REGION — While an athlete’s physical abilities might diminish with age, one thing doesn’t, said Kirsten Cummings — their competitive spirit.
Cummings knows this all too well. A former professional basketball player who played on two U.S. National teams and in the country’s first women’s pro basketball league, the American Basketball League, Cummings said she knows firsthand that the competitive fire stays lit, even as the years pass and she becomes further removed from her pro days.
But options to release those competitive juices are slim for seniors.
“The love for competition doesn’t die with age, it’s just that many senior men and women don’t have the opportunity to compete,” Cummings said.
But every year for the past 31 years, seniors do get the opportunity to compete in the San Diego Senior Games.
The monthlong series of events kicks off in September, and includes tournaments for individuals and teams in events such as basketball, pickleball, shuffleboard, soccer, swimming and track and field.
Cummings, the executive director of the Senior Games, said the games are a great opportunity for seniors — and some competitors as young as 40 — to be around people who share the same athletic and social interests.
“We have discovered that while you maybe can’t jump as high or run as fast, you can compete against people your own age, and become locked into a world of people who were just like us, who love to compete and the Senior Games gives them a place to do that,” Cummings said.
The senior game events are held in public gymnasium venues across the county, including in Fallbrook, Oceanside, San Marcos, Escondido, Rancho Bernardo and other venues across the city of San Diego.
Competitors as young as 40 or 45 years old can compete in some of the events, including basketball, volleyball, racquetball, paddleball and golf.
The oldest competitor in last year’s event, Cummings said, turns 104 years old.
“Though when you get that age, you don’t know if they’re coming this year,” she said.
And there is a basketball team composed of mostly 90-year-old women.
“It is our goal to let every man and woman know that they have an opportunity to compete in sports,” Cummings said.
Cummings said that one of the big draws for the event is that winners qualify to compete in the national championships in 2019 in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
While not competing in the senior games locally, Cummings actually qualified for the New Mexico games in the Pasadena senior games in June — she said that her duties as executive director make it difficult to compete in the local games.
By virtue of her professional career, which ended in 1997, Cummings said she had to wait 20 years to compete in the games, and will make the national games in her first year competing.
“I think that is definitely a big draw for some seniors,” Cummings said. “Should they want to compete at a national level, they can.”
Signups are still open for select sports, and eligible residents can register at https://www.sdseniorgames.org. Visit the website for more information on the sports, dates and venue locations.