Age of Champions, a documentary that debuted July 9 on PBS and iTunes, tells the story of five competitors up to 100 years old who sprint, leap, and swim for gold at the National Senior Olympics. We talked to Mavis Albin, a 76-year-old basketball player who competes with her team, the Celadrin Tigerettes. Don’t be deceived by the grandmother status; these ladies are quick, energetic, aggressive, and carry a record of 202-5!
1. Have you always been active?
I’ve never been active like this! Basketball is a very physical and energetic game now. I played in high school, but didn’t have the opportunity to play after that. I didn’t get much physical activity in my 30s through 50s since I worked and reared my 3 children. I read about the Senior Games after I had recently retired, and I made a few calls. I got invited to come and play with the local team, and the rest is history! It absolutely changed my life.
2. What kind of training goes into preparing for the senior games?
It’s a lot of training. We try to eat sensibly—a lot of vegetables and protein—and we go to the gym. We’ve been to the gym every day this week. We do pick-up games with these young guys, we work on the machines, and we shoot a lot of basketballs!
What do the young guys think when you beat them at basketball?
We start out telling them to go easy on us, not to play too rough [laughs]. And before it’s over with, they’re screaming at each other, “Guard her!” They’re absolutely blown away by our method of playing and our stamina.
3. What do you eat to stay healthy and fit?
I think it’s very important to maintain a good weight according to your height. I eat a lot of chicken, fish, vegetables, and I drink a lot of water. We’re on the move, so we have to stay flexible to be able to play the game of basketball.
Prior to the game, we eat bananas and oranges.
4. I watched the documentary and was surprised how aggressive the senior games are…we’re talking elbows being thrown!
It’s such a physical game. Everyone falls, and we get black eyes and broken fingers. Other teams say we play rough, but we don’t think we’re rough, just physical. We have a record to maintain and we give 100 percent on the court.
5. Any other longevity secrets you can share? I think we would all like to be as active as you at 76.
When people retire, they become complacent and are happy lounging all day. I encourage seniors and anyone to get up and exercise. It’s very important. I encourage everyone to get up out of the chairs, off the sofa, call a friend, and start walking. A companion will keep you accountable.
Another thing I think is important for seniors is a positive attitude. I think keeping up with current events is important, and talking about things that are uplifting instead of just talking about your next doctor’s appointment. The Tigerettes are like any other grandmothers—we have the same stress, family problems—but we don’t dwell on it.
So, we just try and maintain a positive attitude and stay in the gym!
Bonus: So the Tigerettes have a good friendship?
We’re like family.