Choctaw Nation release
DURANT – The rules for “chair volleyball” are simple: No standing, no spiking. It’s a good thing laughing is allowed. There was plenty of it at the Senior Chair Volleyball Championships on Friday, April 27 in the Choctaw Wellness Center in Durant.
Some of the 26 teams –from 11 Choctaw Wellness Centers or Choctaw Community Centers across 10 ½ counties in southeastern Oklahoma – had to board busses at 7 a.m. in order to make their nine o’clock serves. Still, there was no shortage of enthusiasm among the teams.
“Have you ever seen so many old people having so much fun?” said Jan Edge, of Antlers, who also lays claim to being a direct descendent of Greenwood LeFlore, Principal Chief of the Choctaws in 1830. “When we first started playing we did not have enough people for a team; now we have two teams, plus two extra players.”
That the 177 participants enjoyed themselves was evident. When players were knocked out of the double-elimination tournament, many regrouped, siding with players from other teams, and kept playing. In these “side games,” occasionally bouncing out of your chain, spiking and beaning your own teammate with the ball to the back of the head was not only acceptable, but brought even louder gales of laughter.
“Durant won last year,” said Dan Trujillo, fitness specialist in his third year with the Durant center. “The Choctaw Wellness Center in Broken Bow hosted that event.”
Fielding four teams with several overflow players this year, many expected Durant to take it again. But in an odd twist as can only happen in sports, while Durant was the host this year, it was Broken Bow Team 1 that took home the traveling trophy.
The teams were co-ed, with as many women as men playing. Teams played six chair-athletes at a time. The tournament was set up for six courts to play at the same time in a single large gymnasium. Balls used for play in the tournament were slightly larger than regulation volleyballs, some were multicolored beach-type balls, others were clear and filled with glitter.
The championship match saw Broken Bow’s Teddy’s Nitas team vs. McAlester 2’s Team Tvshka. It took less than 15 minutes for Broken Bow to put away the challengers in a 15-10 final score.
“We started planning this six weeks ago,” Trujillo said.
While the tournament took some three hours, the memories clearly will last a lifetime for many of the senior athletes.
After lots of hand shaking and words of “Good game,” everyone headed down the side walk to the Choctaw Community Center for a spaghetti luncheon prepared and served by Choctaw Nation employees.
Members of the Choctaw Tribal Council were also on hand to cheer on their seniors: District 9’s James Dry, District 2’s Tony Ward, District 1’s Thomas Williston and District 6’s Jennifer Woods.
Chief Gary Batton had a full morning, first attending the ribbon cutting at the new CMC Steel plant, then getting to the Wellness Center and Community Center to congratulate everyone involved in the tournament.
“You are setting an example for our youth,” Batton said. “They see you and it tells them they can do this, have fun and be healthy. Five years ago this Council set the objective to make our people healthy, to combat cancer, heart trouble and diabetes. We placed clinics throughout the area, for healing, and now we are putting in gyms, wellness centers for prevention. We are getting there, YOU are getting there.”