Age is just a state of mind for Delaware team at National Senior Games

Ranging in age from 61 to 77, this group of five Delawareans is playing racquetball in the National Senior Games.

Ranging in age from 61 to 77, this group of five Delawareans is playing racquetball in the National Senior Games.

What did you do the last couple of weekends? Cut the grass, go to the beach, maybe watch the Stanley Cup or NBA finals? This group of five from Delaware travelled to Birmingham, Alabama to compete in the sport they love: racquetball.

Ranging in age from 61 to 77, this group of five Delawareans is playing racquetball in the National Senior Games.

“It’s a big deal but it’s more for the enjoyment of the game than anything else,” 77-year-old Douglas Winkelman said.

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We met up with the team while they were preparing for the games at Midway Fitness & Racquetball in Rehoboth Beach. In addition to Douglas “Wink” Winkelman, the group includes 64-year-old Barbara “Doc” Fischetti, 72-year-old Terri “Terminator” Rock, 70-year-old Pat “Mailman” McGuire, and 61-year-old Ingrid “Rabbit” Callmann.

To get to this stage, the athletes had to compete in state and regional games. “We had to at least place within the first four positions in our regional Olympics. Now we are qualified to play in the national senior Olympics,” Winkelman said.

For a few of the group, these aren’t the first games they have played in. Barbara Fishetti has been to five of the games. “The last one in Cleveland I got a gold in women’s doubles, a gold in mixed doubles and a silver in women’s singles. It was the age level of women 60-plus.”

Terri Rock has been on the big stage as well. “I played in 1999 in the senior Olympics and I won the gold.” She was diagnosed with breast cancer after returning from those games, but that diagnosis didn’t stop her. “This was an incentive for me to get well again, and I did.”

For Pat McGuire, it’s just fun. “I started playing in the senior Olympics ten years ago. It’s just a fun way to play age group racquetball.”

When Ingrid Callmann retired from UPS she moved to southern Delaware and wanted to get back into racquetball, a sport she hadn’t played in years. “When I moved here I saw Terri, and Barb had just moved here too, they took me under their wing and they showed me so much.”

So much in fact that in the two years since Callmann has been back playing she has played in three major tournaments and is now playing in the national games. “I’m going to be a busy girl. I’m playing in mixed doubles, women’s doubles and women’s singles.”

It’s not just the love of the sport that brings these folks together. It’s also the health benefits. “You can get an incredible amount of exercise something approaching 800 calories an hour,” McGuire said.

But even beyond the physical health benefits are perhaps the mental health benefits- not being alone, having friends, getting out and enjoying the company of others. “We enjoy the game, we also enjoy the camaraderie, we know each other well and we just enjoy each others company,” Winkelman said.

Those were sentiments expressed by each of the group as I asked them why they play, what is their favorite part of playing. “I just like the competition and I love the camaraderie. Its just a lot of fun,” Callmann said.

“It’s also staying healthy. I feel good about myself, I feel good about the people I play with,” Fischetti said. And for Terri Rock, “It challenges myself and it challenged me to stay well, to stay active. It’s just a great feeling.”

“Get out and play. You don’t get old because you’re playing, you get old because you stop playing,” Fischetti said.

That’s great advice for anyone, regardless of their age.

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