When Kay Kuykendall Rosenmarkle was in her early teens, she had to quit the school basketball team because her mother couldn’t make the daily round-trip drives from their rural home to practices in town. Now, at 76, Kay has resurrected her dream, playing weekly games with the Chapel Hill, North Carolina affiliate of the National Senior Games Association.
Kay (who is the sister of one of my childhood friends) told me any woman 50+ can participate (they have men’s teams, too), including new players just learning as well as those with high school or college experience. Teams are divided into age groups—50-54, 55-59 and so on. Kay said several women are in their 80s and “they are all very good.”
The games are played half-court, three on three (three players to a team) and consist of two 12-minute or 15-minute halves (the length depends on the age bracket).
A self-described childhood tomboy, Kay said she grew up playing pick-up basketball with her brothers and their friends (and, in our town, most of those games would have been held outdoors on concrete courts). She began playing with the Senior Games last fall when she read a flyer recruiting new members. “I still loved basketball and had the time to do so,” she told me. In addition, her husband had died two and one half years earlier and “this would be something new I could do for myself.”
Practices are held year-round, several times a week, but players can come and go as their schedules allow. Games are held in the Spring under the purview of the national organization, which determines local, state and national champions.
I wanted to know how she keeps from getting hurt, and she said that members do a lot of conditioning and other sports activities during the week. Kay works on stamina and muscle strength. “So I can shoot farther away from the basket,” she said.
The team has professional looking uniforms (see the picture) and a team name. They are called the “Orange Sprots.” No, the name is not misspelled. “Orange” comes from their place of residence, Orange County NC. “Sprots?” Kay said a team member found it in the Urban Dictionary. It means “super hot.” I’ll let her explain that.
Kay said she does it for fun, good exercise and the camaraderie. “Everyone is very friendly, and we look out for one another.”
Finally, I asked Kay how long she intends to do this—“As long as I am able”—and what she would say to someone thinking about getting involved—“You don’t stop playing because you get old; you get old because you stop playing.”