After moving to the Bradenton area a few years ago, Chris and Jessi McComas looked around for activities and social gatherings geared to the millennial generation.
The pickings were slim.
Rather than despair, the millennials set out to fill the void.
"We've always had a passion for two things: sports and socializing. We combined those two passions to bring MVP Sports & Social to the Bradenton, Lakewood Ranch and Sarasota area," they say.
In 2015, they launched a website and started their first activity — kickball.
Gradually they added new activities, including sand volleyball, cornhole, bowling and softball.
On a recent Wednesday night, dozens of players gathered at Tom Bennett Park, 280 Kay Road, to play sand volleyball as children and family members watched from the sidelines and uptempo music played over loud speakers.
While the McComases started MVP Sports with millennials in mind, they welcome adults of all ages — anyone hungering for exercise, friendship and camaraderie.
"For every 21 year old, we have a 65 year old," Chris McComas said.
The starting age is 18.
The program has grown to 700 active participants and others have taken notice of the group's appeal to millennials, those born between 1982 and 2001
"We became familiar with MVP Sports when they set up a cornhole tournament for us on Main Street for last year’s Tampa Bay Lightning watch party," said Lisa Barnott, spokeswoman for Schroeder-Manatee Ranch.
SMR asked MVP Sports if the company would introduce disc golf at Lakewood Ranch.
In short order, 56 people signed up for disc golf, which starts May 19, and is played with Frisbees rather than clubs and golf balls.
"With the introduction of our disc golf course at Bob Gardner Community Park, we felt it was an opportunity to further connect our community through social sports. Social leagues, such as our disc golf league, help promote a healthy lifestyle while connecting with your neighbors in a beautiful outdoor setting," said Monaca Onstad, director of community relations at Lakewood Ranch.
"We selected MVP Sports & Social, a Lakewood Ranch-based company, because of their success with other leagues in the area. They have a fun approach to leagues and believe that people with all skill levels can participate in a meaningful way," she said.
With the aging baby-boomer generation heading into retirement, millennials are moving into leadership positions and being encouraged to make a difference in their community.
Johnette Isham of Realize Bradenton works with the Manatee Chamber of Commerce and the Bradenton Area Economic Development Corp. to coordinate efforts to bring millennials into the forefront of community life.
"We are always looking for ways to get young people together and give them the professional skills to make a difference," Isham said.
Pop-Ups for a Purpose was one of the programs used by Realize Bradenton to bring millennials together.
The group met once a month at a Bradenton shuffleboard court to build contacts and friendships.
"They would bring their kids and coolers," Isham said.
Another event was held at Council’s Burgers, where millennials enjoyed hamburgers, beer and pool.
"We connect young people for professional development and opportunities where they can make a difference," Isham said.
A spinoff has been that human resource departments often bring their search for young talent to Realize Bradenton.
Each eight-week session at MVP Sports costs $55. Participants receive a shirt, a schedule of refereed games and an invitation to an end- of-the-session party.
"It's a lot of bang for your buck," McComas said.
Les Aulds, 43, moved to the Bradenton area from Lexington, Ky., where he played league volleyball.
"I found MVP Sports online while I was looking for a social league to have fun. It's the most fun league I have ever played in," Aulds said.
McComas is gratified at the success that MVP Sports has enjoyed.
"We have proven the theory that young people exist in this area," McComas said.
For more information, visit mvpsportsandsocial.com.