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Sue Bush
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Forever Young Team Bound For Senior Olympics

By Susan Bush
12:00AM / Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Several members of the "Forever Young" women's softball team were ready to practice on Aug. 1.
North Adams - Ask almost any one of the 13 "Forever Young" women's softball players how they came to be a Senior Olympics Summer Games team and the answer begins with "Nancy called...".

Team To Compete During Sept. 26 Summer Games Event

Nancy Bullett, 51, is a licensed physical therapist, an active area athlete and the Senior Olympics team driving force, according to the players and team co-coach Pat Robare. The group participated in an Aug. 1 interview while waiting to practice at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts athletic complex on West Shaft Road.


"Forever Young" softball team founder Nancy Bullet.
The team plans to compete during a Sept. 26 Senior Olympics women's softball event at Springfield College; the event was postponed from a June date due to rain and flooding conditions. This is is the first year that the state senior games have hosted a women's softball competition, said Bullett and games coordinator Carl Fetteroll.

Robare shares team coaching duties with Joanne Harvey and the "Forever Young" team roster is made up of Bullett, Pauline Ellsworth, 50, Marian Rennell, 50, 52-year-old Caroline Burch, Marilyn Kleiner, 61, Karen Levesque, 50, Juliette Flynt, 55, Nancy Bassi, 64, and "over 50s" Shirley Valotta, Barb Tassone, Carol Boucher, Kathy Millard, and Karen Daigle. The players live in Clarksburg, North Adams, Williamstown, Adams, Cheshire, and Stamford, Vt..

Many of the team members are current or former members of the Northern Berkshire Women's Softball League.

50 And Over Only, Please

Bullett was contacted by Fetteroll about starting a Senior Olympics softball team during July 2005, after he read an interview she gave to a Boston Globe reporter. The Globe newspaper story focused on those without health insurance in the state; Bullett's athletic interests were included as part of the story, she and Fetteroll said.

"Carl read the story in the Globe and he noticed my age," Bullett said. "He called me and asked me if I was interested in getting a team together. I was interested and by September, I had the commitment of a team."

The Northern Berkshire team is scheduled to compete with teams from Connecticut and New York, Bullet said.

"We are very excited about having this team," said Fetteroll during an Aug. 2 interview. "There have been two sports at the Nationals [National Senior Olympics] that Massachusetts had no teams for, basketball and softball. I wanted to get both going. The basketball was easier to get started but the softball was struggling. For softball, you need at least 11 players and you should have more, for injuries and things like that. To get that many ladies over 50 to play can be a challenge."

"Then Nancy Called..."

Ellsworth was an active softball player for about 27 years and stopped playing about nine years ago, she said.

"Then Nancy called and said she was putting this together," Ellsworth said. "I said I'd love to play."

Robare, 65, is also an experienced softball player and coach.

"I love coaching," she said. "When Nancy called and asked me about this, I thought it would be fun."

"Nancy called me in the fall and asked if I wanted to be involved," said Burch. "I was interested and the fact that we could do [physical] conditioning in the winter was key."

Harvey allowed the team members access to the city-based Curves fitness salon, and city businessman David Bond allowed the team members to utilize a Union Street batting cage he operates.

"We started our spring training in January," said Burch.

Once warmer weather arrived, practices moved to the MCLA field, Bullet said. The women practice twice weekly as much as possible, and several of the team players are on city league women's teams as well, she said.

Bassi remains active as a local league player.

"I love this [Forever Young] team," she said. "I'd like to take this team into the competition league in North Adams. The dedication of this team is amazing."

The Pleasure Of Bats And Balls

The Northern Berkshire Women's Softball League is over three decades old and at one time was popular enough to host two divisions, according to several of the softball players. Levesque is a former member of that league.

"I liked playing softball until it came to a point that it wasn't fun anymore," she said. "This [newer team] is fun."

"It's a very friendly team," said Ellsworth.

"We give gold stars," said Kleiner. "And we take 'em."

Reuniting with former league team members is part of the pleasure of playing, said Flynt.

"I think it's great getting together again," she said. "A lot of us used to play against each other."

The teammates agreed that once women pass a certain age, some separation between younger and older competitors is necessary.

Ellsworth said there is a growing interest in starting a softball league for women age 40 and older.

Batter Up, Rain Or Shine

The team commitment is very strong, Bullett said, and she noted that last week, there was rain during part of a scheduled practice.

"And we have six ladies in the rain saying 'can we practice, can we practice,'" Bullett said.

About 11 players showed up for a scheduled Aug. 1 practice, despite an over 90 degree Fahrenheit air temperature and a over 100-degree heat index.

The team is eligible to compete during a 2007 National Senior Olympics competition set for Louisville, Kentucky, Bullett said.

Berkshire Senior Athletes Capture Gold And Silver

Numerous state 2006 Senior Olympics Summer Games events have been held and Berkshire region residents are among the gold and silver medal winners, said Fetteroll.

City attorney Fred Thompson captured a gold medal during a singles racquetball event and also captured gold during a triathlon. Thompson finished a 400 meter swim, a 20K bike race and a 5K run with a time of 1:13:26, Fetteroll said.

"I remember it as a rather warm day, so he beat the heat,too," he said of Thompson's win.

A Berkshire team found victory in a 60-64 year-old basketball competition as well. The "Berkshire 60s" team won the gold medal in that event, Fetteroll said. Team members are Berkshire region residents Bob Barton, Bob Bence, John Clapp, Myles Whitney and Ed Curtin.

Team "Berkshire Young" competed in a 55-59 year-old basketball competition and claimed a silver medal, Fetteroll said. Bob O'Neill and Len Zuckerman of Pittsfield were among the silver medalists, Fetteroll said.

The softball competition postponement may have helped the women's softball team better their chances at a medal, Burch said.

"The delay actually gives us more opportunity to gel as a team," she said. "It gives us a chance to hone our skills as a team."

The Massachusetts Senior Games was launched in 1991. Winter games were introduced at the state level in 1995. At present, the state program offers 23 summer senior games events, seven winter games events, and an Olympic Fitness Walk.

Additional information about the Massachusetts Senior Games is available at a www.maseniorgames.org Internet web site.

Susan Bush may be reached via e-mail at suebush@iberkshires.com or at 802-823-9367.
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