Why does she play San Diego’s oldest female basketball player?
SAN DIEGO – Voices emanating from the gym suggested a simple basketball game: tennis shoes squeaking against a slick court, the hollow thumps of a ball, the shrill whistle of a referee.
But inside was a rare tableau. Older women, some in their 80s and 90s, hustle to be possessed, stolen and shot. He dribbled and weaved skillfully as he ran towards the basket.
Former professional basketball player, Kirsten Cummings remembers first attending this YMCA in the Mission Valley neighborhood of San Diego.
“There’s this group of women who were playing and I was so fascinated by them. They were 75,” Cummings told me. “I got goosebumps.”
This is the San Diego Senior Women’s Basketball Association, one of the nation’s largest leagues for women 50 and older. California’s second largest city is home to several senior sports teams and hosts the San Diego Senior Games, which attract thousands of competitors from across the state to the Olympic-style event each year.
“We’re very outdoors-oriented, fitness-oriented, so it was a natural thing that senior games would flourish here,” said Cummings, who grew up in San Diego. “There are people in San Diego who don’t think twice about learning basketball at age 79.”
On a recent Sunday morning, I chatted on the sidelines of the YMCA court with Marge Karl, who has played in the women’s league since it was founded in the mid-1990s.
Carl, now 92, wore a blue jersey that matched his sparkling eyes. Her team, Splash, which is for women age 80 and older, was supposed to compete in 45 minutes.
The league consists of 13 teams consisting of 75 women, grouped roughly by skill level, who face each Sunday. There is a three-on-three game for 30 minutes on the half court.
Carl, like most of the women here, came of age before Title IX, the 1972 civil rights law, which significantly increased opportunities for women to participate in school sports. So he didn’t learn to play basketball until his 60s.
But his style is similar. She graduated from college in her seventies. She retired well into her 80s.
Carl pointed to his temple and warned me, “It doesn’t die until you let it go.”
For her 90th birthday, she went skydiving: “There was a man tied on my back. How bad could it be?”
Basketball league freshmen learn to guard and rebound in their rookie training program. And once on a team, players can have 40 years or more to hone their skills.
Cummings, who has coached Splash as a volunteer, said she was initially surprised by older women’s desire to improve. She once slept through a practice run and was reprimanded by a player in her 80s.
“I’ll tell you, after that I never left practice,” Cummings said. “The more I trained them, the more I got to see past that aspect of, you know, those lovely old ladies. No, these are serious senior athletes.”
The league also thwarts the slow creep of loneliness that comes with aging.
Carl told me that his childhood friends were dead. Other women have kept their spouses alive for decades. Their children are often consumed by the responsibilities of their own family.
But these teammates meet on the court several times a week. Players have officiated at each other’s weddings and taken trips together.
Carl nodded to a younger woman wearing his sneakers. This year, she inspired Carl for his COVID-19 vaccine appointments.
“They are fraternities,” Carl told me.
Currently, the oldest member of the league is 95 years old, but when I visited she was recovering from surgery. Other players were sidelined due to injuries or medical conditions that have worsened over the years. Relief is provided in court of the physical toll of aging.
Marian Hall, 86, coached women’s high school basketball when Title IX was being rolled out. But she didn’t play on a team herself until the 1990s, when a friend told her about the newly created league in San Diego.
“I don’t jump anymore,” Hall said.
“None of us jump,” replied the woman.
When games were called off last year due to the coronavirus pandemic, Hall wondered if she was too old to return. He is worried about falling. Although the league now requires a vaccine, many players have not returned since practice resumed in June.
But Hall, a recent great-grandmother, wore her headband and jersey that Sunday morning. She was ready to play.
At noon, the women shouted on the court for the next game between Hall and Carl’s teams.
Players, many masked, quickly passed the ball between each other. Some tried to stop and stop the shots.
Within minutes, Karl caught the ball. He raised his arms and put it towards the basket.
If you read a story, make it
Late Tuesday, NASA launched a new mission: crash into an asteroid, protecting planet Earth.
where are we traveling
Today’s travel tip — or tips, rather — comes from Gretchen Henry:
Living in California was the dream of a lifetime. We settled in Santa Barbara County. Here are my favorite places to visit that we fell in love with in our 20s:
1) Just loved the Ojai Valley Inn and Resort in Ojai. Gorgeous building and a beautiful setting for gardens
2) Grocery store and health food store just before arriving in Solvang; One can sit outside and have a picnic at the nearby winery
3) Pasadena – Loves visiting San Marino and the beautiful gardens there
4) Palm desert — especially in the evening
5) Driving through the desert from Santa Barbara to Sacramento
6) Of course, Lake Tahoe
Tell us about your favorite places to visit in California. Email your suggestions at [email protected] We will share more in upcoming editions of the newsletter.
what we are recommending
Our 100 Notable Books of 2021.
Do you have a story of a time when you looked at your parents or elders differently? Share your story with the “Modern Love Podcast” and you may make it into future episodes.
And before I go, some good news
Three students from Humboldt County are selected to play in the Indigenous Bowl – an annual football match honoring 60 of the nation’s best high school football players of Native American descent.
Darwin Davis IV, a Hoopa High School student and Yurok Aboriginal member, told Local Coast Outpost that he looks forward to meeting other young Indigenous players from across the country. The game will be held in Minneapolis on December 5.
“That’s the most exciting part about it,” Davis said. “To meet and play with new people and make new brothers and bonds that I will never forget.”
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