Old is a State Of Mind

As a gym rat I really enjoyed a story I read in the LA Times. Take a look at this:

“Frank Larkin prepares his legs for the rigors of basketball by bouncing on a trampoline for 40 minutes a day. When you’re 71, it takes a little longer to get your legs ready to play.

“When you go for a rebound, you feel like you’re floating,” he said. “The trampoline has really made a difference in my flexibility and mobility, and it exercises all my internal organs.”
Larkin plays guard for a San Juan Capistrano-based team of players around 70, one of 125 senior basketball teams in the United States.

They call themselves USA 70, and the team has won 18 consecutive tournaments over the last two years in places such as Australia, Finland and Costa Rica. Their success led to a profile last month on local television before a Laker game, recognition by the San Juan Capistrano City Council, a letter of congratulations from U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and an invitation to play in Cuba.

San Juan Capistrano Councilman Wyatt T. Hart, 69, a golfer, said he is living vicariously through the basketball players. “A lot of people use age as a reason not to do something,” he said. “These guys are ignoring that reasoning.”

Bill Bergman, a Leisure World-Laguna Woods resident, is the team’s tallest player at 6 feet 5 inches.

“I don’t want to tell folks how good I’ve got it,” he said. “They’re all suffering from the aches and pains that come with old age, but I don’t feel all that.”

In Bergman’s first crack at basketball, he played varsity at Brea Olinda High School in Brea. Later, he played junior varsity at what was known as Chapman College.

“It’s better this time than it was last time,” he said.

There wasn’t a last time for Bob Messersmith, the team’s player / coach who was a baseball player in high school, a track star in college and a U.S. record holder in ultra-marathons in his 60s.

He didn’t start playing basketball until he turned 62. Now, he is dribbling past former Olympians from other countries as the team plays senior tournaments around the world.

“I don’t have the best fundamentals,” Messersmith said. “But because of my track background, I don’t get tired playing basketball. I’m great in the fourth quarter when everybody else is tired.”

Messersmith co-founded the team with Bergman and Ernie Miller five years ago, which was before a 70-and-over division existed in the U.S. Senior Olympics. Basketball has grown enough among seniors that there is a 75-and-over division, and Messersmith is preparing a team for competition in 2008, when most of his players will be eligible.

“The message to older people is that there is something beyond the couch,” said Messersmith, who owns a searchlight company that shines its lights at Hollywood premieres and award shows. “There’s always a bigger hill to climb.”

The road trips come at a substantial cost to the nine players, a mix of lawyers, actors, retired engineers and retired military officers. Each player pays his own expenses, and this summer’s Europe trip will run at least $3,000 each.”

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