Alley-oop! Spokane Retirees at Touchmark Embrace Balance-Based Basketball Skills for March Madness Fun

With their own March Madness workout, a few Spokane retirees have found a way to get in on the action while cheering on the Zags.

Residents of a class at Touchmark on South Hill aim to score big in strength and balance. In this month’s basketball physical skills camp, they learn footwork, passing, dribbling and shooting every Wednesday.

“It’s a great physical and also mental workout,” said Charlotte Bouley, 75. “I love Gonzaga. I have friends here and we watch all the games together.

Bouley saw some info on the Touchmark class and thought it sounded fun. She also has a fitness trainer at the facility for personal workouts. After the third basketball skills session, she laughed to be ready for the Zags.

“I’m ready to sit in the chair and watch.”

Beulah Whitlow, 86, is a bit of a veteran.

“I kind of played in high school, well, physical education,” she said. “This class is really an extension of the bigger picture. I come every day for balance and stability, and I want that kind of help every day to try to avoid falls.

“They just make it more interesting by tying it to basketball season and making it more fun.”

At the same time, it’s clear that many Touchmark residents support the Gonzaga Bulldogs in the NCAA basketball tournament, with plenty of Zags posters adorning the walls.

Certified fitness professionals Alexis Crellin and Dawn Olson lead the retirees in the class, which last week had five women. However, no less than eight came. Crellin and Olson used duct tape to turn Touchmark’s health and fitness studio into a makeshift basketball court.

As any basketball team would, the members began with a warm-up and conditioning. During a skill drill, they walked to the front line, and back, then repeated for each line to the end of the field. Crellin then directed side-to-side footwork the full length of the court along with other skills for balance by rotating one foot forward or backward.

The group also practiced throws while changing position so that one person at the end could slam the ball into a makeshift basket, a large trash can.

“Many residents are Gonzaga University alumni or just love the Bulldogs and are passionate about March Madness every year,” Olson said. “We were inspired by their enthusiasm when planning this series of courses and are inspired by their enthusiasm to hone their own skills in the field.”

Jackie Martin, 86, said she enjoyed the class for better balance after breaking her leg last year when she fell on a patch of ice. She also has fun cheering on Gonzaga, which is just a no-brainer at Touchmark, she added.

“If you’re not, they won’t let you in the dining room,” Martin joked. “Yes, definitely rooted for the Zags. It’s funny; Dawn is always cooking up something wonderful for us.

For the final lesson, they will put their newfound skills to the test for fun and competition in a final scrum.