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On a recent Tuesday morning, a group of 16 tennis players met at Wayzata West Middle School to play a few rounds of doubles. As she strutted toward the court, her doubles partner in tow, one player boasted toned calf muscles and a nickname not printable in this family newspaper. Another of the group's members peeled off his Adidas track pants and scooped up his racket, flipping it in his right hand. Everyone marched to the courts.
When they played, they attacked the net. They smashed the ball. One player even indulged the occasional grunt, just like Venus Williams. A casual observer couldn't have guessed the ages of these ultra-competitive players. As members of the Senior Tennis Players Club of Minnesota (STPC), all were age 50 and older.
These Tuesday morning matches represent the club's strongest players. STPC also welcomes 50-plus tennis players with more basic skills, even novices on the hunt for a new hobby. "You can actually start out never having played tennis and get free lessons," said Marv Schneider, 76, who captains many STPC teams and plays tennis almost every morning.
With 1,400 members, STPC is one of the country's largest tennis clubs for seniors.
"We think it's the largest in the United States," said Schneider. In exchange for a $25 annual membership fee, players enjoy access to unlimited lessons, drills and daily matches throughout the summer. They can play during the winter, too, though usually with additional court fees. Bonus: STPC also organizes parties and tennis mixers for its members. "A lot of people join more for the social aspect than the exercise," confessed Schneider.
For more information, go to seniortennismn.com
Founded in 1984, the Born Again Jocks (BAJ) is currently restricted to men only. When the club was started, its charter members reasoned that "the ladies had their card clubs and their Red Hatters," explained Dan Heintzman, a longtime BAJ member who nonetheless hopes to see women join the ranks.
For now, BAJ offers a menu of activities for 55-plus men. Summer sports include softball, bocce ball and golf; indoor options for winter include bowling, volleyball and table tennis. With upwards of 600 members, the club can promise challenging and competitive play. "But it's really more about the social interaction," said 64-year-old Heintzman, who partakes in the BAJ softball, tennis and volleyball leagues.
Based in Bloomington, the BAJs enjoy a cozy relationship with the city's Parks and Recreation Division. This makes for low fees for use of the city's fields and courts (each sport costs $15-$100 per player per season). So the BAJs are mindful of giving back to the community via scholarships and other good deeds. "It's a great group," said Heintzman. "Every city should have something like it. We're very fortunate to have it in Bloomington."
Twin Cities Bicycling Club (TCBC) isn't just for seniors. "But I would say that the club's most active riders -- the ones with the most miles -- are retired," said Don Picard, 74, a longtime member and ride leader with TCBC.
The club also welcomes new riders. In fact, TCBC organizes a series of introductory rides during the summer. Designed to teach the basics of bike safety, these rides are slow and short, usually less than 15 miles. Plus, an experienced ride leader will act as your guide.
With approximately 2,000 members and hundreds of ride leaders, TCBC is able to offer dozens of weekly rides during the summer as well as a few winter journeys. For just $25 per year, members can select unlimited rides that suit their abilities. Check out the club's newsletter or website for rides categorized by distance and speed, with the slowest rides breezing along at a comfy 10 miles per hour. "About half the rides are mostly seniors," continued Picard. "But we don't have age restrictions. That's purely based on speed and time."
The Twin Cities has running clubs galore, "but I don't know if there are any clubs specifically for older runners," said Dave Coyne, 55, a veteran runner and head coach of Twin Cities Running Club. The ALARC running club, founded in 1981, retains some of its charter members -- in other words, plenty of 50-plus runners. An even older organization, the Minnesota Distance Running Association (MDRA) is also known for its graying membership.
Coyne's nine year-old club is another great option. Like ALARC and MDRA, the group's age diversity won't intimidate any older runners. Membership ranges from "fresh out of college to the late 60s," explained Coyne.
Best of all, Coyne offers tailored training plans that account for the runner's age, ability and goals -- from an easy run/walk plan for beginners to marathon preparation. The club also serves as social destination. "We have a lot of people who just come out for the group runs," said Coyne. For $25 per year, members can partake in the group's social events and training runs on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Personalized training is extra.
Christy DeSmith • 612-673-1754