The Good Games: We Asked Four Athletes Over Age 70 About Staying Fit As They Age and Competing at This Weekend’s Multi-Sport Event

Good Games

Nicolas Baxter-Moore, 74, of St. Catharines, Ont., is one of the competitors in the 2024 Good Games, competing in the sport of walking soccer. Photo: Courtesy of Nicolas Baxter-Moore

You’re never too old for some healthy competition. That’s why Helen Stoumbos, 53, the first Canadian to score a goal in World Cup Soccer and a member of Canada’s Soccer Hall of Fame, founded The Good Games (July 6-7), a multi-sport event that takes place on the grounds of the University of Guelph in Guelph, Ontario.  

While the 2024 Summer Olympics, which kick off later this month, are dominated by younger athletes, The Good Games, now in its second year (and technically open to anyone over the age of 20) will feature about 350 competitors in their 60s and 70s, not to mention three in their early 80s and one who is 90. 

“As an athlete, you have so much fun when you’re a kid going to tournaments, but when you get older we don’t have opportunities to experience those fun social environments that are so important to everyone,” Stoumbos, who is also president and CEO of the event, says. 

Stoumbos took up beach volleyball in her early 40s and, when she went to a tournament, was immediately transported back to her competitive soccer days.  “I miss the camaraderie, the friendship, playing sports in a weekend tournament. I was like, ‘Why does that stop when you get to be an older adult? There needs to be something for us.’”  

Helen Stoumbos, 53, the first Canadian to score a goal in World Cup Soccer and a member of Canada’s Soccer Hall of Fame, founded The Good Games. Photo: Courtesy of Helen Stoumbos

 

The Good Games features 12 different sporting competitions, including beach volleyball, disc golf, dodgeball, slo-pitch, basketball, archery, cornhole and even arm wrestling. Out of the thousand athletes coming in from as far away as Brazil, Hawaii and California, the 35 per cent who are considered “senior” (the 65+ and 70+ categories) participants are mainly competing in pickleball, then women’s soccer and walking soccer.  One has registered for a trail run.  

“Pickleball I expected, but I was surprised that there are so many for full-on running soccer,” says Stoumbos.

In addition to the competitions, there is also a free festival component where one can learn to play sports like cricket and curling, take pilates or try out rope skipping and martial arts board-breaking. 

Ahead of The Good Games, Zoomer spoke with four of the athletes – whose ages range between 72 and 80 – to find out about their chosen sport, how they stay fit and glean tips for people who want to get more active themselves.

 

Jany Staley

From: San Diego, CA
Age: 80
Sport: Soccer 

Good Games
Photo: Courtesy of Jany Stayley

 

Staley took up joggling and bicycling when her sons were young and began playing soccer at age 32 for a women’s soccer league. She also played tennis from 1976 until she hurt her back in 1990. This is her 48th year playing soccer. She competes in about a half-dozen tournaments a year.

What activity/workout do you do daily or weekly?

I play soccer twice a week, pickleball twice a week, walk five times a week, go to stretching class once a week and garden twice a week.

Do you have any ailments? If so, how do you adjust your work out?

I am fortunate to be very healthy.  Because of the number of years I have been playing sports, I have issues with my piriformis and have exercises to do to reduce the inflammation.  I had a herniated disk 35 years ago, so at times have some back issues.  Some exercises and rest help with that.  If I get an injury, I’ve always followed whatever is the best healing method, even if I have to stop playing until whatever is injured is healed. However, with age, mostly I have some soreness (aches & pains). Just figure it comes with the sport and getting older.

What advice would you give to others of a similar age who want to become more active?

I’ve found that in learning something new (example, pickleball), others who already are playing the sport are more than willing to provide feedback or assistance if you are open to it.  It also might provide you with another social outlet to meet new potential friends. We are fortunate that many sports now offer divisions for older age groups.  However, it’s very important that you do other types of exercise so you have some diversity and use different muscles in your body.

How has maintaining this level of physical activity helped you in your daily life?

Besides the benefits of using your muscles, it’s a great stress reliever and you have such a good support system because of the camaraderie with not only your teammates but other players. Of the initial team I started in soccer with, eight of us have stayed friends for 48 years. Being active has now led me to learn pickleball, bicycling and stretching classes. Staying active obviously helps with your health and, as you age, maintain your balance.

 

Dawn Cole

From: Sacramento, California area (in the suburb of Folsom)
Age: 75 (76 on Aug. 23)
Sport: Soccer

The Good Games
Photo: Courtesy of Dawn Cole

 

When Cole was young she played sports with the neighbourhood boys, as girls did not have opportunities to play organized sports. “That was true until after I graduated from high school, when the U.S. enacted Title IX that required equal opportunities in sports for girls,” she says. From age 20, she played softball and basketball in women’s adult recreational leagues and in co-ed softball leagues with her husband. 

When her three sons started playing youth soccer, some of the other moms thought it looked fun and started a team called Moms on the Run. She was 47. She played goalkeeper. Today, Cole plays on an over-70 women’s soccer team called Still Kickin’, which has played in the World Masters Games in Edmonton, Canada (2005), Sydney, Australia (2009), Torino, Italy (2013), and Auckland, New Zealand (2017), as well as in cities throughout the U.S. “We have won the U.S. national championship several times in different age groups,” she says.  In 2021, both Still Kickin’ teams (over-70 and over-65) were national champions. Cole played goalkeeper for both teams. 

What activity/workout do you do daily or weekly?  

I have been playing goalkeeper for almost 30 years. I also belong to a cycling club and do 20-mile rides with them regularly. I play pickleball regularly with my soccer teammates, and others, and we sometimes travel and compete in pickleball tournaments. I do five to six mile walks with friends regularly – we live in a beautiful area of California with nice walking trails that take us through beautiful nature areas with wildlife of all kinds. I also occasionally do 10Ks or half-marathons with friends for charitable organizations.

Do you have any ailments? If so, how do you adjust your work out?

I had cancer 15 years ago (Hodgkins lymphoma).  But I don’t have any ailments at the moment. I do everything I can to maintain my physical health (and mental health). I work out with a trainer at the gym once a week, and I see a massage therapist once a week.

What advice would you give to others of a similar age who want to become more active?

find an activity you enjoy, and then join a group that does that activity. There are many groups that offer “beginner lessons” or they offer group walks or bike rides for beginners and participants at various levels. Once you connect with those groups, you will meet many other people who share your interest in maintaining an active lifestyle, and I find that older people who are active are just interesting people to associate with. I believe that being active is good for our mental health, as well as our physical health. It provides an opportunity to connect with others and to be motivated by others, and I think that is especially important after we retire and we no longer have our daily interaction with coworkers and clients.

How has maintaining this level of physical activity helped you in your daily life?

It helps me stay flexible and maintain core strength and balance. I believe that the strength training and the massage therapy also helps minimize getting pulled muscles and other injuries that might otherwise occur.  The variety of activities I engage in also helps me keep all of my muscles strong so that I don’t get “overuse” injuries from using primarily one set of muscles over and over.

 

Nicolas Baxter-Moore

From: St. Catharines, Ontario
Age: 74
Sport: Walking soccer

Good Games
Photo: Courtesy of Nicolas Baxter-Moore

 

Raised in the U.K., football (soccer) was a constant and in high school. He also played field hockey, cricket, tennis and competed in long distance athletic events. Through university and into his early 20s, he played senior amateur and semi-pro football (soccer) and, when he came to Canada (1977), played club and some cricket. “Of course, having migrated to Canada, I also had to learn to ski and skate,” he says. “I did my best.” He carried on playing soccer, outdoors and indoors, on and off until around 2008 when he had a second knee surgery. He was “much less active” and then in 2012 had a heart attack. “After that, I found new forms of activity, hiking, kayaking, until I needed a knee replacement in 2018, which slowed me down for a while. Then, I got back to the gym,” Baxter-Moore says.

In May 2023, he first heard about walking soccer on CBC’s As It Happens. After a quick Google search, he found the closest club was in Oakville and, a week later, he joined. “Walking soccer is the greatest sport for those who want to carry on playing their favourite game, but can’t necessarily play the full running game because of age or medical condition,” he says. “It’s fully competitive. It can be fast, despite the walking description, especially if a club plays limited touch, which speeds up the game. The ball moves fast, even if the players sometimes can’t.”

What activity/workout do you do daily or weekly?

Right now, I work out with a trainer in the gym 2-3 times a week. I play soccer 1-2 times a week. The two activities combine for 4 days a week. I garden regularly. In the summer, I swim every day. Otherwise, I walk.

Do you have any ailments? If so, how do you adjust how you work out?

I have a knee replacement in my left knee (2018). I know, I probably shouldn’t be playing at all. I will need a replacement in my right knee, but right now I’m getting by with shots and a customized knee brace. I referee sometimes. I play goalie. My trainer knows the problems and adjusts my exercise routines accordingly. I do what I have to do to stay involved with the sport, even though one knee surgeon told me the only kind of soccer I should be playing, if there is such a thing, is wheelchair soccer!

What advice would you give to others of a similar age who want to become more active?

Do what you can, then challenge yourself to do more, and, if you can’t do that, then at least carry on doing what you can. Seek help from professionals. Age is just a number, not a limitation. If you can’t become physically active for its own (and your) sake, find a physical activity that is associated with other benefits. For example, find an activity that will introduce you to a new set of friends. Even better, find an activity that will introduce you to a new set of friends with whom you already share one thing in common (location, ethnic origin, love of a sport or activity, common interest in another activity, etc.) For me, that was walking soccer in Oakville.

How has maintaining this level of physical activity helped you in your daily life?

We have a large property with numerous flowerbeds, a large vegetable garden, etc. Without a certain level of fitness, I (and with my wife, “we”) could not manage this. Oh, did I mention the number of stairs? Playing sports, working out, working in the yard – they’re all part of a regime to keep me moving, keep me strong, to allow us to stay in our current home.

 

Lynda Flinn

From: Camas, WA
Age: 72
Sport: Soccer

Flinn has always been active, from taking ballet and gymnastics as a child to basketball, softball, volleyball and track and field in middle and high school. “During my time in the military, I played on softball, basketball and volleyball teams at the rec level,” she says. 

What activity/workout do you do daily or weekly?  

My husband and I walk most days. I also play indoor soccer twice a week, when it’s available, and try to get in some pickleball during the week.

Do you have any ailments? If so, how do you adjust your work out?

I have arthritis and the activity really helps.  When I had a knee replacement, the rehab went fairly smoothly because I was in pretty good shape.  If you’re active, you can find workarounds for injuries and keep going.

What advice would you give to others of a similar age who want to become more active?

You need to find the activity you love and keep at it, even if you don’t do it well. Laugh a lot about what goes wrong and enjoy what goes well. Try new sports or different versions of the sports you love. Vary your routine to avoid repetitive injuries and build new muscle. You have to work your way into fitness; start slowly and do a little more every time. Be kind to yourself when you hit a plateau and progress seems to stop. Remember how that feels and encourage other people when they need it.  

How has maintaining this level of physical activity helped you in your daily life?

Maintaining the activity level has kept my arthritis in check and let me enjoy lots of activities with my grandchildren. Yardwork and housework are easier because I can move around. Sports keeps my brain active and relax me when nothing else will.

For more information about The Good Games, visit their website here.

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