(NEW YORK) — Instead of putting up her feet in retirement, Mavis Albin, a grandmother of eight, decided to pursue a childhood dream. That dream was to be a professional basketball player, long before there was a WNBA.
After raising three sons and spending 40 years running the family business with her husband, Albin couldn’t believe she would be able to play again.
“We didn’t have an opportunity to play after I graduated from high school because there were no college women’s team and no WNBA,” she said.
Albin was in her 50s when she spotted an article in the local newspaper about the Baton Rouge Tigerettes, a team of retired women playing her game.
“You had to be 55 to join,” she said. “Well, I was 55 and I said, ‘Wow, well, I can do this again.’”
“I worked in the family-owned business, sat behind a desk,” she said. “When I started playing basketball and started exercising, I saw how much better I felt physically, and mentally it changed my entire outlook on so much.”
Fast forward two decades, and the 76-year-old and her team are shooting for their 8th gold medal in America’s Senior Olympics.
“I have grandkids and they all want to know is how I do in basketball. We want to win. We want to call home and say, ‘We won again!’” she said.
In an upcoming PBS documentary, Age of Champions, the grandmas dive, block and elbow their way to one of those victories. They’re proving that the competitive spirit doesn’t diminish with age.
“We’re ordinary grandmothers,” she said. “We have the same stress that anyone else has. But basketball is the greatest stress reliever because you forget everything when you’re on the basketball court.”
The Tigerettes are currently training in Baton Rouge, La., doing drills, dribbling, shooting and scrimmaging, in preparation for the Senior Games in Cleveland later this month.
They are proud of their age. They say basketball has changed their lives, motivating them to stay healthy and fit, and helping them enjoy their retirement. They hope the game will help them live longer too.
“My doctor said, in 15 years you’re going to have to have knee replacements, but it’s been 15, 16 years. But the exercise has kept me fit and I haven’t had a problem,” Nikki Leader, 66, said.
“Basketball has helped me because it helps me stay physically fit. Emotionally it helps with release of stress, and mentally it makes me think, makes me not go to sleep,” 69-year-old Kitty Sparacello said.
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