Several members and employees of the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community competed in the Arizona Senior Olympic State Games, which are held every year beginning in the third week of February. The games consist of 32 sports events for people age 50 and “better” who compete against others in their age range and against themselves to achieve their personal best in their chosen fitness activity.
“We formed a basketball team about five years ago and have been playing ever since,” said Roberta Johnston, manager of the Community’s Disease Prevention Program, who is one of the players on the Anasazi Ladies basketball team. The team’s goal was to place in the tournament held on March 13 in order to qualify for the National Senior Games, which are held every other year. Last year the National Senior Games were held in San Francisco, and in 2011 the host city will be Houston.
Johnston has been playing basketball since she was in elementary school. “I just play at a different level now,” she said. “I love the game of basketball, and I love knowing that I do not have to give that up now that I am at an older level.”
When the ladies formed their basketball team, it was the only team like it in the state. Later it became the only Native American team ever to participate in the National Senior Games. Pat Rush, La Vella Deer and Violet Mitchell-Enos are on the team along with Johnston. The ladies have competed in several states such as Utah, Colorado and New Mexico, where they either took the championship or the runner-up trophy.
The team usually places in the Arizona event, which is a three-on-three half-court game. “It is very fun and challenging at the same time,” said Johnston, who has also competed in the softball games in the Arizona Senior Olympics.
The Anasazi Ladies practiced in scrimmage games held in Lehi’s basketball gym with the help of several female Community members and employees who also love basketball. “They are helping us work on our half-court defense,” said Johnston.
The games are very competitive, even for the seniors in the 70 to 80 age bracket, said Johnston. “This year is a qualifying year, and when we qualify we will go to nationals and take the championship trophy.” (At press time, the results of the Arizona Senior Games were unavailable.)
The Arizona Senior Olympics is all about people 55 and older staying in shape.
It’s about striving for their “personal best” time, score, height, weight or distance.
Starting at the beginning of the year, the organization hosts different sports and fitness competitions, workshops and clinics in which thousands of Arizona seniors participate. For more information, visit the Web site at www.seniorgames.org.