More than 200 men and women 40 and over played in the all-day Hoops for the Ages basketball tournament on May 6 at Levy Senior Center and Robert Crown Community Center. Participation in the free event, included as the third day of the city’s Aging Well Conference, more than doubled from last year, organizer Rob Bady said.
“You don’t have to be an incredible athlete to compete in basketball,” said Bady, who serves on the Levy Senior Center Foundation board. Players bring their strengths to a team, and rarely will they be on the same level in all skill categories, he said.
Bady, who is 53, resists the dominant narrative of aging as decline. Instead, he focuses on “aging well.”
“It’s all about quality of life when you get older,” he said. “Staying healthy means doing some active things. … Basketball is a total body workout.”
Evanston resident Christie Bowman started playing at 50 when she enrolled in a basketball class. She has been playing for 23 years, practicing at least three times a week. Her team, the Chicago North Stars, competed in three games at the Levy Center.
“We’re a 70-plus team. We played pretty well. We didn’t win a game, but we’re the only older team. We’re always playing younger teams,” said Bowman, adding that she has played with two of her teammates for all 23 years. The oldest member of the team is 81.
Men’s and women’s teams played in age brackets 40-49, 50-54, 55-59, 60-64, 65-69, and 70+. Tournament rules allow players to “play down,” so an age 55 player can play on a 50-54 team, but not on a 60-64 team. In senior basketball, players play three-on-three on a half court instead of a full court.
Hoops for the Ages drew teams from across Chicagoland and a few from out of state. A team named Love MKE traveled from Milwaukee. Coach Walter Love said they arrived in Evanston at 8:30 a.m. for the tournament, which was from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
“I have three teams here for this competition. Two of the teams went to the National Senior Games last year in Florida, and won silver medals,” Love said.
Chicago North Stars, Love MKE and other teams, including Bady’s team, Hoopers United, are training for the 2023 National Senior Games in Pittsburgh, July 7-18. The games they played Saturday will help prepare them for competition at the national level.
Bady plays alongside his brother, Ray Bady, who is just one year younger than Rob. The brothers grew up on the West Side of Chicago, sharing a love of basketball and supporting each other through tough times after their mother died when they were still in high school.
“Here we are, at 53 and 52, playing basketball again,” said Rob Bady. Both brothers said they view basketball as a source of fellowship, friendly competition and most important, health and wellness.
“The 70-plus division is over there playing, and they’re active. All of the guys that are 40 years old, or 50 years old, are aspiring to be like the 70-year-olds,” Ray Bady said.
There are many ways to achieve an active lifestyle, he said. “Find something you love, something you’re passionate about, to keep you moving.”
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