The National Senior Games are something special
We may not all be athletes, but there are a lot of seniors who are. Seniors in their 50’s, 60’s, 70’s 80’s, and hold on to your hat (as the saying goes) even in their 90’s are out there competing in the National Senior Games. Think Senior Olympics because that’s what the games were originally called. They were launched, appropriately, in the “show me a state” of Missouri in 1985 when a group of seven men and women (the same number as the original seven Mercury astronauts, space explorers of course, our seven did their pioneering on the ground) came up with an idea that would become the non-profit National Senior Games Association. From day one it’s purpose has been to encourage healthy lifestyles for adults “through education, fitness and sport”.
And it’s equally fitting that it’s city of birth would be St. Louis, honored by Charles Lindbergh (the first man to fly solo across the Atlantic) when he named his plane, “The Spirit of St. Louis.” So it shouldn’t be surprising that in a state with the independent attitude of Missouri and in a city with the independent spirit of St. Louis a new challenge was born and met. In 1987 the 33 state games already in existence were organized into the first biannual national competition. It was held in St. Louis.
That debut event was a spectacular success. Twenty five hundred seniors competed, 100,000 people saw the games and Bob Hope was featured in he opening ceremonies at the St. Louis Riverfront Arch. Two years later in 1989, the games were again held in St. Louis. This second outing showed the national games were here to stay. The roster of senior athletes grew to 3,500 and the media took note. The event was covered in print by the New York Times and on television by both ESPN and Good Morning America. The games reputation and standing were now a part of the national scene.
Since 1989 the games have been held in a different location each time so people all across the country can enjoy the experience. The 30th anniversary games in 2017 they will be in Birmingham, Alabama, in 2019 in Albuquerque, New Mexico. And the competitor count just keeps growing. There were 9,989 in Bloomington/Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota in 2015. To qualify to compete in the national games athletes have to achieve certain levels in the preceding years state games.
Today 19 sports are included in the competition making it the biggest sport event for seniors on the planet. The original 33 state games have grown to include every state in the union plus Washington D.C., the Veterans and Canada Games.
The sports include Archery, Badminton, Basketball, Bowling, Cycling, Golf, Horseshoes, Pickleball, Race Walk, Racquetball, Road Race, Shuffleboard, Softball, Swimming, Table Tennis, Tennis, Track and Field, Triathlon, Volleyball and Judo as a demo sport.
The National Senior Games Association is the inspiring legacy of seven men and women who have given…competitors, spectators and we others too who have fought the good fight in our own individual ways, an appreciation of what we can accomplish in our own lives.