San Diego’s Oldest Women’s Basketball Players on Why They Play

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California Today

A elder league offers assemblage and contention for women arsenic aged arsenic 95.

Soumya Karlamangla

Nov. 24, 2021, 8:21 a.m. ET


Marge Carl, 92, of the Splash shoots against Young astatine  Heart, different  San Diego team.
Credit...John Francis Peters for The New York Times

SAN DIEGO — The sounds spilling from the gym suggested an mean hoops game: tennis shoes squeaking against a slick court, hollow thumps of a ball, a referee’s shrill whistle.

But wrong was a uncommon tableau. Older women, immoderate successful their 80s and 90s, hustled to pass, bargain and shoot. They dribbled and wove skillfully arsenic they sprinted toward the basket.

Kirsten Cummings, a erstwhile nonrecreational hoops player, recalled the archetypal clip she walked into this Y.M.C.A. successful San Diego’s Mission Valley neighborhood.

“There’s this radical of women who were playing and I was truthful mesmerized by them. They were 75 years old,” Cummings told me. “I got goose bumps.”

This is the San Diego Senior Women’s Basketball Association, 1 of the largest leagues successful the federation for women 50 and over. California’s second-biggest metropolis is home to respective elder sports teams and hosts the San Diego Senior Games, which draws thousands of competitors from crossed the authorities for an Olympics-style lawsuit each year.

“We’re precise outdoor-oriented, fitness-oriented, truthful it was a earthy happening that Senior Games would flourish here,” said Cummings, who grew up successful San Diego and present oversees the event. “San Diego has radical who don’t deliberation doubly astir learning hoops astatine the property of 79.”

On a caller Sunday morning, I chatted connected the Y.M.C.A. tribunal sideline with Marge Carl, who has played successful the women’s league since it was founded successful the mid-1990s.

Carl, present 92, wore a bluish jersey that matched her agleam eyes. Her team, the Splash, which is for women 80 and over, was scheduled to vie successful 45 minutes.

The league includes 75 women crossed 13 teams, astir grouped by accomplishment level, who look disconnected each Sunday. The games are three-on-three for 30 minutes connected a fractional court.


Credit...John Francis Peters for The New York Times

Carl, similar astir of the women here, came of property earlier Title IX, the 1972 civilian rights instrumentality that significantly accrued opportunities for women to enactment successful schoolhouse sports. So she didn’t larn however to play hoops until her 60s.

But that’s benignant of her style. She graduated from assemblage successful her seventh decade. She retired good into her 80s.

Carl pointed to her temple and warned me, “This doesn’t dice unless you fto it.”

For her 90th birthday, she went skydiving: “There was a antheral strapped to my back. How atrocious could it be?”

Newbies to the hoops league larn to defender and rebound successful its rookie grooming program. And erstwhile connected a team, players mightiness person 40 years oregon much to fine-tune their skills.

Cummings, who has coached the Splash arsenic a volunteer, said she was initially amazed by the older women’s tendency to improve. She erstwhile slept done a signifier and was reprimanded by a subordinate successful her 80s.

“I’ll archer you, I ne'er missed signifier aft that,” Cummings said. “The much I coached them the much I got to spot past that facade of, you know, they’re saccharine aged ladies. No, these are superior elder athletes.”


Credit...John Francis Peters for The New York Times

The league besides thwarts the dilatory creep of loneliness that comes with aging.

Carl told maine that her puerility friends person died. Other women person outlived their spouses by decades. Their children are often consumed with the responsibilities of their ain families.

But these teammates conscionable connected the tribunal respective times a week. Players person officiated 1 another’s weddings and taken trips together.

Carl nodded toward a younger pistillate lacing up her sneakers. This year, she drove Carl to her Covid-19 vaccine appointments.

“They are the sisterhood,” Carl told me.


Credit...John Francis Peters for The New York Times

Currently, the league’s oldest subordinate is 95, but she was recovering from country erstwhile I visited. Other players were sidelined with injuries oregon aesculapian conditions that person worsened implicit the years. The carnal toll of aging is rendered successful stark alleviation connected the court.

Marianne Hall, 86, coached women’s precocious schoolhouse hoops erstwhile Title IX was being rolled out. But she hadn’t played connected a squad herself until the 1990s, erstwhile her person told her astir San Diego’s recently created league.

“I don’t leap anymore,” Hall recalled saying.

“None of america jump,” the pistillate replied.

When games ceased past twelvemonth due to the fact that of the coronavirus pandemic, Hall wondered whether she was excessively aged to return. She worries astir falling. Though the league present has a vaccine requirement, galore players person not travel backmost since signifier started up again successful June.

But Hall, who precocious became a great-grandmother, wore her headband and jersey connected that Sunday morning. She was acceptable to play.

At noon, women scurried onto the tribunal for the adjacent game, betwixt Hall’s and Carl’s teams.

Players, galore successful masks, passed the shot rapidly among 1 another. Some tried to intercept and artifact shots.

Within minutes, Carl grabbed clasp of the ball. She lifted her arms and heaved it toward the basket.


Late Tuesday night, NASA launched a caller mission: crash into asteroid, support satellite Earth.


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  • Medical instrumentality shortage: Port backlogs person led to shortages of aesculapian supplies successful California and forced immoderate patients to reuse aesculapian tubes, CalMatters reports.

  • Theranos trial: Taking the basal again connected Tuesday, Elizabeth Holmes painted herself arsenic idiosyncratic whose champion intentions were misinterpreted.

  • Grammy Awards: See the afloat database of 2022 nominees.

  • Housing crunch worsens: At slightest 4 U.C. campuses person resorted to lodging students successful hotels this fall, CalMatters reports.

  • Low Covid-19 lawsuit rate: California has 1 of the lowest coronavirus corruption rates successful the country, but the hazard of a wintertime surge remains, The Associated Press reports.


  • Weather warning: There is simply a red emblem warning done Friday for parts of Orange, San Diego, San Bernardino, Riverside, Los Angeles and Ventura Counties.

  • Drug bust: A trucker attempting to smuggle ample amounts of fentanyl and methamphetamine was arrested successful San Diego, The Guardian reports.


  • Covid-19 surge: Health officials successful the San Joaquin Valley are pleading with the authorities to marque it easier to transportation patients to places similar Los Angeles arsenic coronavirus admissions climb, The Los Angeles Times reports.

  • Oil spill: Chevron appears to beryllium selling lipid from an amerciable spill successful occidental Kern County, Capital & Main reports.


  • Stores ransacked: Groups of thieves raiding high-end stores successful the Bay Area are believed to beryllium portion of blase transgression networks, The Associated Press reports.

  • “San Fransicko” review: This publication by Michael Shellenberger raises important questions astir homelessness successful San Francisco, but his answers are mired successful controversy.

  • Family killed successful crash: Four radical from Sacramento County were killed aft a operator going the incorrect mode connected Interstate 80 crashed into their vehicle, The Associated Press reports.


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Today’s question extremity — oregon tips, alternatively — comes from Gretchen Henry:

It was a lifelong imagination to unrecorded successful California. We settled successful Santa Barbara County. Here are my favourite spots to sojourn that we loved successful our 20 years there:

1) Just loved the Ojai Valley Inn and Resort successful Ojai. A beauteous mounting for the gracious gathering and gardens

2) The market store and wellness nutrient store conscionable earlier you get to Solvang; 1 tin beryllium extracurricular and picnic successful the adjacent wineries

3) Loved visiting Pasadena — San Marino and the beauteous gardens there

4) Palm Desert — particularly successful the evenings

5) Driving done the godforsaken from Santa Barbara to Sacramento

6) Of course, Lake Tahoe

Tell america astir your favourite places to sojourn successful California. Email your suggestions to We’ll beryllium sharing much successful upcoming editions of the newsletter.

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Three Humboldt County students person been selected to play successful the Indigenous Bowl — an yearly shot lucifer honoring 60 of the nation’s champion precocious schoolhouse shot players of Native American descent.

Darvin Davis IV, a pupil astatine Hoopa High School and a Yurok tribal member, told Local Coast Outpost that helium was looking guardant to gathering different young Indigenous players from astir the country. The crippled volition beryllium held successful Minneapolis connected Dec. 5.

“That’s the astir breathtaking portion astir it,” Davis said. “To conscionable and play with caller radical and to marque caller brothers and bonds that I won’t ever forget.”

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