SAN DIEGO. The sounds coming from the gym were like a regular basketball game: the creak of tennis shoes on a smooth court, the thud of a ball, the shrill whistle of a referee.
But there was a rare picture inside. Elderly women, some between 80 and 90 years old, rushed to pass, steal and shoot. They skillfully caught the ball and rushed to the basket.
Kirsten Cummings, a former professional basketball player, remembered her first visit to this YMCA in the Mission Valley area of San Diego.
“There is a group of women who played and they mesmerized me so much. They were 75 years old, ”Cummings told me. “I have goosebumps.”
This is the San Diego Older Women’s Basketball Association, one of the largest leagues in the country for women 50 and over. California’s second largest city is home to several senior sports teams and hosts the San Diego Seniors Games, which draw thousands of participants from across the state to Olympic-style competitions each year.
“We’re very outdoor, fitness oriented, so it was only natural for the Senior Games to thrive here,” said Cummings, who grew up in San Diego and now oversees the event. “There are people in San Diego who don’t think about learning basketball at age 79.”
On the last Sunday morning, I chatted on the YMCA sideline with Marge Karl, who has played in the women’s league since its founding in the mid-1990s.
Karl, now 92, wore a blue T-shirt that matched her bright eyes. Her team, Splash, for women 80 and older, was scheduled to perform in 45 minutes.
The league has 75 women from 13 teams, roughly grouped by skill level, that meet every Sunday. In the half of the court, games are three by three for 30 minutes.
Karl, like most of the women here, came of age before Title IX, a 1972 civil rights law that greatly expanded women’s opportunities to participate in school sports. So she didn’t learn to play basketball until she was 60.
But that’s her style. She graduated from college in her seventies. She retired when she was in her 80s.
Karl pointed to her temple and warned me, “It won’t die if you don’t let it.”
On her 90th birthday, she jumped with a parachute: “A man was tied to my back. How bad can it be? “
Basketball league rookies learn to defend and fight back in the rookie training program. And once on a team, players can have 40 years or more to hone their skills.
Cummings, who trained Splash as a volunteer, said she was initially surprised by the desire of older women to get better. She once slept through a training session and was reprimanded by an 80-year-old player.
“I’ll tell you, I never missed a workout after that,” Cummings said. “The more I trained them, the more I was able to see through this facade, you know, they are lovely old ladies. No, they are serious adult athletes. “
The league also counteracts the slow build-up of loneliness that comes with age.
Karl told me that her childhood friends were dead. Other women outlived their spouses by decades. Their children are often preoccupied with the responsibilities of their family.
But these teammates meet on the court several times a week. The players served each other at weddings and traveled together.
Karl nodded at the younger woman, laced up her sneakers. This year, she took Karl to an appointment for the Covid-19 vaccine.
“They are sisterhood,” Karl told me.
Currently, the oldest member of the league is 95 years old, but she was recovering from surgery when I arrived. Other players have been sidelined due to injury or deterioration in health over the years. The physical losses from aging are quite evident in the trial.
86-year-old Marianne Hall coached women basketball in high school when the IX title was issued. But she didn’t play on the team herself until the 1990s, when a friend told her about the newly formed San Diego league.
“I don’t jump anymore,” Hall recalls.
“None of us jump,” the woman replied.
When games came to a halt last year due to the coronavirus pandemic, Hall wondered if she was too old to return. She is afraid to fall. Although the league is now demanding a vaccine, many players have not returned since training began again in June.
But Hall, who recently became a great-grandmother, wore a headband and a T-shirt that Sunday morning. She was ready to play.
At noon, the women rushed to the court for the next game between Hall’s and Karl’s teams.
The players, many wearing masks, quickly passed the ball to each other. Some tried to intercept and block the shots.
A few minutes later Karl grabbed the ball. She raised her hands and raised them to the basket.
If you’ve read one story, do this
Late Tuesday night, NASA launched a new mission: crash into an asteroid to protect planet Earth.
Where are we traveling
Today’s travel tip – more precisely, tips – from Gretchen Henry:
Living in California was a lifelong dream. We settled in Santa Barbara County. Here are my favorite places we have loved to visit in our 20 years here:
1) I loved the Ojai Valley Inn and Resort in Ojai. Beautiful surroundings of a beautiful building and gardens
2) Grocery and health food store just before arrival in Solvang; you can sit outside and have a picnic at nearby wineries
3) I really enjoyed visiting Pasadena – San Marino and the lovely gardens there.
4) Palm Desert – especially in the evenings
5) Drive through the desert from Santa Barbara to Sacramento.
6) Of course, Lake Tahoe
Tell us about your favorite places in California. Send your suggestions to [email protected] We will explain more in the next editions of the newsletter.
What do we recommend
Our 100 Outstanding Books of 2021.
Do you have a story about how you saw your parents or elders differently? Share your story on The Modern Love Podcast and you might be in the next episode.
And before you leave the good news
Three Humboldt County students were selected to compete in the Indigenous Ball, an annual soccer match honoring the country’s top 60 high school footballers of Indian descent.
Darwin Davis IV, a Hupa High School student and member of the Yurok tribe, told the local coastal outpost that he is looking forward to meeting other young indigenous players from across the country. The game will take place in Minneapolis on December 5th.
“This is the most exciting,” Davis said. “Meeting and playing with new people, and making new brothers and bonds that I will never forget.”