Senior Games Provide Competitive Opportunities for Athletes Who Are Older than 50

Dorian Martin Health Guide
  • Sometimes you start thinking that the world has passed you by physically as you enter middle age. Can you compete still? Or are you relegated to becoming a couch potato.  If you start wondering these types of questions, you can be happy to learn that there are athletic competitions specifically designed for you.

    For instance, Houston, Texas will host more than 10,000 athletes for the 2011 National Senior Games.  This event is the largest multisport competition for male and female athletes who are 50 years old and above. Events include track and field, swimming, bicycling, golf, racquetball, bowling, triathlon, archery, race walking and power walking, tennis, archery, basketball, and softball. These games are coordinated by the National Senior Games Association (NSGA), which is a non-profit member of the United States Olympic Committee that is dedicated to motivating older men and women to lead a healthy lifestyle through these events.

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    State chapters of NSGA also coordinate state-level Senior Games.  State summer games are offered during even numbered years (such as 2010) and are qualifying games for the National Senior Games, which are held in odd years (such as 2011). Athletes can qualify through an event in the state where you live or an event at any state that allows out-of-state competitions. States that have summer games include Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, new Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. The District of Columbia also hosts a summer event.  Europe and Canada also put together similar events.

    In addition, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) holds a National Veterans Golden Age Games. According to the VA website, “Life begins at 55, at least it does for more than 700 Veterans competing in this national event, the premier senior adaptive rehabilitation program in the United States. It is the only national multi-event sports and recreational seniors’ competition program designed to improve the quality of life for all older Veterans, including those with a wide range of abilities and disabilities. It is one of the most progressive and adaptive rehabilitative senior sports programs in the world, offering 14 different sports and recreational activities.”

    And summer sports aren’t the only options. Three states – California, Michigan and Wyoming – offer Winter State Senior Games and open their events to competitors who live in other states. Events, which vary by state, include downhill skiing events (Giant Slalom, Slalom and Dual Slaloms); snowboarding (Giant Slalom, Slalom and Dual Slaloms); Nordic (Giant Slalom, Slalom, and Dual Slaloms); cross country skiing (5K and 10K Nordic); speed skating; hockey shoot; snow shoe racing; rifle biathlon, mixed cross-country; and a senior hockey tournament. Wyoming also hosts non-ice events such as racquetball, pickleball, and a swim meet.

  • So how do you qualify for national competition? According to the National Senior Games Association website, “In most sports, the top 4 finishers in each age group qualify for Nationals, as well as those who meet the Minimum Performance Standards (in applicable sports). The exceptions are Tennis (only the top 3 finishers for each age group qualify), Golf (you must meet the Minimum Performance Standards) and Triathlon (all finishers qualify). For team sports (basketball, softball, volleyball) the top 3 teams in each age group qualify. Demonstration sports do not require qualification. No matter what place an athlete finishes, they may also qualify in the sports which have Minimum Performance Standards (MPS), by meeting or exceeding the MPS for the age-division they are competing in at the State Level. (Ex. An athlete is 54 in 2008 and competes in the 50-54 age division at their State Games, but will move up to the 55-59 age division at Nationals. They must meet the MPS for the 50-54 age division to qualify for Nationals).”

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    These events provide a good incentive to get off the coach, dust off your exercise shoes (or skis), and get those competitive juices flowing again! Get back in the game!

Published On: July 26, 2011