Yet while the upcoming fall sports season promises to be an exciting and rewarding one Jacksonville, there are others out there putting in a lot of time to get, or stay, in shape.
Jacksonville’s older generation is taking advantage of many programs that are offered in Jacksonville to keep active and moving.
Over 40 members take advantage of classes taught through JSU’s Health Department.
Aubrey Crosson, who has been the Director of the Senior Adult Wellness, is over the water exercise classes, floor fitness and yoga. Some of the classes meet daily, others just a couple of times each week.
“These classes are offered year round based on the semester schedule,” said Crosson. The ages range from 65-84. Crosson says that some of the members have been coming for 15 years.
A lot of the participants are recovering from surgeries or have arthritis, “They talk about how much better they feel after they exercise,” remarked Crosson. “It’s very good for them, they have a social group and when they aren’t working out they spend the time talking and chatting with each other.”
Just a short walk from the coliseum is the JSU track where on any given morning you can see a group of seniors walking and running on the track. One group, who didn’t want to be identified, said they have been doing this now for over 34 years. The group spends at least one hour on the track and runs/walks three miles a day.
Jacksonville recently held District competition for the Masters Games of Alabama. 26 Jacksonville residents competed with 18 qualifying for state competition, some in multiple events, that will be held in Valley in early October.
Belva Durham, who is with the East Alabama Regional Planning and Development Commission Area Agency on Aging, says that the Masters Games actually originated in Oxford when councilwoman Norma Martin pushed to have the games. Over 200 people competed the first year and that number has now risen to nearly 1,000.
Durham has been especially impressed with the efforts in Jacksonville where she says that training and competition are year round as opposed to other districts that train just for the district event in July and the state events in October.
Wendy Bussey, Senior Citizen Coordinator for the City of Jacksonville says that when the program started in Jacksonville five years ago there were four participants. That number has grown now to 26.
While most people believe that the Masters Games of Alabama is just for those who are members of Senior Citizen Centers, Bussey says this isn’t so. “This is a huge misconception,” noted Bussey. “While five or six years ago you had to be affiliated with a senior citizen center this is not longer the case.”
Individuals can enter the games without any affiliation and the age has been dropped to 50. “Fifty-year olds don’t consider themselves seniors,” said Bussey. “Fifty to sixty-year olds are still very competitive. They want to prove to themselves that they can still do it.”
While the “younger group” may be highly competitive, don’t kid yourself; the others are training just as hard and with amazing results.
Jacksonville’s Sue Campeaux is the reigning state champion in the basketball free throw competition in the 60-64 year old age group, last year having made 20 of her 21 shots. Campeaux will be competing in her fifth state games in October and has won the state championship in basketball four times. The last two years she has won seven gold medals and two silver medals in swimming. She is also a champ in the nerf football throw, the Frisbee throw, and shuffleboard. Campeaux practices 10 months of the year for the events.
“The Games are a huge motivational factor for me,” explained Campeaux. “To get up and move and exercise and be involved and the social interaction…it’s good for the body, mind, soul and spirit.
“The first time I was in a pool I looked at the other side and really wasn’t sure I was gong to make it. To go from that to swimming 40 laps in practice helped my lung capacity and energy level.”
Clarence McGinnis, a former JHS quarterback, is still going strong in the sport having taken a silver medal at the games last year in the 80-84 age group.
Participants take place in a large group of events to include basketball, softball, Frisbee, football throw, dominoes, checkers, shuffleboard, line dancing and at the state level billiards, bowling, golf, horseshoes, swimming, tennis and a 5K.
While the focus soon will be on high school and college sports, take note of another generation out there working just about as hard to maintain fitness and keep in shape.