Ability Over Age

NS chats with Catherine “Kitty” Sparacello of the Senior Olympic gold-medalist team, the Celadrin Tigerettes

Have you heard the saying “You’re only as old as you think you are?”

Well, a group of shot-blocking, three-point shooting, layup-loving, free throw-swishing senior citizen women are taking that adage to a whole other level—as in Senior Olympic competitions. And they are winning gold medals.

Meet the Celadrin Tigerettes. These six women, aging from 66 to 76, are playing together for their 20th year. For their troubles, they’ve amassed seven Senior Olympic gold medals and the winningest record (an astonishing 198-5!) in the National Senior Games competition.

Sponsored by the makers of Celadrin, they are the only team in the Senior Olympics to have corporate backing.

Natural Solutions: How long have you been playing basketball?

Catherine Sparacello: I’ve been playing basketball for 58 years, since I was on the junior high team. I played in high school and on a college team (not sanctioned) and then continued in my profession, which included teaching physical education and coaching basketball for Centenary Methodist College in Shreveport, Louisiana. I was also a professor of physical education at Loyola University in New Orleans.

NS: How do people react when you say you are a Senior Olympic athlete?

CS: Most people are astonished that someone at my age is doing what I’m doing. I always tell them they could too, if they set their mind to a goal. We inspire a lot of people to get moving with their goals because we show them it is possible to do anything.

NS: What would you say is the biggest misconception about older athletes?

CS: People have a fixation on the chronological age of a person, but age is really a state of mind. If you feel like you are in your 40s, you will play like you are in your 40s. And if you decide you’re old, you will be old. The key to staying young is to keep setting goals for yourself and strive to keep those goals and keep your body in good physical shape.

NS: What do you do to prevent injury and stay fit?

CS: To stay fit I have to eat correctly, take supplements, get the right amount of sleep, and continue to work on my flexibility, coordination, and agility. I also run or walk for cardiovascular and participate in yoga, Pilates, and strength training.

NS: Do you take any supplements or specialty vitamins? Which ones in particular do you feel really help you with staying active?

CS: We wear the Celadrin logo on our uniforms not only because it is our team sponsor, but also because it is a joint health product that really works. I use Celadrin all the time to alleviate joint pain. In basketball the majority of pain occurs in the knees. As you get older, staying pain-free and flexible in the joints is a must to compete at the level we play at. I like Celadrin because it has a natural ingredient that has been proven to work in many clinical studies. I also take a multivitamin everyday.

NS: What would you say to someone who is older but wants to try to accomplish something physically, like a race or participating in team sports?

CS: You have to stay physically conditioned by eating correctly, taking supplements and getting the right amount of sleep and relaxation and exercise. You need to stay mentally focused by challenging your mind to learn something new, and stay emotionally engaged—laugh a lot and keep the child within you, stay curious and excited about life, and have fun.

You also need to stay socially connected: make new friends and don’t stay with the same group of people—get out there and try new activities. Lastly, stay spiritually strong: prayer will give you the strength within.


The Celadrin Tigerettes’ captivating story of ability over age will air nationwide on PBS as part of the Documentary Foundation’s award-winning film, “Age of Champions,” in August (ageofchampions.org).