Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, September 22, 2017

Judge delivers winning performance on the court

- Photograph by David Laprad

As a Hamilton County General Sessions Court judge, the Hon. Clarence Shattuck, Jr., spends his days on the bench.

As the captain of the Bombers, a team of octogenarian basketball players, he hits the bench only during breaks in the action. He’s on the court the rest of the time sinking two-pointers and hustling on defense.

The 82-year-old hoopster might have been more agile back when he played for Soddy Daisy High School, but he still has a lot of fight in him, even if he can’t cover as much ground as he used to.

“I like the competition,” he says.

The Bombers compete in the Tennessee Senior Olympics. Since Shattuck joined the team in 1999 at the urging of the late Charlie Rogers, owner of Charlie Rogers Ford in Dayton, the team has placed either first or second in the state nearly every year and consistently fared well in the national tournament.

At the national competition in Birmingham, Alabama, in June, the Bombers took third place in the 80- to 84-year-old division.

One of Shattucks’ teammates came up with a way to win the national event. “He said we need to live to be 90, since there aren’t any teams competing in that category,” the judge says, laughing.

The Bombers might not need to wait that long to win the big title. During recent practices, they’ve been toughening themselves by playing against younger Senior Olympians, including local players in the 65- to 69-year-old category.

“Going up against the younger guys helps us,” Shattuck says. “When we play teams our age, we feel like we’re a little faster.”

As much as Shattuck and his five teammates enjoy competing against other squads, their win-loss record is less important than the other benefits of participating in the Senior Olympics.

For example, Shattuck says he’s made many close friends over the years. Of course, these pals waste no opportunity to give him a hard time.

While practicing at Frances B. Wyatt Recreation Center on a recent Tuesday afternoon, one of Shattuck’s fellow Senior Olympians pointed to the “No Dunking” sign painted onto each backboard. “We have to obey the law with the judge around,” he said, winking.

After practice, Shattuck led the dozen or so men in prayer – but not to help them repent for their good-natured cajoling.

“We’ve been playing together a long time,” Shattuck says. “We care about each other.”

The judge has also reaped the benefits of regular exercise during their year-round practices.

Following 75 minutes of non-stop practice on the same Tuesday afternoon, the judge hit the sack at 9 p.m. and slept for nine and a-half hours. “My wife woke me up at 6:30,” he says. “I slept straight through.”

Kelly Price, Senior Olympics coordinator for the Chattanooga district, says sports keeps athletes mentally healthy, as well. “Practicing all year for the tournaments gives you something to look forward to,” she says.

Judge Shattuck concurs. “I believe your physical health is tied to your mental health. When you have a job like mine, sports help you to relieve stress,” he says.

While there’s no arguing the benefits of basketball at any age, it isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. No problem, says Price, who pulls out an event schedule for Chattanooga.

Beginning in October, the local district will begin hosting a slew of competitions that require varying degrees of physical exertion.

Tennis, track and field, badminton, swimming and the up-and-coming sport of pickleball (a combination of tennis, badminton and table tennis) are among the more strenuous activities.

Less taxing events include golf, shuffleboard, horseshoes, softball throw, free throws, three-point shots, table tennis and bowling.

Price says the range of sports allows people of all activity levels to participate.

Age is no excuse to stay home instead, she adds. “We have a 96-year-old who does track and field and plays badminton and pickleball,” she says.

Competing in the upcoming district competition will qualify individuals and teams to take part in the state competition next year. Placing first or second at the state level advances senior athletes to the national event.

Price encourages everyone to try a sport – even if they think something might be beyond their capability.

“Basketball is played on half a court, with two teams of three players each competing in two 12-minute halves,” she says. “It’s tailored for older players.”

That said, those wanting a true test of their physical mettle will find what they’re looking for in the Senior Olympics. “These guys are amazing,” Price says of the Bombers. “They’re in shape. They play hard.”

Shattuck became a Senior Olympian when he signed up to play racquetball. When he saw the free throw competition, his love for the sport of his youth stirred inside him and he signed up for that, too.

Now, Shattuck is addicted to the half-court.

“I enjoy it,” he says. “I’ll be playing as long as my body holds out.”