The Independent Author

Old School Hoops: Basketball After 60

June 30, 2021 Tom Kranz Season 2 Episode 8
The Independent Author
Old School Hoops: Basketball After 60
Show Notes Transcript

Jim Sweeney is a member of a growing federation of basketball players in their 60's, 70's, even 80's, who travel, compete and continue playing their favorite sport without regard to their age. Maxi Basketball is a worldwide phenomenon with its own organization and a passionate following that Sweeney has tapped into with personal relationships and friendships that span the globe. His book Old School Hoops is a close look at Maxi Basketball, the people he's met and the places he's been. Join us for a fascinating look at these colorful athletes through the experiences of a lifelong basketballer.

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Tom Kranz:

Hi there, and welcome back to the independent author podcast. I'm Tom Kranz, thanks again for downloading my episodes and paying us a listen. You know, I contemplate my life as a 60 plus guy. And I, you know, played soccer when I was in high school. I can't imagine now, given my age and various physical shortcomings that I won't get into, you know, running up and down soccer field. But this brings me to my guest today, who is in his early 60s, and he's running up and down basketball courts all around the world, in a kind of a sports phenomenon that I didn't even know existed. Welcome to Jim Sweeney, who wrote a book entitled Old School Hoops, which we're going to talk about in a minute or two about how to get it and where he wrote it. And Jim, thanks, first of all for being here,

Jim Sweeney:

Tom, thanks for having me. I'm excited to be a guest on your show today. And let me put a disclaimer in there. Yes, I am running up and down the court, full court and competitive basketball games, but I need to add the word in capital letters, SLOWLY. I'm still doing it.

Tom Kranz:

All right. No, I'm not putting a stopwatch on you. So you know, that's I think that's really cool. So as I found out in reading Jim's bio here, there's this whole worldwide network of guys. I guess it's men only, but pretty much at this point, right, Jim?

Jim Sweeney:

Well, it's actually 65% men 35% women,

Tom Kranz:

OK, I completely take that back then. But basically, we're talking about, okay, men and women in their 60s and above. And by above, I mean, really above who play in this international network of basketball teams, and talk a little bit about how that's organized. I didn't even know there was, I guess I want to call it a league but it's really not a league, right?

Jim Sweeney:

It's an international sports federation, the acronym for the organization is called FIMBA, which stands for Federation of International Masters Basketball. Similar to FIBA which is a global governing body for Federation International Basketball, you put the M and N for masters, that translates to senior or veteran or Maxi, or older or mature people. So, um, I've been doing it as a volunteer for like the last 10 years. My title is head of the United States, I'm one of 47 individual country reps that does it for free does it for the love of the sport does it because they like to meet people they like to travel, experience different things in life. And we recruit American pla yers help organize USA teams to compete and FIMBA's global basketball tournaments. Since 2009 I have literally played in over 100 Masters basketball tournaments in more than 20 countries around the world.

Tom Kranz:

Wow. And so I assume that basketball was part of your earlier life too, as well. Correct?

Jim Sweeney:

Oh, yeah. I as soon as I touched the ball at age five, I fell in love with it, played AAU and high school, played in college played overseas afterwards. And I don't golf. I don't play tennis. I don't fish. I play basketball, competitively. And slowly. But I'm still out there. And I love the sport. I play three or four times a week.

Tom Kranz:

I love that. So what do you do other than playing basketball? Do you do other things? Do you work out? What do you do to keep in shape? I guess playing basketball kind of answers that question.

Jim Sweeney:

Well today, because I'm not playing basketball, I already walk five miles at the crack of dawn. I get up at 530 every day may take a second walk later. I do my series of push ups and planks I eat well, you know, fortunately, my wife and I, we kind of monitor our own diets. She's extremely fit even though she's recuperating from a broken ankle this time, but she's very fit. And I am extremely grateful at age 63. I feel like I'm fit. I'm healthy. And I enjoy life.

Tom Kranz:

That's awesome. And so how many people would you say are in this masters, this kind of brotherhood slash sisterhood, how many players are there total and how many countries are represented?

Jim Sweeney:

Well, I am one of 47 individual country reps in the Finbar, which is the Federation of international masters basketball, and each country Rep. I mean, they could have hundreds of people within their individual country that participate in the sport. And the United States, our USA Federation that would fall under the global Federation is a little bit more loosely organized. There's eight or 10 different men's masters basketball tournaments a year I'm going to play in Louisville. In three weeks, we're looking at four or 500 guys will play in Indianapolis and September will be five to 600 guys, and I may go on either one or two international excursions later this year, where the tournament's could have anywhere from 500 to 700. People that are playing, as I alluded to earlier, outside the United States, women playing a lot of these tournaments, and their ages are different than the men will start at age 35 and go up to 55. The men's normally started at around 40. And they have gone up as high as 80, which is an incredible phenomenon and a great story. Our last World Championship that we had in Espoo, Finland, which is right outside of Helsinki, they had eight 80-year old teams, so all the men on each team were 80 or older, they played full court with a shot clock for 10 minutes stop time quarters, they talk junk, they push the shot, they got some little extra curricular activities in, they enjoy themselves in front of a packed house, the attendance in the gym was maxed out, they had a sign on the door 2500 people in a standing room only to not just watch these guys, but to celebrate that. Because in the FIMBA organization, we have this motto, and it's add years to your life by adding life to your years, continue playing basketball. So much like golf and tennis and swimming and cycling that people normally consider lifelong sports. Basketball is now pretty much considered around the world as a lifelong sport, where if you keep yourself healthy, you don't have a lot of extra weight on you don't drink and smoke excessively, and you remain relatively fit, you can continue playing basketball to a ripe old age.

Tom Kranz:

Yeah, that's, I think that a lot of us here in the US forget how big basketball has become just in general, around the world. So I guess it doesn't surprise me that, you know, Masters basketball is popular too. Do you think European or older men, specifically from other countries are generally in better shape than us, than American men?

Jim Sweeney:

I yes and no. And the reason why I'm ambivalent in answering your question is that some people come to these tournaments. Now remember, the tournaments are a lot bigger than people would originally realize. Like in Italy, we had a tournament couple years ago, a few years ago, we had 367 teams from 51 countries. And I would say a third of the teams overall, the men and the women would be excellent to outstanding, very competitive and one of I for a medal and represent our country is admirable guys I possibly can. The other third would be pretty good, you know, for their age, and they would be competitive, then maybe not necessarily elite, then the bottom like 20% to a third, they're there because they love the sport. But they want to really partake in the individual activities outside of the basketball arena. They want to be they want to go socialize, they want to see the historical stuff. Because all of the places where we have these tournaments are in great cities, great destinations, that love and welcome tourism. So the elite guys to finally answer your question of the top third of all the players. A lot of the countries like Brazil or Italy, Slovenia, who else Greece, Serbia, they either have government programs that help foster the development of senior or veteran sports, or they'll have corporate sponsorship. We for the American teams, we get a little bit of sponsorship, and I've reached out to the government a number of times to tap into whenever funds would be available to help promote us because I do this for free. I do all the advertising on Facebook, I make all the calls all the emails, and I'm not complaining. I love doing it because I've expanded not just my friendship base, but also my basketball brotherhood space. Space. I grew up in New Jersey, not too far from where you live, and I had one sibling and never had a brother always wanted a brother. Now I feel like I have hundreds of brothers from around the world that I've met as a result of my participation in masters basketball,

Tom Kranz:

Do you also pay for your own travel and your own gear and your own uniforms?

Jim Sweeney:

It depends. We do periodically, some of the individual teams have some type of corporate or personal sponsorship from somebody that has been done very well in life that wants the bank or the uniforms, or the unit or the entry fee, the entry fee could be steep, because it would include the social parties, attending the parade, getting your swag bag, some of the tournaments also had health tents, where you could go there, they could have 10, 20, 30, places where, you know, people could be touting their gear, their health and wellness remedies are that you could get your blood pressure taken your eyes, and your blood sugar tested that kind of stuff. So it depends. I know that some teams that are really good from other countries that go to these events, they're 100% funded, I mean, they come with their own. If they have a contingent of teams, 10 or 20, teams will all be dressed alike. They all stay at a nice hotel, they'll have their own private bus to take them around. And, you know, fortunately, everything is covered. In the United States, we're not there yet. You know, fortunately, we've got a great group of guys. And now some women that play in these tournaments that represent our country. And some of them do get sponsorship, which I think is great. I believe that that will continue to grow in the future.

Tom Kranz:

Yeah, I'm sure well, so Old School Hoops, you decided to write this book? Looks like it's been out for about a year, since published in September of last year. So I'm guessing about a year or so. How long did it take, I can see that the you know, the raw materials for a book like this, you know, are staggering when you I guess, look at all the places you've been. I mean, I just I didn't read the whole book. But I looked at all the different people who you profile, you got some real characters in here. And you know, there's of course, your own story. How long did it take you to write this? And when when did you start writing and once you kind of get the idea to do that?

Jim Sweeney:

I've had the idea for a number of years, and it kind of came to fruition, you know, thanks to COVID I can't believe I'm saying thank you COVID button, because all of the Masters basketball tournaments, you know, life in general was just stopped. So, over the past few years, people were saying, hey, Sween, you've been in so many of these tournaments, you should pen a book and tell people about some of your stories, because you can tell in the interview, I'm not shy, I like to talk, I think I have a really good sense of humor. I'm a little bit of a wise guy. After all, I am from New Jersey. impish thing about me in New Jersey. And I just started and it went, boom. It's like it happened. Like literally overnight. Not that I wrote the thing in one day, it happened a lot more quickly than I actually thought it would. My wife of soon to be 40 years. She's a writer. She's been with me on most of my trips. So she served as my editor. Then we reached out, we got a publisher, the publisher name was on COVID lockdown. So she turned it around very, very quickly. And I'm ecstatic with the reception that I've received. Now, it's not a book for everybody if you don't play basketball, if you don't like to travel. And maybe if you don't like some of the foods that I write about in the book, maybe it's not for you, but the people that have purchased it, the people that have said, Hey, I love basketball. I never knew like you at the beginning of the interview, said I never knew that this league or this sport, or this conglomeration of events for older athletes actually exists. It was an eye opener. So one of my motivations was not only to tell my story about the great experiences I'd had, but also to share about how you if you're in your 60s, maybe in the 70s, or if you're a young buck in your late 40s. And you say I would like to get back into the sport. I like to travel, I'd like to meet some new people. A this book is for you, because it tells about the history of the sport. It tells about all the opportunities that are available out there. Because Come on, I played in over 20 countries, I'm 63 years old, and I started doing this only, what 12 years ago. So there's plenty of opportunity out there not just for basketball players. But from what I understand stuff like this exists for people like soccer or international football, hockey, baseball, volleyball, so there are other senior things that are out there. And as the world's population grows and matures, I think there's going to be more people that will be interested.

Tom Kranz:

I totally agree. And I think that there's been more attention than ever paid to the senior population because, you know, we baby boomers were we're going to become 20% of the population in another 10 years or so and so I see more of this happening and I see this growing for sure. I really appreciate you joining me here again, everybody this the book is called Old School Hoops just like it sounds by Jim Sweeney available where Jim? I see it here on the lulu.com site, Lulu and Amazon, Amazon to Great. Thanks again.

Jim Sweeney:

The net proceeds go to a rec center in Trenton, New Jersey, where I grew up really spent a ton of time as a kid.

Tom Kranz:

Wow. Okay, so on top of that you're doing a good thing by bullet buying the book, folks. That's old school hoops again, give it a shot Amazon or Hulu and Jim, thanks so much for being with us and be careful out there.

Jim Sweeney:

Thank you, Tom.