Judge Calls Order on the Court
by Amy Adamle - Photo by: Tyler Rocheleau
Judge Linda Coburn’s commanding presence in a municipal courtroom in Edmonds, Washington, carries over to the volleyball court. Coburn, 50, calls Set! Spike! or Move! with a firmness unmistakable to teammates, opponents and spectators. Coburn has been playing volleyball since junior high and now leads her team, Vintage, as their captain.
Coburn leads her team by being vocal and directing them to their positions: “Go left,” “step up,” and “that’s good!” are part of the constant patter from the captain. “I think communication is really essential to help keep people awake, make sure they’re ready for tips, and whose ball it is,” Coburn said after her matches on Wednesday.
Coburn is the on-the-court captain, and her husband, Doug, is the team’s coach. Having his team qualify for the 2015 National Senior Games presented by Humana, he knows what it takes to win. “They need to keep playing the same way and talk a lot. Communicating is really key,” Doug said.
Doug and Linda, who have been married for about 30 years, met on the University of Washington volleyball court. Four of the women on Vintage, including Linda, played together for the University of Washington team. “We’ve come together now that we’re old people and play together on Masters teams. It’s really fun to bring people together,” Linda said.
Vintage played the first two Wednesday morning games against Crazy, from Maryland,winning 25-15 and 25-11. Afterwards, they played neck-and-neck against Care For All Ages from Wisconsin, with Care For All Ages taking the first game 25-13, Vintage, winning the second 25-20. Vintage lost their third game 15-11.
During play, when her team seemed to be tiring and losing stride, Linda called out, “Let’s adjust!” and the team followed. She called timeouts when needed to get the team back on track. On this particular day there were two wins and a loss.
Win or lose, the judge has ruled.
Ready for the Rally
by Cara Desmond - Photo by: Marie Eriel Hobro
Standing just 5 feet 1 inch tall, Quianyun Zhang is not a daunting opponent at first glance. The intimidation comes with the force of her swing as she spikes a birdie on the badminton court.
In 2013, Zhang won gold in the 50-54 division of women’s singles and is looking to win it again at the 2015 National Senior Games presented by Humana. She won all three of her singles matches on July 6. In addition, she is competing in women’s doubles and mixed doubles.
Zhang, got her start in badminton while completing her doctorate in microbial genetics at the University of Sussex in England. With the responsibilities of raising children, she took a break from playing but got back into the game once they were older. “It’s a lot of fun,” she said. “You get the benefit of fitness and mental [strength], and you get the friendship too.”
On court, Zhang was all business, determinedly chasing the birdie down and rallying long and hard with her opponent. Off court, she was all smiles as she talked with her fellow athletes and some friends from her home of Albuquerque, New Mexico.
“There was a girl from Cleveland, and [our match] was intense,” she recalled. After the game, Zhang’s opponent approached her. “She said she was so scared of me. It made me laugh so hard.”
Stepping into the National Spotlight
by Dan Piering - Photo (top) by: Mary Johns - Photo (bottom) by: Shannon Neilon
A bright sun shone over St. Thomas University’s O’Shaughnessy Stadium Wednesday for track and field events featuring athletes aged 65 and over in the 2015 National Senior Games presented by Humana. There were also the bright lights of national and international media coverage.
While senior athletes were pole vaulting, sprinting, jumping and throwing with all their might, Sheinelle Jones and the crew from NBC’s Weekend TODAY Show were capturing it all for a story that will air either this or the following Saturday morning.
Jones says that she thinks the games are important because they inspire seniors to stay active and fit. “Sometimes in the smaller communities a lot of the seniors, especially as they get older, it’s easy for them to look around and feel like there’s not a lot to do,” she said.
The Games, she said, teach seniors that there’s much to do that can help them live longer and better. “The Games let seniors know that they have peers who are healthy, who are active, who are squeezing the most out of every day. I try to do that at 37, and they keep inspiring me to do that in years to come.”
Also on site was a crew from the British Broadcasting Corporation as well as numerous local news organizations. One highlight all were interested in covering was the javelin competition featuring two 100+ division competitors, John Zilverberg and Fred Winter.
NSGA CEO Marc T. Riker commented that “with more media coverage like this, our message will reach millions, who may be inspired by what’s taking place in Minnesota.”
Jones agreed it’s an important message for all ages and that it’s never too late - and never too early - to start getting healthy. “It’s just a boost,” she said. “Not just for the seniors, but for busy moms and busy dads, baby boomers.”
3 Questions - Barbara Stevens, 55, Minnesota, Competing in 10K Road Race
What’s your first impression of Minnesota? What do you want to see while you’re here?
I’m from Bloomington, Minnesota.
I’m in awe many people this age are competing and staying active. To qualify is a thrill and in my home state! It’s my first National games, but it won’t be my last, that’s for sure.
I get a healthy lifestyle and stay active.
Edwina Dennis Beams in Mall Walkers Video
by Andrew Ruffing - Photo from "Mall Walker's Surprise"
At 81 years old, basketball player Edwina Dennis of Chicago, Illinois will enjoy being a power on the courts during the 2015 National Senior Games presented by Humana. Like many pre Title IX women, there were no female basketball teams to join when she was younger and she stopped thinking about it until she was 70.
Dennis first heard of the National Senior Games at her granddaughter’s basketball game. A woman connected to The Games asked if she wanted to participate. Since getting involved she has been dedicated to keeping herself moving. This year, her commitment to health and sport earned an invitation to be a 2015 Humana Game Changer—an athlete who shows others how everyone, young and old, can live healthier lives through regular physical activity.
Little did she know that this would lead to being in the Humana “Mall Walkers” video that was released just before The Games and has been creating a buzz on the Internet.
In May Humana brought Dennis to the Twin Cities to join other Game Changers in the one-minute video filmed at the Mall of America. In the video, Dennis fakes out a pair of young men with her ball, then beams a radiant smile. She said making the video “was an experience of a lifetime” and was happy to make the trip since she generally doesn’t travel very often.
The five-foot-ten-inch hoopster has been playing sports since she was young, but has since developed arthritis in her knees, shoulders, hips, and feet. However, she pushes through the difficulties by staying active not only with sports, but also through activities like cutting her own grass, raking leaves, and shoveling snow. Though she said it is sometimes hard for her to get up and do something, she encourages herself to keep going with her motto: “If you don’t use it, you’ll lose it.”
Being active, Dennis is certain, has kept her from needing a cane or walker. This has inspired her to motivate other women to stay active, even though they might feel discouraged.
To young people, Dennis offers two words of advice: “Don’t stop.” She said young people should stay active as a habit so they are less likely to stop once they retire. With her can-do attitude and willingness to stay active, it is clear that Dennis won’t stop any time soon.
Brenda Talley, Game Saver
During the 2015 National Senior Games presented by Humana, people witness remarkable feats of skill and strength. They look upon the athletes with admiration and respect for their hard work and dedication.
Imagine the commitment that it takes to be a nationally competitive senior athlete. Now imagine adding on all it takes to run qualifying games on a state level on top of that, to be responsible for sponsorships, accounting, marketing, finding volunteers, not to mention the athletic events themselves.
Now, imagine you are doing all this at the same time you are battling cancer that has spread to your intestines, kidney, and liver.
In 2011, Brenda Talley, then 56, was given four months to live. So what did she do? First, she retired from the position she’d held for 20 years as the Director of Performing Arts, at the College of Southern Nevada Performing Arts Center. That was necessary so she could undergo round after round of chemotherapy.
But during chemo, Talley wasn’t buying the four month prognosis. “When I get through this, I have something to look forward to. I just need to put this behind me, just get through it and then I can start getting ready for the Senior Games,” Talley told herself. She had qualified in 2010 for the 2011 games, but the chemotherapy kept her from competing that year.
In 2012, Talley qualified for the 2013 games but then discovered that the state games in Nevada were at risk of being cancelled because of low sponsorship levels. This did not sit well with Talley. The motivation provided by the Nevada Senior Games had helped her battle cancer. “It was important to me to keep The Games going,” Talley said.
Talley stepped up. She worked without pay to bridge the financially difficult time. She secured enough sponsors to salvage and stage the next games for the Silver State. She took over all the office work--the accounting, marketing, and sending out the sponsor packets.
Then came a big disappointment. Having ensured the Nevada Games would continue, Talley had a setback that required more chemo. She was not able to participate in the games she had revived.
The 2015 National Senior Games presented by Humana hold a very special place in Brenda Talley’s heart. After being prevented from participating in games, she is now competing in her first National Senior Games, along with her husband Douglas (aka Beni) Talley in mixed doubles tennis. Her perspective is tempered by her battle and perseverance., “Win, lose, or draw, just being able to come and play is what it’s all about,” she said.
Talle continues to be the coordinator for the Nevada State Games and says more sponsorship is needed to make the program grow. She says her passion to keep them going is not just for herself, but to benefit others, particularly those who need to set a goal to make themselves healthier.
Still Swinging After All These Years
by Eric Todd - In Photo: Robert Blount
Fairways on the picturesque Como Golf Course Wednesday morning were filled with nonagenarians - a long word for people in their 90s.
Robert Blount, 91, from Alamogordo, New Mexico is excited to be participating in his first National Senior Games, but has participated in two prior New Mexico Senior Olympics. His wife Karen Blount shared that she and Bob got married a little over a year ago and fondly recalled how the two met. “We met over the bridge table. We played duplicate bridge and then he taught me how to play golf and I love it. He’s a really good teacher,” said Karen. Bob chuckled and said, “She can out drive me.”
Mary Lauffer, 96, from Annapolis, Maryland, has bragging rights to three hole-in-ones in her lifetime. The 2013 Personal Best athlete said she is enjoying her visit to the Twin Cities area. “I love Minnesota. It’s beautiful here.” She also made sure to pocket a scoring pencil from the to add to her extensive collection gathered over the years.
Some of the others in their 90s playing through included Marge Boyle, 95, of Fort Lee, New Jersey; Lindsay Tice, 96, from Winston-Salem, North Carolina; Gerald Baird, 90, of Columbus, Ohio, and Royce Nation, 90, of Hattiesburg, Mississippi.