Jane Pittman, 60, Alexandria, Virginia
In her mid-50s, independent filmmaker Jane Pittman was looking for her next documentary subject. A friend suggested she check out the nearby NOVA United Senior Women’s Basketball Association, in which more than 50 women between the ages of 50 and 76 from all around the metro Washington, DC region practice and compete. At the time, four NOVA teams were gearing up to qualify for the 2013 National Senior Games presented by Humana, and the fascinated Pittman decided that the diverse backgrounds of the players, with their joy and intensity to be part of a team on a mission, would make for a dynamic film.
As she warmed up to the idea, the ghosts of old memories and unfulfilled dreams welled up. Pittman was once a promising star of her high school basketball team, but the pressure and expectations were too much to bear at the time. She ran off the court during a tournament and put her athletic career behind her. Or, so she thought. The plot suddenly twisted as old passions awoke, and she wanted to play again as a senior.
“I had not played in 43 years,” Jane recalls. “But once I started my research, I couldn’t stand on the sidelines. After joining in, I had such a strong reaction that I realized maybe the hook of the movie could be about my experience of coming back to the hoop within the story of this league and these women.”
Pittman (in cast) poses with her 2013 team and Coach Simone Edwards (center).The decision was a good one. The film, Coming Back To The Hoop, debuted in late 2014 and has already been selected and screened at numerous film festivals. To date, it has earned three awards and two additional nominations. Pittman will also screen the movie and comment about her experience on July 9 during the 2015 Games in Minnesota.
Pittman notes that her own emotional story is just one of many layers, including portrayals of other players as the film follows them to Cleveland for the 2013 National Senior Games. Another thread involves former WNBA star Simone Edwards, who coached two NOVA teams. An earlier portion of the film follows Edwards to her hometown in Jamaica, where she is an inspiration and a hero. “Simone was in a transition period after being an assistant coach at George Mason University,” Pittman explains. “She was invited out to a NOVA United practice to see what it was about, and she got pulled into it just as I was.”
Coming Back To The Hoop does not deliver a Hollywood ending, as Pittman sustains an injury early into the 2013 competition. However, she says the pain and disappointment of the moment has only inspired her more. “That’s life. You never know what will happen,” she observes. “Yes, I wanted to excel and win a gold medal. But there were so many positives – being introduced to senior sports and playing basketball again, to have the experience of meeting this group of women and to be at the National Senior Games. And I’m still playing and coming to Minnesota with my Solid Gold 55+ team.”