s designed to give you the physical and mental space to read, to think, and to create considered replies. You can discover or come back to content form years past – they’re exactly where you’d expect them to be; I’m interested in discussing anything related to independence, self-direction and human excellence. Are you? Visit moversmindset.com/community. And I’ll leave you with a final thought from Voltaire: “Weak as I am, I carry on the war to the last moment, I get a hundred pike-thrusts, I return two hundred, and I laugh. I see near my door Geneva on fire with quarrels over nothing, and I laugh again; and, thank God, I can look upon the world as a farce even when it becomes as tragic as it sometimes does. All comes out even at the end of the day, and all comes out still more even when all the days are over”.

Thanks for listening!