May 21, 2022 3 min read
Photo: Nedra Paschal has worked the Nevada Senior Games for 22 years.
By Ray Glier
Ft. Lauderdale__The National Senior Games in Ft. Lauderdale are a spectacle. There are 11,938 athletes, festivities, sponsors galore, and the games themselves feature remarkable achievement by athletes.
Still, Nedra Paschal, a board member with the Nevada Senior Games, says there are challenges at the local level that are becoming a ball-and-chain to growth of events for older athletes across the country.
Pay attention, this could be your state.
"A lot of over-55 communities are building their own athletic facilities, like pickleball courts and softball fields, so many people figure 'Why should I do the state games when I have this here where I live?'," Paschal said. "I think that has hurt attendance on the state level."
Paschal said ambitious athletes still want to measure themselves against the best in the country, so the National Senior Games is a draw. Many others, however, wonder why they should pay air fare, hotel, and entry fees only to be sent home in a couple of days.
Funding for state games is an issue, too, even with a strong demographic of older athletes willing to spend on their fitness. It takes some resources, after all, to run the state games.
"We're missing out on some funding," Paschal said. "AETNA sponsored us for two years, $8,000 each year, but I don't know that they will stay with us again. AETNA was a big help to us. We need them.
"We haven't been able to find those very large sponsors because they say we are not big enough. This is Las Vegas and they are used to 100,000 tourists for an event. They don't care much about us."
Paschal said Caesars Palace donated $20,000 to the Nevada Senior Games, but that was a one-time grant.
The Games have been around since 1980 so they have a solid foothold and some sponsors recognize that. The Nevada Games, she said, are well-organized, but they are like many state senior games: they need money to function.
It used to be the state of Nevada would give the state games $1,500 a month to run the events. Nedra said that funding simply disappeared 15 years ago.
"That is a lot of money, what $18,000," she said.
The Nevada Games are held every fall and the state grant money went to staging the Games for two to three weeks in Las Vegas.
It's a lesson for senior athletes in other states. Do not let the state's legislature take you for granted. Health care costs are controlled by having healthy citizens and the lobbying has to be fierce to make that point.
Perhaps the most distressing thing to Paschal is the lack of younger, 60-something seniors, coming along to help run the state games. She is certain other states are having the same issue.
Paschal is 81 and has been a key cog in the Nevada State Games since 2000. She will wind down her time with the Games this year.
But it's not just the organizers who don't appear to be filling the pipeline, it's the 50-something athletes coming up from behind.
"There just doesn't seem to be as many," she said. "They are working right now, but as they get older will they come out? I don't know."
Older athletes owe a debt of gratitude to people like Paschal, who is an accomplished tennis and badminton player. She is competing in these national games in both sports.
A retired teacher, PE and Math, Nedra grew up in the era before Title IX, so she is accustomed to challenges when organizing sports. This challenge of keeping state games functioning feels a little bit like that, rolling a rock up hill.
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