Marc Riker, chief executive officer of the National Senior Games since 2011, says the goals drawing participants to Birmingham, Alabama, this year are as diverse as the event itself. Since 1987, this biennial event has brought athletes ages 50 and over together to compete in 19 sports, including swimming, badminton and basketball. The range of sports is impressive, but pales in comparison to the competitors’ age range (50 to over 100). Riker must handle a variety Riker discusses what inspires him about the event, as the 2017 games (June 2-15) enter their first full week of action in Birmingham.
What sets the National Senior Games apart from other multi-sport competitions?
Our slogan is that we are about fitness, fun and fellowship. Yes, the competition is really important for some to be able to train and prepare themselves to do their personal best, but the social aspect of it and celebrating that moment in time is really what’s special. Our participants range from age 50 to over 100. There is a totally different dynamic of what people at various stages of that age group are dealing with at a given time. When they all come together, there is a uniqueness of watching them together. That is really inspiring. When we hear the 50- and 55-year-olds say how much they enjoy watching the 70-, 80- and 90-year-olds competing, that is really priceless.
Do your participants serve as your recruiters?
That does happen. They realize this is a fun social environment and get involved. We’ve had three generations that have competed at the games, so it becomes a family affair where you have mother, daughter, family and son. Those are unique stories, too. This has become a part of their life.
Photo credits: Thomas Coiner and Zachary Kelly