Elder Chair Volleyball Regional Qualifier Tournament Photo by Christian Toews

Over 230 people and 30 teams attended the elder chair volleyball regional qualifier tournament in Durant on July 28.

Choctaw elders take part in chair volleyball tournament

September 1, 2022

The Choctaw Nation Wellness Center in Durant hosted the elder chair volleyball regional qualifier tournament on Thursday, July 28.

Elders from every district of the Choctaw Nation made up the 30 teams participating in the tournament. The four winning teams will compete for the championship at the Labor Day festival at Tvshka Homma.
Chair volleyball started with the original Wellness Center in Durant around 2008.

“Over the last 14 years, with the expansion of our Senior Wellness Programs and the addition of 14 Wellness Centers, Elder Chair Volleyball is now played in every district, reaching every corner of the Choctaw Nation. Senior Wellness groups get together a couple of times a week and either play in one of our Wellness Centers or their local Community Center,” said Chase Henson, the Choctaw Nation Wellness Director.

According to Henson, aside from the competition, chair volleyball is a way for people to build mobility and stay active.

“Some of the productive things they get from chair volleyball is, it helps with mobility and it helps with their fitness level because many of the participants will come in and participate in senior fitness programs before chair volleyball kicks off. Some of them will do a chair aerobics class before sitting down to play. But ultimately, it’s a great way for them to socialize, build community, and have fun,” he said.

Elder Chair Volleyball Regional Qualifier Tournament
Photo by Christian Toews

Elders play a game of chair volleyball at the Durant Wellness Center. Chair volleyball is a way for people to build mobility, stay active and participate in healthy competition.

Ione Shields from McAlester is a four-year veteran of chair volleyball. She is part of one of the four teams who will advance to the championships at Tvshka Homma this year. Shields said this was the second time she’s made it to the championship tournament.

“In 2019, we won and went to Tvshka Homma, but we lost out, but it was fun,” she said. Shields commented on the benefits she has seen from chair volleyball “It’s really good for you health-wise. I just came back from a broken neck around Thanksgiving. I had surgery. I have rods and screws in my neck. It’s been good therapy. There have been people who were using walkers, and they don’t even use walkers anymore. That’s how good it is,” said Shields.

According to Henson, there were over 230 people who attended this year’s tournament.

The tournament involved one pool game that led to a double-elimination tournament. This year, the top four qualifying teams are Idabel 2, Bethel/Battiest, Poteau 1 and McAlester 1.

If you are interested in participating, contact your local Choctaw Wellness Center or Community Center for more information about joining a volleyball team.

The chair volleyball tournament is just one example of how the Choctaw Nation maintains the long-held honor toward elders. Honoring elders extends back as far as the earliest Choctaw history.

According to Judy Allen, Choctaw Nation’s Historic Project Officer, elders have always been held in high regard in Choctaw society.

“Choctaws have had a strong family connection for the hundreds of years that history has documented our life values. The tribal members have cared for the young and the old, just as we do today. Paying respect to elders, learning from their wisdom, has always been an important part of continued success for the tribe as a whole,” said Allen.

Part of Judy Allen’s work at the Choctaw Nation is preserving the history of the Choctaw people.
“The pleasure of paying respect and tribute to our elders is one of the greatest honors of my job. Visiting with them and listening to their life stories, hearing history through their memories, is a tremendous gratification,” said Allen.

While programs like chair volleyball might seem like only a fun time, it represents a much larger to provide opportunities, assistance, community and honor to elders.

To learn more about programs specifically for elders, visit choctawnation.com/services/.

Elder Chair Volleyball Regional Qualifier Tournament Spectators
Photo by Christian Toews

Spectators watch as elders fill the Wellness Center for the regional qualifier tournament.