As a rigorous sport, basketball might be thought of as a game reserved for the young. But across the country, a group of sprightly grannies -- featured in a new documentary called 'Granny's Got Game' -- are proving that you are never too old to play.
Judy Barton is a case in point. She may be in her mid-70s, but as captain of the Raleigh, N.C. based senior women's basketball team the 'Fabulous 70s', this fiercely competitive leader has shown a dedication to her team and the sport that rivals that of her younger counterparts.
"We practice every week," Barton told ESPN. "We play in the local games, state games and nationals, if we qualify. And in between that, we play in tournaments. We've traveled all over the United States."
So when filmmaker Angela Gorsica Alford, a 6'6" former basketball player for both Vanderbilt University and USA Basketball, first met the Fabulous 70s, she knew she had found her story.
"I thought my glory days were over. Then I met this team. These women helped me remember how much I loved to play and how much I enjoyed being part of a team," said Alford, who at the time had just graduated from Duke University's Center for Documentary Studies and was itching to make a film.
Alford spent more than a year with the team filming "Granny's Got Game" -- even traveling with the Fabulous 70s to the 2011 National Senior Games in Houston, reports the YMCA blog.
Financing the film with her own money and through donations to her website, Alford has edited, directed and produced the film herself. She is currently fundraising to finish the film, which she hopes to release later this year.
According to the YMCA blog, Alford hopes "Granny's Got Game" will inspire others to celebrate older athletes and to change the perception of the capabilities of the elderly. She also said that she wants the film to act as a reminder that being active should be a life-long pursuit.
"I thought I would find genetic wonders," she said of the senior women's basketball team. "But what I found were people who were dealing with cancer and heart disease just like everyone else. The difference was that these women were fighting it together, encouraging each other. Basketball was keeping them active, independent and believing they could do anything they wanted to do."
According to MSNBC, there are senior basketball leagues and similar groups scattered through much of the country, including California, Connecticut, Louisiana, New Mexico, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C. Annual surveys by the National Sporting Goods Association indicate the number of women 55 and older who play basketball at least 50 times a year has grown from 16,000 in 1995 to nearly 131,000 a decade later.
"I've broken four of my fingers and sprained my ankle and tore ligaments in my thumb," Barton's Fabulous 70s teammate Mary Turner told ESPN. "One guy at church said to me once, 'I guess you'll quit now?' And I said, 'I'd have to break all 10 fingers before I'd stop.'"
For more information about 'Granny's Got Game', visit the documentary's website here.