Every sport has a great talent that contributes to making it as popular as it is. Pro skateboarding has Mike Vallely, a man defined by his dedication and fervor for his craft.

Vallely began skateboarding in 1984 as an alternative to other playtime activities. “Traditional sports didn't really measure up,” he concedes. “I kind of felt alienated by that scene and was looking for something different. With skateboarding, I found my thing. I found what really made a difference in my life.”

Not only has skateboarding made a difference to the athlete, but Mike V. – adorned with a punk rock style and undeniable individuality – has definitely changed the nature of skateboarding.

The New Jersey native turned pro in 1986, only two years after his start, and by the same summer was crowned the National Amateur Streetstyle Champion. By 1988, Mike V.'s first pro skateboard model was introduced by Powell Peralta, and he went on to help form World Industries Skateboards.

Vallely's World Industries Barnyard deck (1990) is credited with the evolution of the skateboard style to the current popsicle-shaped deck popular today in street skating. The Barnyard has featured straight rails and a kicked nose that resembles the tail, which gives the board more of a symmetrical shape.

His career took new heights in 1995 when he competed in the Inaugural X-Games, and by 1997 he was the first ever to do a professional skateboard demonstration in China. By 2001, Mike joined Tony Hawk on his Gigantic Skatepark tour and was featured on many of Hawk's tours and video games.

When I ask Mike V. what the ingredients for a pro skateboarder are, he replies simply, “talent.” He believes that it's one thing if you can emulate what you're seeing in the magazines and videos, but you must also find ways to push the limits.

“What it comes down to is finding what separates one skater from the next,” explains Mike V. “I think it's individuality.”

He believes that skating can become very cookie cutter when everyone is doing the same moves, so he advocates a spirit of creation and innovation in the skater.

That's what sets Mike V. apart. He sets trends, raises standards and reinvents himself to stay afloat.

The husband, father of two and Long Beach dweller has arguably covered more ground than any other professional skater. This, along with his innovative nature, may be what helped him land the gig as host of Video On Demand's “Sportskool,” the first television network that features instructional programming dedicated to delivering expert sports tips, guidance, instruction and coaching. The goal of “Sportskool” is to help athletes – of all ages and experience levels – develop, tone and explore their skill by receiving advice from the nation's best athletes.

Mike V. was extremely excited about joining “Sportskool” because of the many possibilities the program offers.

“Essentially this is very cool,” he states. “You can rewind it, pause it and learn at your own pace. No matter what program you're watching, what trick you're talking about, any skater at any level can gain something from watching the programming.”

Mike V. believes “Sportskool” is much more than simply instruction. “Besides covering the A-B-C of how to do a trick, we get into the X-Y-Z, which is the lifestyle, culture, passion, love and fun of skateboarding. It's more than trying to do a maneuver.”

Mike V.'s segment of “Sportskool” indeed goes far beyond explaining how to execute a trick. He offers a history lesson when introducing a move. His style of informing who, how, where and when a trick was developed and cultivated is Mike's personal way of concretizing the culture.

“This is a lifestyle, a subculture. Most people dive all the way in. To know the history makes it more personable.”

Whether you're a novice or a seasoned skater looking for community or ways to fine-tune your skills, or even an all-around sports fan interested in exclusive interviews with your favorite pro athletes, “Sportskool” puts you right in the mix.

To find out your local channel airing “Sportskool” and for more information, visit www.sportskool.com.