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Senior Athletes

Jimmy Magahern | Dec 31, 2012, 9:59 a.m.
At age 68, Gayle Clawson is a competitive powerlifter who has won dozens of metals, plaques and trophies as a senior athlete. Adam Moreno

Scott, who ranks as a 4.0 player in the game’s scale of 5, places herself somewhere in the latter category. “I don’t have to win every game,” she says. “But I enjoy the challenge.”

The Scotts, who spend half the year in Tucson and the other half traveling in their RV, prefer the city-based senior games over the state and national tournaments, and have played in the Tucson Senior Olympic Festival for most of the past six years, where Priscilla has gone from playing poorly to, lately, placing first.

Now that pickleball’s getting respect from the National Senior Games, Scott says she’d like to play in Cleveland this summer, but feels the $140 entry fee is too steep for the customarily frugal senior—one reason, perhaps, that the senior games will never rival the actual Olympics in audience attendance (Brandt says most of those in the stands are usually spouses; even their adult children are typically too busy with their own lives.)

“That’s twice what most of us spend on the average local tournament,” she says. “And I know that they’re getting lots of angry emails from players who play the tournament circuit.”

She’s also not a fan of the age-based divisioning in the national games, preferring to play against people at her own skill level—regardless of age.

“We have several players over 80 in the Tucson games who are really good,” she says. “But it’s the 70-plus bracket that’s really blossoming—there are more players every year in the over-70 group. People are playing longer and staying active longer. More people are staying with it.”

She does concede that physical abilities naturally change a bit after 70, which is why the Tucson games now include two divisions: the 50-to-70 group, and the “Superseniors”—that growing population of competitive athletes in their 70s and beyond.

“I’m excited about that change,” she says. “This will be a way for these folks to go out and compete—without being beat up by the 50-year-olds!”

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