Update: Due to a programming change, the San Diego Senior Women’s Basketball Associations’ practices and games will move to Wednesdays from 6-8 p.m. beginning on Aug. 16.
CARLSBAD — Local matrons come for the hoops and stay for the sisterhood.
This year, the San Diego Senior Women’s Basketball Association is celebrating its 25th anniversary by expanding to North County and offering a senior women’s basketball league through a partnership with Carlsbad by the Sea senior living facility.
The new venture, open to all women 45 and older, will start this fall. Practices and games will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. on Wednesdays at Pine Avenue Community Center in Carlsbad, according to Karen Blair of the San Diego Senior Women’s Basketball Association. Registration is $50 per player.
The league also created a player development committee to assist new and returning elderly players and will offer an Aug. 16 rookie training session before the start of the regular season on Sept. 13.
“We offer training for rookies to avoid injury,” Blair said. “We will take care of you. We’ll help you play safe. That’s our goal.”
One of the founding members of the new Carlsbad-based league is Marge Carl, a spry 93-year-old who started playing basketball during World War II in her native Queens, New York.
James Naismith invented the sport in 1891 with a very different set of rules from today’s game. For years, players had to shoot with set shots (no jumping) and weren’t allowed to cross half-court, forcing them to pass the ball across the center line to another group of players in the offensive zone.
Carl said she hated the half-court rule but quickly became hooked on hoops. In 1994, Carl said she came across the San Diego Senior Women’s Basketball Association, a group consisting of women wanting to remain active through basketball. Since then, the league has grown in popularity with more than 100 players of different skill levels and age divisions.
Carl’s team, the San Diego Splash (affectionately known as the Splash Sisters), is the organization’s oldest — with players in their 80s and 90s — and most recognizable team. ESPN released a short documentary on the team, “Make a Splash,” as part of the network’s W. Studios Fifty/50 Shorts.
In the film, fellow Splash teammate Nina Duncan warned people of Carl’s skills on the court.
“Marge will be 90 soon, you can’t stop her shots,” Duncan said.
Oceanside resident Grace Larsen, 97, is currently the captain of the San Diego Splash. Larsen and others are planning to spend an afternoon promoting the new senior women’s hoops league from 2:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Aug. 2 at Carlsbad Farmers Market on State Street between Carlsbad Village Drive and Grand Avenue.
“It’s a sisterhood and basketball saved my life,” Carl said. “When I hurt my back, they helped me get me back. Every one of them.”
Di Meredith, president of the San Diego Senior Women’s Basketball Association, said the league is a source of pride, joy, and comradery among older women. The organization also offers players the chance for a little competition, including an opportunity to play at the National Senior Games from July 7 to July 18 in Pittsburgh.
Meredith, a basketball lifer who plays and coaches in the league, was raised in north Texas and grew up playing hoops on her dairy farm. She continued to play in junior college before coaching for seven years and eventually joined the senior women’s basketball league in 2009.
“I thought my basketball career was over and it was a nice treat,” Meredith said. “It gave me the opportunity to play basketball and then we also go to colleges and the coaches work with us. It was so cool to play on college courts, meet the girls and get to know them. The women do things besides play basketball. You find friends and it’s a whole community that I didn’t have before.”
For more information, visit the San Diego Senior Women’s Basketball Association website. The new league is not to be confused with the organization’s North County Senior Women’s Basketball, which has played twice a week in Escondido for the past 14 years.