History of the Nebraska Senior Games

Kearney Visitor Bureau Executive Director Roger Jasnoch received a post card in the mail back in 1991 and the rest is history.   The post card invited him to the National Senior Games in Syracuse, New York; the 3rd annual National Senior Games where they offered 18 sports and had 5,000 athletes participate.  One day at the National Senior Games, they invited people to a session to learn more about the Games and becoming a host city in your own city.  Roger thought this was a great opportunity for the Kearney community.  

When he returned to Kearney, he communicated with Kearney Park and Recreation and got them involved and hosted the first annual Nebraska Senior Games in 1989.  They offered 10 sports and had approximately 180 people participate.  They kept the Games open, so other people from out of the state of Nebraska could participate in the Games; bringing more people to Kearney. 

In 1999, the Kearney Visitor Bureau transferred the coordination of the event to Kearney Park and Recreation, but they both still partner together to offer the Nebraska Senior Games.  The Senior Games have been coordinated in Kearney, Nebraska since 1989. We now offer over 15 different sports and have had 405 people participate in the 2014 Nebraska Senor Games, marking a record number of participants.   We continue to look to grow and expand the awareness of the Nebraska Senior Games.  

1998 - 249 participants 1999 - 237 participants
2000 - 295 participants 2001 - 253 participants
2002 - 373 participants 2003 - 292 participants
2004 - 340 participants 2005 - 262 participants
2006 - 325 participants 2007 - 251 participants
2008 - 316 participants 2009 - 210 participants
2010 - 331 participants 2011 - 214 participants
2012 - 374 participants 2013 - 341 participants
2014 - 405 participants 2015 - 310 participants
2016 - 404 participants 2017 - 293 participants
2018 - 389 participants 2019 - 310 participants


A Brief History of the National Senior Games

In the mid-1960s, the National Recreation Association, now known as the National Recreation and Parks Association, developed a "Lifetime Sports" program, which emphasized getting individuals involved in sports which they could compete in throughout their life span. As the concept developed across the country in the mid-1970s, middle aged amateur athletes of the mid-1960s were becoming mature senior athletes.

Warren W. Blaney, a Los Angeles businessman, is widely recognized as the founder of the Senior Games Movement.  Blaney, a track and field athlete in his youth, entered one of the track events for adult athletes that were springing up, in part due to the jogging craze triggered by Dr. Kenneth Cooper’s influential best-selling book Aerobics. The experience inspired Blaney to dream of an Olympic-style multi-sports event for older athletes. In 1969, he founded a nonprofit organization and secured the help of the Helms Athletic Foundation and the Los Angeles Times. A year later, Blaney staged the first “Senior Olympix” in Los Angeles.

From there, the movement spread from California to other states. The first recurring games began in 1975 in Sanford, Florida, which are still being held annually 42 years later. By the mid-1980s, 33 multi-sport games for seniors had been established around the country. 

In 1985, an effort was launched in St. Louis to create a national competition event, led by Harris Frank and Ken Marshall. Seven men and women formed the original leadership for what was initially known as the National Senior Olympics Organization (NSOO). In the fall of 1985, they hosted a meeting of individuals who were currently conducting games for seniors in their states. That group planned the first National Senior Olympic Games, held in 1987 in St. Louis.

The first games were a great success involving more than 2,500 competitors in 15 sports. The NSOO was formalized during the games – with a Board of Directors elected, articles of incorporation filed in the State of Missouri, and bylaws adopted. An estimated 100,000 spectators viewed the first Games ceremonies featuring Bob Hope at the St. Louis Riverfront Arch.

The second Games also took place in St. Louis in 1989, hosting 3,400 senior athletes. The event received significant national media coverage by the New York Times, ESPN and ABC’s Good Morning America. After this second success, The Games began to move to a different city every two years to stimulate more awareness and participation around the country.

Passing the Torch: National Senior Games Host Cities






St. Louis, MO




St. Louis, MO




 Syracuse, NY




 Baton Rouge, LA




 San Antonio, TX




Tucson, AZ




Orlando, FL




Baton Rouge, LA




 Hampton Roads, VA




 Pittsburgh, PA




Louisville, KY




Palo Alto, CA




 Houston, TX




 Cleveland, OH




Minneapolis, MN




Birmingham, Alabama








 *Reflects more stringent qualifying standards

In 1990, an agreement was reached with the United States Olympic Committee based on its objection to the use of the term Olympic in the organization’s corporate name, and the name was changed to the U.S. National Senior Sports Organization. The event is now known as The National Senior Games and the organization does business as the National Senior Games Association (NSGA). NSGA remains as an ongoing Multi-Sport Council member of the USOC.

NSGA moved its corporate office from St. Louis to Baton Rouge, LA, in 1997.  The organization now includes 53 member qualifying games in every state, the District of Columbia, Canada Games and The National Veterans Golden Age Games. Since 2007, Humana has supported the biennial event as Presenting Sponsor, underscoring its commitment to advocate healthy, active aging and wellness.

The non-profit organization is dedicated to not only stage quality games for seniors, but to also put its Mission Statement into action: “To promote health and wellness for adults 50 and over through fitness, education and sport.” There is now an affiliated NSGA Foundation, and NSGA has a full-time Health and Wellness Manager on staff to advance the mission.

Today, the National Senior Games has grown to one of the largest multi-sport events in the world. We are proud to continue to fulfill the vision that Warren Blaney summarized in a 1983 Los Angeles Times interview. “This kind of thing is good in every way,” he said. “Instead of looking back as they get older, Senior Olympians think about tomorrow. They think, ‘I’ll beat that guy next year.’"

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