DALLAS, Texas- A affable, lifelong multi-sport athlete and a passionate player and advocate of senior women’s basketball were named as recipients of the first-ever male and female Athlete of the Year awards at the National Senior Games Awards Gala. The program was part of the 2017 National Senior Games Association (NSGA) Annual Conference held January 25-28 in Dallas.
Richard “Dick” Naslund, 91, of Oshkosh, Wisconsin, and Deb Smith, 62, of Portland, Maine, were selected as a result of nominations submitted by Member Games that serve as qualifying events for the biennial National Senior Games. An awards committee of the NSGA Board of Directors evaluated nominations and voted to name the awardees.
Dick Naslund has always participated in competitive and recreational sports. He pitched for the Villanova University baseball team and played some semi-pro ball in his younger years. His career includes teaching and coaching sports at junior and high school levels, and later working in real estate development and property management. He discovered the Wisconsin Senior Olympics (WSO) in 2002 and hasn’t missed its annual games, or the National Senior Games, since he began. Naslund has earned five medals in national competition and has been a model of sportsmanship in a variety of sports, including tennis, softball, basketball, track and field and, more recently, pickleball. His state’s nomination testified to his inspiration on the field, and his involvement as a board member, volunteer and recruiter around the Wisconsin games.
Naslund has won five national medals in individual and team sports, and a mound of others in his state games. But that isn’t what motivates him. He has been a tireless recruiter who inspires others to try new sports, and to not let age hold them back. He has supported his Wisconsin games as an athlete, volunteer and donor. He even makes sure to take plenty of photos from state and nationals to share with WSO.
“My belief is that you have to have physical, mental and spiritual involvement to lead a purposeful and complete life,” Naslund said. “Staying with sports in these games helps me in all these ways, and our legacy should be to inspire others to be involved whenever we can.”
Deb Smith hasn’t been involved as long as Naslund, but has already made her mark as both a competitor and volunteer. For 28 years, she worked with South Portland Parks and Recreation, and is currently an athletic administrator for South Portland High School. While she works with a wide range of sports, her passion always has been women’s basketball.
Smith has competed in Maine Senior Games basketball since she became eligible to play, and has helped organize, coach and play with senior women’s basketball teams at every National Senior Games since 2001. Smith has been the basketball competition coordinator and a board member for the Maine Senior Games for many years, and has been on the NSGA Board of Directors for six years.
Smith is a tireless advocate and recruiter in Maine and many surrounding states. She also founded the “Not Too Late Basketball Camp” for women ages 50 and above, which is now in its 11th.
A work conflict prevented Smith from attending the event, so fellow Maine athlete and NSGA Board Member Jerry LeVasseur received the Athlete of the Year Award on her behalf. “I consider Deb to be ‘Miss Senior Games’ for our state because she has probably inspired and recruited more people to get involved than any other person,” he said. “She’s also a great coach and fierce competitor.”
The National Senior Games Association (NSGA) is a nonprofit Multi-Sports Council member of the United States Olympic Committee that promotes health and wellness for adults 50 and over through education, fitness and sport. NSGA governs the biennial National Senior Games, the largest qualified multi-sport event in the world for seniors. NSGA is comprised of 53 Member Games across the country and in Canada who conduct multi-sport competitions which serve as qualifying events for the National Senior Games. The 2017 National Senior Games presented by Humana will be held in Birmingham, Alabama from June 2-15, 2017. For more information, please visit www.NSGA.com.