In good time before the start time for the Hoops for the Ages basketball tournament at 9, Logan Family Gymnasium at the Robert Crown Community Center buzzed with pre-match activity.
Volunteers checked participants in, fans sat in the seats, and the players warmed up – practiced shooting and dribbling techniques.
“Courts one and two are aged 40 to 49,” said organizer Rob Bady. “Straight three and four are 50 and up. We have a total of 12 teams. They have to play round robin, and then we have to get into what we call pool games about the championship.”
The three-on-three basketball tournament for seniors was held on Saturday, April 9, and it’s the kind of event that Bady hopes will become an Evanston tradition.
More than 90 male and female players participated in the free full-day tournament hosted by the City of Evanston and the Levy Senior Center Foundation.
The women’s tournament was held at Levy Senior Center, 300 Dodge Ave., and the men’s tournament took place at Robert Crown Community Center, 1801 Main Street.
Bady said in an interview with RoundTable that unlike many senior basketball tournaments that allow players 50 and older, Hoops for the Ages was open to players 40 and older “because we want to introduce them to playing basketball for life. “
Bady looks forward to expanding his participation in Hoops for the Ages, including teams from Evanston Fire and Police departments, “supporting the ability to stay active and age successfully. It affects not only you, but your loved ones and people around you, ”he said.
Theresa Fix, 77, was one of the older female basketball players at Levy Center, and she came from Westmont and drove more than an hour to play. She said many others took a similarly long ride, pointing to an 88-year-old player driving from the South Side and another player driving from the Indiana border.
Fix said she has been coming to the Levy Center every Tuesday for the past 15 years because it is one of the only gyms nearby with teams of older women’s basketball that she has been able to find.
She explained that in senior basketball, players play three-on-three on a half court instead of an entire court.
“It helps us to be able to keep playing for longer,” she said.
Although she plays at the center weekly, she clarified that Hoops for the Ages was an independent event with two purposes: to prepare the women’s senior team for next week’s national competition in Fort Lauderdale and to try to get more seniors to play. Her team is the North Stars of Chicago’s North Side, and the youngest person on her team is 75.
“We try to compete before we go to see where we stand,” she said.
Fix said she picked up basketball again in her early 60s when she heard on the radio that “that kind of thing” was going on. She said she got herself connected and has been doing so ever since.
The women who competed on Saturday came from different backgrounds. One person was a retired judge and another was a former hospital housekeeper, though not all were retired.
Fix said she found a community in the other players and played golf with some of them on a regular basis. They also celebrate each other’s birthdays.
All the women competing want to win and get better, Fix said, but they are also worried about hurting each other.
“An older friend of mine in Michigan … said, ‘You know we’re all falling off a wheelchair,’ ‘Fix said,’ I mean we’re really trying to protect each other.”
At the men’s tournament at the Robert Crown Community Center on 1801 Main St, Jim Mayer, 72, sat on the court after a fight while his peers continued to compete.
“It was a little hectic for me, fast. I’m 72. And I know I’m younger than some of these guys, older than many of them. I’m not in good shape. So I’m tired,” Mayer said. Originally from the South Side of Chicago – specifically Hyde Park – he now lives in Highland Park.
“I’m not watching, but it’s intense,” he said.
Mayer plays basketball twice a week at Brooks Park in Chicago, and some of the guys who play at Robert Crown also play at Brooks Park on Fridays, and they invited Mayer to the tournament in Evanston.
He said most of his teammates are retired. One is a former dentist, another 83-year-old is a former sports news reporter. Mayer spent his career on the horse racing track.
“I just liked the camaraderie,” Mayer said. “I don’t see these guys very often. I have to play better in the next two games.”
Mayer said the opposing team beat his team by 28 to 9.
“Thank God the score is no longer up,” he said.
Asked what she enjoys most about playing with other seniors, Fix said she likes the competition.
“If I see a basketball hoop, I want to put a ball in it. And if anyone competes with me, it’s even more desirable.”
Heidi Randhava contributed to this story.