A group of grade-school students, singing “Star Spangled Banner” sets the stage for a competition like none other.
“If you show any skin, it’s a technical foul,” says Mary Kay France, a member of the Hot Pink Grannies.
It’s one of the many rules of Granny Basketball and explains the long, hot pink, polka-dot socks the “Grannies” are wearing. But that’s not the only rule. You only get two dribbles. There’s no running and no jumping. And you must be at least 50 to play. The oldest woman on the team is in her 80’s.
“You can play as long as you can walk,” says France with a laugh. “Which on any give day, I’m getting there.”
France started playing when a neighbor who played in the league moved.
“And her job was to find somebody who played basketball in school and was taller than she was. I happened to fit the bill.”
Tonight, the “Grannies” take on the “Hoopsters.”
“The best advice,” says France. “Don’t laugh so hard that you fall off your chair.”
The “Hoopsters” welcome us onto the team even though we are clearly out of our league. The no jumping rule is the hardest to follow. As soon as we touch the ball, the referee blows her whistle for a “jumping” violation.
The rules date back to the 1920’s, when the court was separated into thirds. Two forwards and two guards fill the outer two-thirds of the court. Two Centers hold down the middle. We are forwards.
Erin Kiernan scores the first two points for the “Hoopsters.” But the “Grannies” are already in double digits. It’s time for a three pointer, which is defined not by where the ball is shot from, but how it’s shot. Sonya Heitshusen tosses an underhand shot into the air – and miraculously, makes it!
Yes, Granny Basketball is unconventional. But it’s also fun. It keeps these gals moving and it’s for a good cause.
“It’s more about the camaraderie,” says France. “And doing the fundraisers like we’re doing tonight is the best.”
The proceeds from this game go to Central Iowa Shelter and Services, an organization that helps the homeless. That makes this game a slam dunk.