Spring Break Stumbles
For years, spring break trips have been a staple of the Packer experience; this spring break, however, the number of trips still running has been cut down drastically due to low student interest. Application deadlines were extended and trip advertisements increased, but both the varsity boys baseball and varsity girls softball trips to Tampa and Orlando, respectively, failed to garner sufficient interest to be able to run. The relatively new Cambodia trip, in its second year, has also had trouble attracting students, but is still set to go in spring. While the well-established and always popular service learning trip to South Africa continues to be competitive and attract a surplus of students, it seems to be alone in that.
Both the baseball and softball trips must have at least 15 players signed up to feel effective as teams in Florida, and neither met that number this year.
“We really are low in underclassmen, so that is part of the issue,” said Softball Coach Russell Tombline, discussing a phenomenon that is true for both teams. “We don’t have a lot of girls willing to go on the trip. When we get new people involved in the program, maybe the trips happen in the future again.”
While this is the second year in a row that the baseball trip has not met the requirement, it is the first time in ten years that the baseball trip is not going. Many of the star players on the championship-winning baseball team last year were seniors, and when they were graduated the team shrunk quite a bit due to a similar lack of underclassmen. Last year was the first time that there was no JV baseball team in many years. Coach Adam Choice hypothesized that this is due to a wider trend.
“Fewer kids are interested in baseball, and I honestly think that is more of a national thing,” he said. “I think baseball, even though it is an American sport, is kind of a dying sport right now. Not as many kids are playing.”
The baseball and softball trips have served both as practice and as an opportunity for team bonding before the season begins. While the baseball trip has been running for much longer than the softball trip, which was introduced 5 years ago, members of both teams are upset about the absence of the trips this year.
“I’ve been playing baseball since I was three, and I never really experienced fields and facilities as nice as it was down there. The complex was amazing, and it is a real shame that we aren’t able to go down now,” said Matthew Dolan (‘19), who went on the baseball trip both his freshman and sophomore year. “It was probably the best learning in baseball I’ve ever had the opportunity to have, and having that taken away was kind of heartbreaking, in a way.”
Sofia Saldanha (‘19), who has been on the softball team since her freshman year and went on the spring break trip that year, also extolled the virtues of team unity that the softball trip brought in past years.
“I wanted to go on the trip, because I was like, this will be the perfect opportunity for everyone to get really close.” she said. “The team is always fun no matter what, but nothing will compare to my freshman year. That was definitely my best year, softball-wise.”
Another spring break trip having difficulty gathering applicants is the Cambodia Digital Storytelling trip, despite being popular and anticipated in its inaugural year and enjoyed by those on it. While this suffering can be attributed to many factors, part of the reason may be that the trip and its effects have had trouble becoming visible in Packer since they got back from Cambodia last spring, despite the introduction of the Cambodian Living Arts club.
The only spring break trip that remains running in full force this year is the South Africa trip, which has been running at Packer for many years and is very well known among the student body. The very popular Artworks for Youth club serves as a home base for the trip, having found ways to connect students at Packer to the organization of the same name aided in South Africa for many years. Both the presence of the club and the trip’s long-term establishment serve to maintain the trip’s status even as the other trips lose ground.
“It is hard for us to connect [the Cambodian Living Arts organization] with Packer, simply because they have been doing this for many years without Packer, whereas Artworks for Youth has had a very consistent relationship with Packer,” said Ellie Happy (‘19), who went on the Cambodia trip last spring.
With only one optional spring break trip succeeding as hoped in terms of student interest, the future of the spring break trip program as a whole comes into question. If this trend continues, Packer may have to reconsider the trips they offer and the way the program itself is configured.