Granny Basketball league prepares for Jamboree

MARION — As the women of the Center Point Model T’s faced off against the members of the Marion Noon Lions Club Sunday, the makeshift basketball court on the second floor of the Marion Heritage Center rang with shouts of laughter. Spectators held up signs with slogans like, “My granny’s got game!”

“We do this for exercise and fun, so we might get a little crazy,” said Model T’s member Donna Bean, 85, of Marion.

This was an exhibition game demonstrating Granny Basketball — league members play six-on-six basketball using 1920s-era rules.

They’re preparing for the Granny Basketball Jamboree at Trinity Lutheran School on Jan. 26, which will kick off its 2019 season with games between 12 area teams.


The Granny Basketball league started in Lansing in 2005 and now has more than 300 players on 30 teams in nine states. All players must be at least 50 years old, and the oldest member was in her 90s before she stopped playing, said Bean.

The six-on-six style, and the bloomers the women wear, honor the history of women’s basketball in Iowa and the generations of women who participated in the unique style of the sport from the 1920s until it ended in 1993.

The Heritage Center put up baskets and taped the floors to create a 1920s-style basketball court for Sunday’s exhibition game, which highlighted the museum’s exhibit on 150 years of Marion sports, up now through Feb. 24.

Jane Suiter, 70, of Marion, was at the game as a supporter. She played on the Late Bloomers team in Cedar Rapids and is former director of the League. She said Granny Basketball is a bit of a chance to redeem the past — when she was growing up, her high school, Don Bosco in Gilbertville, didn’t offer girls sports at all.

“I’ve always been sort of a frustrated athlete, because I didn’t have a chance to play,” she said. “I played against my brother in the barn.”

No running or jumping is allowed in Granny Basketball, to keep it accessible and safe for older players.

“It’s more exercise than you might think it is,” said Colette Cook, 61, of Cedar Rapids. “It takes more work to not jump and run, sometimes.”


That was demonstrated as the members of the opposing team, the mostly men of the Marion Noon Lions Club, kept getting fouls when they forgot the rules and jumped to make a basket. At the end of the game, the Model T’s were victorious, 65 to 14.

“Go Model T’s — aoogah!” the women chanted in a break between quarters.

Bean, who went to high school in Lone Tree, remembers playing basketball and softball and singing in the choir. Her graduating class had fewer than 15 people, she said.


“I did it all, because they needed you,” she said. Then she went to the Iowa State Teachers College, now called the University of Northern Iowa, but had to stop playing because of injuries. She said she enjoyed taking up basketball again decades later. It keeps her active while reminding her of her school days. She also likes the social aspects of the league.

“It’s the camaraderie,” she said. “You just become such good friends, it’s like a family.”

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If you go

What: Granny Basketball Jamboree

Where: Trinity Lutheran School gym, 1361 Seventh Ave. SW, Cedar Rapids

When: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Jan. 26

Cost: Freewill donation benefiting Horizons Meals on Wheels and Grateful Granniesa