Berkshire Business Outlook

A sense of adventure: Millennials find joy in nontraditional sports

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PITTSFIELD — Thomas Weiland began playing football when he was eight years old. He gave up the sport following his freshman year in high school because it "just wasn't fun anymore."

So Weiland, 21, took up skateboarding. Five years later, he's become an avid fan of the sport. His principal venue of choice is the skateboard park on East Street across from Pittsfield High School.

"It's a good vibe," Weiland said. "There's a lot of respect there between people. I enjoy going there."

Weiland is one of many Berkshire County millennials who have gravitated away from the traditional competitive sports like football to activities of their own choosing. Millennials are redefinng the personal fitness industry, according to the online site, The Business Journal, and this shift to alternative sports is becoming part of that trend..

Mitch Plaine has seen this change first hand. When he started his sports equipment business on West Housatonic Street in 1974, Plaine said, "snowboards were nonexistent; bikes were nonexistent. In fact, it was just getting popular for older people to ride bicycles."

Now, Plaine's Bike, Ski and Snowboard Shop not only sells snowboards, mountain bikes and skateboards, but Plaine says spending by millennials makes up about 25 percent of the store's total sales.

SENSE OF COMMUNITY

Millennials are community minded and prefer an active lifestyle, according to the Business Journal. They tend to favor more communal sports such as hiking, snowboarding, snowshoeing and mountain biking and "eschew social events like Happy Hour and dinner parties and go on hikes and bicycle trips."

Weiland works as a clerk at The Garden on North Street, another business that sells equipment and gear that caters towards millennials' interests.

But outdoor sports aren't the only recreational activities that millennials are interested in. Some are active in an exercise known as Parkour, according to Jay Ellis, a salesmen at Berkshire Bike and Blade in Great Barrington. Parkour is derived from a military exercise in which participants travel from point A to point B using a complex series of tumbles and leaps.

"It's kind of a cross between being like Spider-Man and a Ninja," he said.

Millennials also tend to gravitate towards technology when pursuing recreational opportunities. Currently, there are more than 50,000 individual fitness and wellness apps available to users, "with more arriving every day." according to www.millennialmarketing.com

The most popular, said Ellis, is Strava, a mobile app that is used to track athletic activity like cycling and running via GPS. Strava can also track swimming, skating, skiing, rock climbing, even surfing.

"It's pretty neat,"said Plaine. "Anything that can be measured can be tracked. And anything that can be tracked can be improved. You can really track your progress. And you can post it online for other people to see. So even if someone doesn't bike or run or whatever with you, they can measure how well they do."

Staff writer Derek Gentile can be reached at 413 496-6251.


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