San Diego’s oldest women’s basketball players on why they play
SAN DIEGO — The gym sounded like a regular basketball game. Tennis shoes creaking against a slick surface, hollow thumps of a football, and a referee’s shrill whistle.
Inside was a very different scene. Older women in their 80s and 90s hustled to steal, pass and shoot. As they raced towards the basket, they weaved and dribbled skillfully.
Kirsten Cummings, a former basketball player, recalled the moment she walked into this Y.M.C.A. in San Diego’s Mission Valley neighborhood.
“There was a group of women playing and I was completely captivated by them. Cummings said that they were 75 years old. “I felt goose bumps.”
This is the San Diego Senior Women’s Basketball Association. It’s one of the most popular leagues for women over 50. California’s second largest city hosts several senior sports teams. Each year, the San Diego Senior Games draws thousands of participants from all over the state to compete in an Olympics-style event.
Cummings, who was born in San Diego, now manages the Senior Games. “San Diego is home to people who aren’t afraid to learn basketball at the ripe old age of 79.”
A Sunday morning I had the opportunity to chat with Marge Carl on the Y.M.C.A. Marge Carl, who played in the women’s league since its inception in the mid-1990s, was on the court sideline.
Carl, now 92 years old, wore a bright blue jersey to match her bright eyes. Her Splash team, for women aged 80 and older, was to compete in 45 minutes.
The league features 75 women from 13 teams. They are roughly grouped according to their skill level and face off every Sunday. Three-on-three games last 30 minutes on a half-court.
Carl, like many of the other women here, was born before Title IX. This 1972 civil rights law significantly increased the opportunities for women to play in school sports. She didn’t learn to play basketball until she was in her 60s.
That’s her way of life. In her seventh decade, she graduated college. She lived well into her 80s.
Carl pointed at her temple and told me that it wouldn’t end unless I let it.
She went skydiving for her 90th birthday. “There was a guy strapped to me,” she said. It could have been worse.
In the rookie training program, newbies to the league learn how to rebound and guard. Once they are on a team, players may have up to 40 years to perfect their skills.
Cummings, who coached the Splash as an volunteer coach, stated that she was initially shocked by the older women wanting to improve. One time, she slept through practice and was reprimanded in 80s by a player.
Cummings stated, “I’ll be honest with you, I never missed practice thereafter.” “The more I worked with them, the more I saw past their facade of sweet old ladies. These are senior athletes.”
The league also helps to stop the slow creeping loneliness that comes along with aging.
Carl shared with me the sad news that many of her childhood friends had died. Others women have lived to be with their husbands for decades. They often become too busy with their families’ responsibilities.
These teammates still meet on the court many times per week. The players have shared trips and officiated at each other’s weddings.
Carl nodded towards a younger woman who was lacing her shoes. She drove Carl this year to her Covid-19 vaccination appointments.
Carl said to me, “They are the sisterhood.”
The league’s oldest player is currently 95. However, she was still recovering from surgery when we visited. Others were forced to withdraw due to injuries or other medical conditions that have gotten worse over time. On the court, you can see the physical effects of aging.
Marianne Hall (86) was a coach for women’s basketball in high school when Title IX was being introduced. She hadn’t been on a team until 1990s when a friend introduced her to the newly formed league in San Diego.
Hall remembered saying, “I don’t jump anymore.”The woman responded, “None of us leaps,”
Hall was concerned when games were canceled last year due to the coronavirus pandemic. She wondered if she was too old for it. Hall worries about falling. Although the league has now established a vaccination requirement, many players have not returned to practice since June.
Hall, who is now a great-grandmother has worn her jersey and headband on Sunday morning. She was eager to play.After the noon break, the women raced to the court in search of the next game between the Carl’s and Hall’s teams.
Many players, many wearing masks, quickly passed the ball among themselves. Others tried to block and intercept shots.Carl quickly grabbed the ball and held it in her hands for a few minutes. She raised her arms and lifted the ball toward the basket.
This is the story you should read if you only have one story to tell.
NASA launched a new mission late Tuesday night: to crash into an asteroid and defend Earth.
Where we’re traveling
Gretchen Henry is today’s travel tip or rather, tips.
California was our lifelong dream. Santa Barbara County was where we settled. These are some of my favourite spots that I have visited over the past 20 years.
1) I loved the Ojai Valley Resort and Inn in Ojai. Beautiful setting for the elegant building and its gardens
2) Just before reaching Solvang, there is a grocery and a health food store. One can also sit outside and enjoy a picnic at the nearby wineries.
3) I loved Pasadena-San Marino and all the beautiful gardens.
4) Palm Desert — particularly in the evenings
5) Driving through desert from Santa Barbara to Sacramento
6) Lake Tahoe, of course.
Let us know about your favorite California places. Send your suggestions to CAtoday@nytimes.com. In future editions of our newsletter, we’ll share moreAre you a person who has seen your elders or parents differently? You might be featured on a future episode of the “Modern Love Podcast.”
And before you go, some good news
Three Humboldt County high school students were selected to participate in the Indigenous Bowl, an annual football match that honors 60 of the best high school football players of Native American heritage.
Local Coast Outpost spoke to Darvin Davis IV, a Hoopa High School student and Yurok tribe member. He said he was excited to meet other young Indigenous players from across the country. The game will take place in Minneapolis on December 5.
Davis stated, “That’s what’s most exciting about it.” “To play and meet new people, and to form new brotherhoods and bonds that will last a lifetime.”