Sports and Exercise Keeping Seniors Young, Social
Jan 01, 2018 02:02PM
By Shari Berg
Senior Olympians love the confidence and camaraderie that playing sports offers.
The first time Hampton resident Rick “Tuna” Frederick walked through the doors at Fit 4 Boxing Club in Allison Park, he wasn’t expecting to return a second time.
“I only came to appease my daughter, Jill, and son-in-law, Steve, who had been coming here for three years and kept encouraging me to check it out,” he said. “They said the club was starting a senior boxing class, so I thought I’d get off my couch and go see it so they’d stop asking me about it.”
Two months later, 68-year-old Frederick is surprised by how much his life has changed for the better since starting the class, and he takes every opportunity to thank his daughter and son-in-law for giving him the nudge he needed to get fit again. “Now, instead of appeasing them, I’m thanking them all the time,” he laughed.
Frederick, a retired physical education teacher, is one of 14 seniors in the class who are jabbing, hooking and upper-cutting their way to physical fitness. Thanks to the class, his energy level is up, his balance has improved, and he’s made some wonderful new friends.
“One of my biggest regrets in life was letting my physical temple go after I retired,” he said. “But thanks to this class and the supportive people here, I can now do over 100 sit-ups…and I hadn’t done sit-ups in years.”
Judy Fritsch, 75, of Richland, said that she has been active all of her life. She line dances and cross-country skis, but decided that she needed something a little more challenging. She became interested in boxing after seeing her daughter’s amazing results.
“I saw what it did for her, what a good time she was having and how fit she had become, but I knew I couldn’t keep up with her,” said Fritsch. “Then I heard about this senior boxing class, and I decided to give it a try. The activity and camaraderie make for the best two hours of my week.”
Fritsch’s daughter, Joyce Williams, is an instructor at the club. She is one of two instructors who teach the senior class that is offered twice a week. Williams said seniors absolutely can benefit from boxing and are some of her best students. “They take their time and focus on learning the technique. They have the patience to master the skills.”
Frederick and Fritsch aren’t the only seniors in the North Hills who are keeping fit and active. The members of the Senior Olympics of Western PA are continuing to enjoy the sports they have played for many years.
Nancy Brown, president, said that the organization started in the 1990s with basketball as its primary sport. By 2003, it evolved to include volleyball and softball. Most recently, pickleball has become popular among its members, who participate every other year in the National Senior Games.
At 64, Brown said that she appreciates the opportunity to enjoy sports with a group of wonderful women. She started in athletics at age 8, playing softball until age 18. When she first got married, she and her husband played in an adult volleyball league. “But once I had kids, I quit, because it was difficult finding sitters to be with them while we played,” she said.
Judy Butch, 71, said that being involved with Senior Olympics has kept her strong both mentally and physically. Butch had been involved in adult sports leagues until she was in her 40s, but then stopped taking part.
“I just fell out of it,” she said. “It’s taken me awhile to get going again, because when you’re not doing it, you tend to lose your skills, become inactive and gain weight. Doing it again has kept me mobile and active.”
Terri Deah, 62, played basketball in high school, and said she likes the person she is when she’s active in sports. “It’s the best version of myself when I’m with these women,” she explained. “It keeps you active and in great shape.”
Other members of the Senior Olympics have their own reasons for competing. Donna Zukas, 62, travels frequently to compete in track and field events, including participation in the 2015 U.S. Track and Field Masters event. Membership in the Senior Olympics is just one way she keeps active. She started playing volleyball at 28, and at 38 began running in marathons.
Another member, 61-year-old Tami Barker, has enjoyed being active since high school in sports such as swimming, volleyball and track. “When I did sports, I managed time better,” she said. “It gives you that self confidence and ability to do something.”
Tina Bruns, 60, said she has been active since she was a toddler, and credits Senior Olympics with giving her a second chance to enjoy the sports she loves. Patty Swartzlander, 60, played basketball and volleyball in high school and volleyball in college. She plays softball in a women’s league in Penn Hills, and has participated in pickleball and volleyball with Senior Olympics since joining.
The women agree that the camaraderie among members at practices and tournaments is a great way to ward off depression, which can be common among seniors who do not have frequent social interaction. “It’s an aspect in your life that can really brighten your day,” said Swartzlander.
Senior Olympics of Western PA is accepting new members. To learn more, visit www.seniorolympicswpa.weebly.com.