HUMANA Hero: Ronnie Lakatos, 56, Ft. Lauderdale, Florida
Ronnie Lakatos has always promoted physical fitness, both as an individual and through a long career as a coach and parks and recreation manager in south Florida. Five years ago, with retirement approaching, she started talking up the idea of having a senior basketball team with her friend and center Mattie Lenhardt.
“Mattie and I had always wanted to form a team and do Senior Games when we got to be 50,” she recalls. “Mattie knew a lot of people in the Miami-south Dade area, and I recruited some of my recreation and coaching friends from Broward County.”
The result was The Broward Heat, a name that gives a nod to the NBA team they root for. Among the roster of team members with fitness careers are: Ida Montgomery, a youth sports basketball coordinator for Broward County Parks and Recreation; Diane Foli, a PE teacher; Jackie House, a special needs PE teacher; Lisa Ingram, a Broward County special education PE teacher and after-school care worker for Ft. Lauderdale Parks and Recreation, and Gale Peterson, an elementary school teacher who referees through the Miami Athletics Association. Team members enjoyed basketball in their youth, and some were college scholarship players, including Kim and, who is in Indiana University’s hall of fame.
“Our mindset was to compete again in a game that we grew up loving as young ladies,” Ronnie says. “I have been a manager all of my life, and that’s really my strength. I do all the things you have to do to keep the team going, from getting uniforms and bags donated, to organizing the team activities. Somebody’s got to do that.” She notes that the team has been able to grow due to a local sponsor, Tarpon Bend, that has supported them for five years.
The Broward Heat has made its mark, winning gold in annual Florida Senior Games play. After two appearances at National Senior Games, the team has bronze medals to show for their efforts in their competitive age division, and it has only increased their determination to take it all in 2017. “Because we’re spread out and busy, we don’t get to practice together as much as we’d like to. But we know each other, blend well, and know how to read each others’ game.”
Ronnie adds that their motivation goes beyond the competitive nature of the team. “Part of the reason was to keep us in shape, and to have quality of life physically and mentally,” she explains. “I think we help lift our opponents up and make it fun for everyone. It’s about fellowship and having a good time after the game is over.”
Another motivation is for the Broward Heat gym rats is to expand participation in their region, and get other women to return to the court. “Over the past two years, we’ve been picking up some players younger than us. As this team is aging up to the 55-59 group, I would like to be able to expand the program and have a second 50-54 team, and then grow to three teams as we grow older. We do it for the love of the sport, to bring basketball back to the senior community. Once people get back in it, they’re hooked.”