These “ancient athletes” rock it year-round.
The Baton Rouge Ancient Athlete Society keeps competitive and stays strong with its five sports, various fundraisers and social activities. And the members have a lot of fun. Their logo: an hour glass with the sand running out.
“But it never does,” jokes one member.
Craig Polk says he’s the president of a sports organization for men who aren’t really athletes anymore. BRAAS is currently in its 34th year and has 320 members. “Ancient” is relative here; you have to be older than 30 to join, and be sponsored by an existing member. Every year the group takes in a varying number of rookies.
There’s flag football in the fall, two leagues — open and “The Legends League” (over 40) — of basketball in the winter, softball in the spring and beach volleyball in the summer. A golf league throughout the year includes one tournament a month. A sophisticated scoring system calculates a winner at year’s end.
Polk, 38 and president of Slow Polks, his startup running/racing company, says the men all love the sports, but it’s really about friendships.
“Sports are a vehicle to get us involved with one another,” says Polk. He says they’re a big business network as well, giving each other opportunities when possible.
Over the years, the society has staged fundraisers for several fellow BRAAS members who have had serious illnesses. Last year, they started a charitable foundation, BRAAS Strong, so they’ll have money available whenever it’s needed. They raise the funds various ways, including volleyball tournaments, Super Bowl boards and silent auctions.
Membership costs $350 a year and the men can play as many or as few sports as they’d like.
Carl Carver, 48, is the incoming president.
“This is one of the most well-run organizations I’ve ever been a part of,” he says.
It’s a lot of work but Carver says the relationships make it worthwhile.
“I’ve met hundreds of guys I can call friends and we rally for each other when we have issues.”
Carver, vice president of Lofton Staffing, played collegiate baseball.
“I think being able to still compete and get that out of your system once a week, year-round is important,” says Carver. At this year’s Spring Gala, Carver was awarded MVP for all sports.
BRAAS takes applications in the summer, accompanied by a letter of recommendation by an existing member. Other members can comment on the applicants on their secure website. They also have a Facebook page and a mobile app. The app, written by a member, lets them check schedules, sign up for activities and communicate with one another.
Pete Adams, director of the Louisiana District Attorneys Association, played a lot of sports and knew of a similar club in New Orleans. He and friend Harold Moise started the ball rolling on BRAAS.
“By 1981 I drew papers up and incorporated it,” says Adams.
“We were not satisfied with BREC as we were getting a little long in the tooth and we didn’t want to compete with youngsters; also, your social life gets more important as you get older,” says Adams.
The group originally picked 12 men who had different spheres of interest and asked them to get nine additional men. Instructions were to pick men who want to compete athletically and who you’d want to hang out with after a game and form friendships with.
“We wanted to have a draft each season for each sport so that after two or three years you’ve been teammates with different people and you get to know everyone,” says Adams.
At 67, Adams is now what they call a “Gray Beard” member and attends the social events and plays a little golf.
“We wanted to make it a club that was hard to get into so you’d value the membership,” says Adams. “If you were a bad sport or a bad person you’d lose your membership and its value.”
Polk says the hardest job within the organization belongs to the Major Sports Commissioner. Madison Mulkey now wears that hat and says he has to stay organized to make sure the fields are booked, referees are hired, equipment is available and everything is arranged for their social events. Mulkey, 51 and director of operations for DPI, says he’s played sports all his life, though after a few broken ribs, he’s given up flag football. Mulkey says his favorite sport is the one he’s playing at the time.
BRAAS kicks off its year in August with a six-on-six tournament. With 16 teams of six they play two games of softball, two games of volleyball, two games of basketball and two games of football, back-to-back, changing to the proper shoes in between.
“It’s random. You play two games of each of the four sports. We had to write a computer program for the schedule.” says Mulkey. “It’s very complicated the way we do it. But it is so fun!” he adds.
On playing six-on-six softball, Mulkey explained a complex system involving cones. “We have a spreadsheet with all the rules for every sport and a scoring program,” says Mulkey.
The tournament is the guys’ way of indoctrinating the rookies, who are required to play, and for them to meet the regular members. A draft is held later.
Mulkey stresses the importance of good sportsmanship and said, for example, “in basketball if someone gets a second technical foul during the course of the season they have to come before the board because that’s not what we’re about.”
He says there is a gathering place after every game.
“Having a beer together afterwards is how we forge our friendships.”
Mulkey says there are a few members in their 60s who always say it’s important to keep active. He says it’s always funny to watch the rookies (who think they’re going to run over the older guys) get beat by them.
BRAAS has a commissioner and assistant commissioner for each sport and Mulkey has an assistant as well who’s learning the ropes before he takes over.
The athletes play softball at Oak Villa, football at Kathy Road Park and basketball at the Louisiana School for the Deaf. Beach volleyball is at Mango’s, which is owned by BRAAS member Tim Bourgeois. They play golf at various courses in the area.
Brandon Deaton, 35, just completed his rookie year.
“It’s an awesome club as far as welcoming a new guy in,” says Deaton, a member of the largest-ever rookie class. “It’s been great competition and camaraderie as well as a business network,” he adds.
“Basketball is my favorite sport,” says Deaton, a sales representative at Quality Concrete and former football and basketball coach, “but this is the first time I ever played volleyball and it could easily become my favorite.”
Deaton says the group’s social events get the wives and children involved.
Even though their ages vary from the 30s to the 60s, he says there’s strong competition, but they also have a good time.
“We have a cocktail after the game and act like we’re all LeBron James.”