We had the opportunity to introduce a healthy approach to Spring Break 2009 in Panama City Beach this year. We introduced the Beach Tennis USA Association to the area and began to offer active sports on the beach as a way for students to meet others and have fun in competition. We brought in Pro Tennis players and all of the nets and equipment to set up in front of Sharkys to offer an organized “sport” and play with prizes, t-shirts and most of all FUN.
The play is FREE and we are offering t-shirts to all who play and try the sport. The winners of the tournament have received dinner for two at Sharkys and various tennis related prizes. We have given away tennis racquets as we approached the end of the event to winners who want to continue to play this new sport and have fun.
We have been running tennis tournaments most every day. Two Sundays ago we had 20 teams ( 40 kids) lined up to play at 10:30 a.m.
The students we have met and interviewed just want to come to the white sand beach of Panama City and enjoy the sun and meet others. Every day we had students who were signing up to play, excited to compete and interested in additional sports and activities that will let them be active and meet others. We had repeat students coming back to compete and win better prizes as the week progresses.
We have met students from all over the world including Australia, United Kingdom, France, Italy and all across the U.S., and they have all been excited to have something active and fun to do at the beach rather than just “drink” all day.
Students are much more concerned about their health and wellness these days than in the past and many of them workout, run and exercise. Yes there is a percentage that come just to drink and get wild but the many students we have met over the past 2 weeks are just here to have some fun.
Many of them do not like the concept of a community who makes money offering them “all you can drink” for a set price at a number of bars. In fact many of them would like to have someplace else to go at night rather than the crowded bars.
Accidents happen when people of any age get out of control. The idea of offering all you can drink to any age group provides the basis for danger and accidents.
Does anyone offer all you can drink healthy drinks or provide a choice for the students to do something else to have fun and meet others?
If you look at the ads from many of the establishments to the colleges in the “Spring Break” guide you will see they promote the idea of sex, drinking and wild parties.
The college atmosphere is changing and students will drink and they do want to have fun but overall they want to do something active to meet others. They are becoming much more concerned about the environment and have innovative ideas to drive change.
If you spend the time on the beach and watch the students and ask them questions they are mostly good kids. They also want to pick up their trash but many times the location of the trash barrels are not convenient.
We know they want to play more sports on the beach and hope to develop further programs and ideas to offer for future Spring Break. Has anyone ever done any survey with these kids to really determine how to help the community offer new and fun ideas for the kids to meet others and have good clean fun??
It is a shame to have a few kids that go overboard or in the case of our observation we noticed a local who came to the beach asking kids for beers across the beach. Panama City Beach has an opportunity to work with the students who help make this community profitable and better understand how to change and offer new and innovative ideas to give them fun ways to meet others and the ability to “drink” responsibly.
If we think about it the spring breakers are just our “own kids” trying to become the star in their own lives. We just need to ask a little more in words and our actions because we need each other and can help make this work if we just listen and learn to engage the students and kids with their ideas.