Published in the Mineola Patch Jan. 24 2012/To view article: Click Here
The love of the game never stops.
Russ Sutherland has been playing basketball his whole life and is always ready to play against anyone.
Six years ago, he and his friend Richard Arroyo set up a basketball program for Mineola residents at the Mineola Community Center to cater to an underserved demographic: seniors.
Although the program is set up for seniors ages 50 and older, they invite anyone to come. There are currently men from age 42 to 78 in the program. Arroyo’s daughter, Bella, used to play with them and is now trying out for the Mineola Middle School team.
“It’s a good opportunity for retired people. Instead of watching soap operas at home all day, you could come down, shoot some hoops and talk trash,” Arroyo said. The program meets on Monday and Friday from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.
Arroyo and Sutherland met each other 17 years ago when Sutherland first moved to Mineola; they used to play ball one-on-one amid games of ‘horse.’
In the near future, Sutherland would like to set up a horse hoops tournament and have the proceeds donated to the starving children in Africa.
In the years of playing for the program, they won the championship for Long Island Senior games for 5 straight years (2005-2009). Unfortunately, there were no senior games for the last 2 years due to the lack of participation. In their last game, the Mineola group had to play against a woman’s team from Harlem.
“It was hard to get people involved because it was a lose lose situation. If we lost it would be humiliating to lose against girls. If we won then it looks bad,” Sutherland said. However he finally was able to get four players, including himself, to play. The women had them by one basket during half time but the seniors ended up winning.
Sutherland has no problem playing against anyone, in fact desiring to play a game against the Mineola High School girls team.
“With their youth and speed and our experience, it would be a good game,” he said.
A few of the members in the program have played at the college level as well: Sutherland played for Farmingdale State while fellow member John Gatley played for Iona College. “I played so long ago the ball wasn’t round it was square,” Gatley joked.
The members mostly play half-court games, using the full-court on occasion. Roughly a dozen people come to play but numbers vary week by week.
While there are different concerns for veteran players as opposed to younger members, there have been no serious injuries.
“It’s a good aerobic exercise,” Arroyo said. “You feel good that you’re at an age where you can still be active at a competitive game.”
Added Sutherland: “30 minutes goes by so fast you don’t even notice you were exercising.”