Seniors gear up for 2012 Michigan Senior Olympics summer games

By: Mary Beth Almond | C&G Newspapers | Published May 16, 2012

 Cyclists race for the gold at the Waterford Sportsman Club in Clarkston during a past Michigan Senior Olympics.

Cyclists race for the gold at the Waterford Sportsman Club in Clarkston during a past Michigan Senior Olympics.

Photo provided by Bruce Beck Photography

Pete LaBarbera had no idea what pickleball was when he was first asked to play, but as soon as he picked up a paddle, he was hooked.

“I play it as often as I can,” he said.

The sport has now become somewhat of an addiction for the 65-year-old Rochester Hills resident, who — more than five years later — is on the court at the Older Persons’ Commission at least three times a week prepping for his third stint in the Michigan Senior Olympics.

LaBarbera took home the gold medal in 2008, and he hopes to regain his pickleball title during the 2012 summer games this year.

And LaBarbera isn’t alone. Pickleball is just one of the many sports seniors from across the state have been training to compete in during the 2012 Michigan Senior Olympics.

The golf tournament will be held May 23-27, but the majority of the games — basketball, pickleball, badminton, triathlon, tennis, swimming, powerlifting, billiards, racquetball, road race, cycling, bowling, kayaking, shuffleboard, bocce ball, dance sport, horseshoes, volleyball, table tennis, archery and track cycling — will take place June 9-17 throughout Oakland County. A few events — including softball, track and field, and race walk — will be held shortly after, July 27-29.

Michigan Senior Olympics spokesperson Becky Ridky expects approximately 1,000 participants ages 50 and older to compete in the summer games this year, which happens to be a year they can also qualify to attend the National Senior Olympics in Cleveland in 2013.

“It’s a pretty big deal. Whenever we have a qualifying year, we have a lot more participants because everybody’s goal is to try to get to nationals,” she said.

While seniors participating in the May and June summer games had to register by May 11, those interested in competing in the July games have until July 2.

But there is still a lot of work to be done to prepare and run the games, which, according to Ridky, couldn’t be done without the help of volunteers and sponsors.

The Michigan Senior Olympics is currently searching for volunteers of all ages to assist before and during this year’s events.

“About 400 volunteers are needed to run the games, so we’ll take any volunteers for any amount of time we can get,” Ridky said. “We have tons of different positions, all the way from doing score keeping or officiating, to working a check-in desk.”

Volunteering is a great way to get involved, Ridky said. But that’s not all people will take away from the experience.

“We have people all the way to 101 years old out there participating, so it’s really inspirational to see people staying involved and remaining active and healthy,” she said.

The Michigan Senior Olympics also relies strongly upon sponsors, Ridky added. This year’s major sponsors are Cherrywood Nursing & Living Center, Simasko Law, Sleep Solutions, The Older Persons’ Commission and Oakland University, but she said there are lots of different sponsorship opportunities still available.

The Michigan Senior Olympics is a nonprofit organization that aims to enhance the quality of life for those over 50 by providing and developing programs in physical fitness and nutrition, while enhancing mental strength and sports skills during summer and winter games.

For more information, to volunteer, or to become a sponsor, call the Michigan Senior Olympics Office at (248) 608-0252 or visit