Capturing senior sports moments

New magazine, Geezerjock, covers athletes over 40

Fitness

August 26, 2005|By Korky Vann | Korky Vann,HARTFORD COURANT

Except for the lack of a swimsuit issue, Geezerjock - a new magazine targeting older athletes - could be called Sports Illustrated for Seniors.

The slick publication, launched this year, includes a similar format of feature stories, event coverage, profiles and eye-catching photography as SI - with one major difference. All of Geezerjock's content is focused on Masters' level competitors and competitions.

"Masters" is commonly used to refer to sporting events for men and women amateur athletes 40 or 50 and above. (The age varies depending on the sport and the competition.) Publisher Brian Reilly says the inspiration for the magazine occurred when co-founders Shawn Calahan and Steve Boman experienced a "senior moment" - literally.

"Shawn and Steve were sports reporters who were sent to cover a Masters' competition," says Reilly. "They were so amazed and impressed at the quality of the athletes, the performances and the numbers of participants, that they saw a real potential for a publication geared toward this demographic."

That was in 1999. It took the group five years to put together a business plan and garner financing for the venture. An enthusiastic response from readers and advertisers to a test issue published in the fall of 2004 persuaded them to take the plunge.

"We set up a Web site, geezerjock.com, and offered free subscriptions," says Reilly.

More than 10,000 copies of the debut spring issue were mailed in March. Since then, says Reilly, circulation has increased to 34,000 readers and requests for free two-year subscriptions continue to come in.

"The growth in circulation speaks to the growth in Masters sports and shows that our magazine has tapped into a group that has been starved for coverage," says Bill Ferguson, Geezerjock's vice president of sales.

Sports covered in the magazine include track and field, swimming, basketball, baseball, football, gymnastics, badminton and squash. Other features include gear and equipment reviews, training and nutrition tips, a calendar of events around the country and an invitation for subscribers to nominate individuals for the Geezerjock of the Year Awards. The award program will recognize male and female winners in five age categories, from 40 to 49 to 80-plus.

Reilly says research shows that Masters athletics are expected to boom as the population ages. If the growth of the Huntsman Games in Utah and other senior sporting events are any indication, that's already happening, says Laura Bingham, media manager for the Huntsman Games, one of the world's largest senior sporting competitions.

"We've grown every year since we began in 1987. This year, over 10,000 athletes participated," says Bingham. "It doesn't surprise me that there's now a magazine devoted to Masters athletics. With all the interest, it surprises me that it's taken this long for one to be published."

Geezerjock's summer issue includes a feature on the National Senior Games, which attracted more than 10,000 competitors 50 and older to Pittsburgh in June.

It also contains readers' polarized opinions on the magazine's controversial name. "Insulting and obscure," wrote one respondent. "Absolutely loved it," wrote another. Reilly says the combination of the two words defuses the negative implications of "geezer" and reinterprets what it means to be a jock.

"No question, our name has generated a lot of reaction," says Reilly. "I'd say it's been running 5 to 1 in favor. Growing old doesn't mean what it used to and geezer doesn't, either. As long as people are competing, even into their 80s and beyond, we're going to be covering them."

The Hartford Courant is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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