Golden girls with game

Calling a basketball player's toss a "granny shot" may no longer be just a courtside dis.

By Catherine Price
Published January 16, 2007 11:41PM (EST)

I love this: Apparently there's a trend these days of women over 50 creating and playing in basketball leagues.

As reported in the Houston Chronicle, when Jewell Chapman, 62, was in high school, her principal banned women's basketball because it "wasn't ladylike." But now, 50 years later, Chapman has her revenge. She's playing again, this time for the Hot Pink Grannies, a group of athletically minded women over 50 who compete in the Iowa Granny Basketball League, with a team uniform of black bloomers and hot pink socks.

These so-called ladies aren't alone -- leagues have sprung up in California, Connecticut, Louisiana, New Mexico, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C. According to the Chronicle, surveys from the National Sporting Goods Association show that the number of women 55 and older who play basketball at least 50 times a year jumped from 16,000 in 1995 to almost 131,000 10 years later.

The article also reports that 500 women from 47 states competed in basketball in the 2005 National Senior Games. What's more, the formerly all-male Masters Basketball National Championship is going to offer a women's competition for the first time at an upcoming event in May, thanks to the increased interest in basketball from women.

Not only does this make me happy in a Title IX kind of way, but I like the fact that older people in general, regardless of gender, are insisting on keeping up their sporty ways. And with a sense of humor, too! The Strutters, one of the Hot Pink Grannies' rival teams, are known for their bright yellow socks, and one 69-year-old player intimidates her competition by flexing her biceps at opponents.

Personally, I switched from basketball to swimming in seventh grade when my coach made me cry -- which may have been for the best anyway, given my sports-related knee problems. But still, it's good to know that thanks to these women today, if I want to relive my days on the court when I'm 65, I'm going to have the chance.

Catherine Price

Catherine Price is an award-winning journalist and author of Vitamania: How Vitamins Revolutionized the Way We Think About Food. Her written and multimedia work has appeared in publications including The Best American Science Writing, The New York Times, Popular Science, O: The Oprah Magazine, the Los Angeles Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Washington Post Magazine, Salon, Slate, Men’s Journal, Mother Jones, PARADE, Health Magazine, and Outside. Price lives in Philadelphia.

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