"HOW SHALL WE THEN LIVE?" Francis Schaeffer

Monday, September 23, 2013


   In 7th grade for my Christmas present, my Dad and Mom got me a backboard, a hoop and a basketball.  Dad attached the backboard and hoop to the garage  on Christmas Day and I began to shoot baskets.  I became a fanatic.  Until I left home at 18, I played basketball pretty much every day of my life.  I played or simply shot baskets for the pleasure of it all.  Then I graduated from college, got married and pretty much retired the basketball.  Oh I still played a little but the daily schedule of playing basketball ended - until now.

9 months ago, for my birthday present, my wife suggested I buy myself a gym membership.  The gym I joined actually had a inside basketball court.  I spent the first month lifting weights but one day decided to wander in and shoot a couple of baskets between liftings.  After 40 years the ball felt heavy, I felt awkward and I couldn't quite figure out how to get it thru the basket.  I was so awkward I felt embarrassed.   I shot for about 10 minutes then left. But I started coming back, just shooting by myself at one end of the gym.  Periodically there would be other guys shooting and I would be invited to play in a 1/2 court game.  At first I refused but then decided to accept (against the advice of my knee doctor).  Well I found the games to be quite a "rush" and though I didn't contribute much offensively, at least the months of practice insured I didn't embarrass myself.  Since then I shoot at least 3 days a week and when I have an opportunity, play a little 1/2 court basketball.  For the most part, it's been quite fun.

Not surprisingly, the next oldest guy I've played with has been in his late 40s, about 16 years younger than me.  So I am the "old man" in the gym but have developed some rules that I thought I would pass on to any other old men who wanted to try and revive their basketball skills after decades of retirement.

FIRST RULE:  Fuggedaboutit.  Basketball is NOT for the plus 60 crowd unless you are a natural, thin athlete that runs twice a day ( I'm not.)   Even then, fuggedaboutit.
Your odds of destroying an ankle, a knee, or tearing an achilles tendon are quite good.  Basketball remains a physical sport and you can injure yourself very easily.  Also, old backs generally dislike the kind of movements associated with playing basketball.  But in case you chose to ignore First Rule, let's go to the next rule.

SECOND RULE:  Don't even dream about trying to play full-court.  "Are you kidding me?" as John McEnroe used to say.  You can have just as much fun playing 1/2 court as you can trying to run full court.  You need to minimize your chances of a heart attack; playing full court basketball may well shorten your life span at this age.  And the odds of a significant injury increase exponentially.

THIRD RULE:  Don't jump.  You're just asking for it if you try to do a lot of jumping.  Your ankles, knees and back are begging you, "No Jumping Puhleese."  As an interesting side note, if you watch the old pros in the NBA, those 35 and above, you will notice that they actually don't do a whole lot of jumping.  Their game changes over the years and as their injuries add up, they learn to play the game without any explosive jumping.  If you're in your 60s,  keep your Red Ball Jets tennis shoes in contact with the wood floor.  You'll be better for it.

FOURTH RULE: Play smarter not harder.  At my age when playing defense, I simply can't chase guys all over the court.  My basic defensive strategy, don't give up any lay ups; keep your self positioned between them and the basket.  NO LAY UPS.  Foul them if necessary but foul them politely.  (  I always say "Oops" when I have delivered a particularly vicious chop to their shooting arm.  I also wear glasses so they won't try to punch me in the nose. Always smile after a particularly fierce foul and tell them it's the Alzheimers that made you do it.)

FIFTH RULE:  Never move faster than a modest trot.  Trying to take the quick step is going to get you in trouble.  Groin pulls are not your friend when you're in your 60s.  Baby steps, they're a good way to avoid E.R. visits.

SIXTH RULE: Learn to shoot the "three."  If you're in your 60s, you never shot three pointers because when you were playing basketball they didn't yet exist.  I actually had to practice about 4  months before I could begin to knock down the occasional 3 pointer.  it was a whole new shot and I had to build up the strength and form to get it to the basket.  But if you don't develop a 3 pointer, you're going to expend all kinds of energy ( which you don't have ) trying to put up shots when they're guarding you.  Thankfully, most kids today don't get a rat's behind about playing perimeter defense so you're generally pretty free to hoist up a three pointer without them being up in your face.  Ninety per cent of the players will simply give you that shot.  Take it, it requires so much less energy then trying to either run around or back them down into the key and then attempt some turnaround shot you can't make because you're exhausted.

SEVENTH RULE:  Wear knee braces.  Personally, I wear those ACE type elastisized knee wraps.  They seem to work pretty good for me.  If you have worse problems then I  do, get and wear the more serious knee braces.  They'll give you a convenient excuse if you lose.

EIGHTH RULE;  Don't play longer than an hour - too much risk.  The more tired, the more injuries.  The worst injury in my long career came when I played "just one more game" that I really didn't want to play.  My ankle never fully recovered from that high sprain.

NINETH RULE:  Pick on someone worse then you were when you were their age. Then you at least have a chance.  Playing someone who is better than you is a guaranteed loss.  And at 60 plus, who wants to lose?

TENTH RULE:  ENJOY the heck out of it.  One day I played Danny who worked at the gym, was 22 and was a GREAT 3 point shooter.  He killed me.  But I had a great time.  I ran around, got lots of shots off while he beat me 3 games straight without it ever being close.    But I went out intending to have fun and fun I had.
It was good exercise, I was still just beginning to develop my 3 point shot and I saw my game improve.  Danny had a great time too, beat me three zip.  (When I was his age, I would have beat him two out of three).
So if you refuse to "fuggedaboutit" - don't worry too much about winning, just  go out, have a good time and play smartly taking as much care as you can to avoid unnecessary injuries.