Back in the day, Christy Bowman watched a lot of basketball games.
Like many moms, she took great pleasure in watching her kids play, in grade school, in junior high and in high school.
She had never played basketball herself, but Bowman tried her best to understand it.
The irony is not lost on Bowman that now, she could probably teach her two grown sons a thing or two about basketball.
"They played basketball for a lot of years," Bowman said. "But not as many years as I have at this point. I've stuck with this sport even longer than they did. I think that might be a surprise to them. But I also think they are very proud of me."
And rightfully so.
Bowman is a baller.
A senior baller. With 18 years of experience.
She started playing basketball at age 49, at the suggestion of a friend, and as a way to get out of the house. Bowman's dog had just died and she was looking for a distraction.
Now 67 and still being "distracted" by basketball, Bowman, a resident of Evanston, is not only a senior, but the senior basketball player of her family. She plays and practices basketball multiple times a week along the North Shore, and competes in senior leagues.
Earlier this month in West Dundee, she and a couple of teammates qualified for the 2019 National Senior Olympic tournament that will be held in Albuquerque, New Mexico. They will play 3-on-3 basketball there.
It will be Bowman's seventh national tournament.
The National Senior Olympics are held every other year and draw more than 10,000 athletes in various sports, including track and field, volleyball, tennis and even horseshoes. The age range is from 50 to 100.
"I guess the challenge of doing something that was completely different than anything I had ever done was what got me into it," Bowman said of basketball. "It has challenged me mentally and physically, and being involved in a group and team dynamic has been really interesting to me.
"There is so much to basketball that I never even imagined and it makes me feel proud of myself because I'm still doing something and I'm staying active. There's a certain amount of confidence you get from that."
Edwina Dennis of Chicago, one of Bowman's basketball buddies, is literally the poster woman for senior confidence.
At the national tournament in Minneapolis in 2015, the National Senior Games in conjunction with Humana made posters of Dennis to promote seniors as fit athletes.
There was a reason the organization picked Dennis. She was 81 at the time and still going strong.
"I had my granddaughter with me and when we walked in, she was like, 'That's my grandma on that poster, that's my grandma,'" Dennis said with a laugh. "There I was all over the entrance and that was pretty great."
Now 84, Dennis just qualified for the 2019 national tournament. It will be her seventh national tournament. She started playing basketball in 2004, when she was 70.
"I have a slogan, 'If you don't use it, you're going to lose it,'" Dennis said. "If you don't move around regularly, pretty soon, you won't be able to move at all. You won't be able to get off the couch. I don't want that. That's what keeps me going.
"I'm really not even all that good at basketball. I'm not a great shooter. But I love being active and being competitive and I love playing."
And Dennis says that she has a lot of playing left in her.
How much longer will Dennis play basketball?
"I'm going for 100," Dennis said emphatically. "100 is the goal."
The National Senior Olympics for 2019 runs June 14 through June 25 in New Mexico. For more information, visit NSGA.com
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