INDIAN ROCKS BEACH, Fla. — Virgil Sweet is 93-years-old, he’ll be 94 on April 27, and still enjoys a competitive game of tennis.
“It still bothers me when I lose,” Sweet said. “As long as that is the feeling I guess I will still keep playing.”
He plays three days a week at various courts around Pinellas County, often with Kathleen Brown, who is 26 years younger.
“It’s amazing,” Brown said. “He does a lot of drop shots which you can’t get. He can still run and has the best attitude.”
Sweet also served in World War II. He was based on a ship in the South Pacific. His competitive drive comes from 25 years as an accomplished high school basketball coach and member of the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame.
“Basketball has always been my first love,” he said. “My teams were known for free-throw shooting.”
In fact, his 1963-64 squad holds the national high school team record for shooting 79 percent from the free-throw stripe.
“It became a tradition at the (Valparaiso) high school. I lectured on it in 17 states.
Sweet developed a specific 20 steps to stay sharp in shooting a free throw. He also has a theory in staying sharp — mind and body, as you get older.
“It is very simple. That is to follow the “Can’t, Don’t Theory,” Sweet explained. “If you don’t do something, pretty soon you can’t do it. If I come out here on the courts I can keep playing. But if I don’t come out here and play for 2-3 months, I can’t play.”
Now that he’s had his second COVID-19 shot, he plans to re-join his tennis league and pick-up doubles.
“I still have some competitive spirit,” Sweet said. “If I don’t play well, I am anxious to come back the next time. It’s just competitive spirit. You have it or you don’t have it.”
And that he has.