When my mom was a little girl, she would play basketball with Johnny Macourt and all the neighborhood boys. They would choose her, time and time again, in the schoolyard pick and she would run circles around them during every game. She played field hockey, basketball and lacrosse throughout school and carried on her love of sports into adulthood, playing on every church softball league, pickle ball at the rec center, and competitive basketball with the local seniors in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.
When I was a kid, she would sit in the bleachers during my games, hollering with all manner of conviction that if I would just stop spinning on the field then I would be the star player with scholarships coming from all arenas. I was in third grade.
Never give up. Be a team player. Stick to your commitments. These were the things I heard my mom saying throughout my life and no one lived them better than she.
About ten years ago, she joined a senior basketball team, the Texas All Stars. She’s a 5’3” point guard with a dead on three pointer. During tournaments she typically wins the foul shot and around-the-world challenges. They were the dream team, coming home with one medal after another. They even practiced with the Globetrotters (she’s #43 in the video)!
Several years in, the team split. Feelings were hurt but their spirits were not broken. Her new team, the Texas Phoenix, “rose up from the ashes” and came back with a newfound confidence and team attitude.
Their team knows how to have a good time too! These ladies have clocked some miles together, driving from one tournament to another in Jean’s minivan. They have an uncanny habit of making illegal u-turns which they manage to convince the police officer to turn a blind eye on. One of their teammates insists on stopping at every Dairy Queen so she can satisfy her Blizzard addiction. And they are frequent flyers of the Drury Inn because they can get free breakfast, dinner and popcorn.
My mom is seventy-five and just played in her 5th National Senior Games in June. Their team was a little worse for wear this time around. One teammate battled breast cancer this past year. One had her hip and knee replaced. One had a blood clot in her brain just weeks before the games. And my mom separated her meniscus in her knee and was slowly rehabbing it back to being fully functional. They could have easily backed out of the games and no one would have bat an eye given their injuries. But, they are one determined bunch and took on the challenge with gusto. They played their hearts out, but came up short, placing fourth out of six in the loser’s bracket.
I remember sitting there, watching these seniors approach their games like they were professionally paid athletes. Their only compensation was the right to say that they played in the National Senior Games…something the majority of people their age can not claim and most of us can hardly dream of.
While at the games, I decided to take in a few other sports and found myself at the 50 meter dash one afternoon. That day, I watched a man who was 104 years old finish the 50 meter dash in 39 seconds. He stood at the starting line with his cane, handed it to the race official when the starter pistol was fired. The race official then met him at the finish line with his cane so he could walk back to his seat.
These athletes…they’re inspirational. They have a level of grit, passion, loyalty, and general badassery that I aspire to. And in ten short years, I too can be a senior athlete…if I would just stop spinning in circles on the field.
“It’s hard to beat a person who never gives up.”