Columbia, SC (WLTX) --- Claire Boesman is like most collegiate student-athletes. She goes to class, manages her time and competes in a sport. The difference between her and the rest of her Columbia College teammates? Claire is a 39 year-old sophomore.
Boesman is a native of Florida who originally played basketball at Broward Community College in 1991. She withdrew from Broward to allow her husband to finish school, thus ending her basketball playing career.
After a numerous job changes and relocations, Boesman decided she wanted to be back on the hardcourt.
"I worked several jobs and decided it was time for a change," Boesman said. "I found this college and found Coach Audas."
Coach Maria Audas is in her third year at the helm of the Columbia College basketball program. She first became aware of Boesman's situation afer a phone conservation between the two.
"At the end of the conversation....she said 'Coach it might help you know that I'm a little bit older.' And I said 'Ok well much older?,'" Audas asked. "We've had athletes come before...mid twenties. She said 'Well I'm 39 years-old.' And then that's when you say 'Okay this is a unique one.'"
Boesman came in for a tryout with just the Columbia College coaching staff. No players, just coaches. She had to prove to the coaches that she would be able to keep up.
"It was a shot in the dark. It happened very quickly. I called, I think, on a Monday and she's like 'Can you come out Friday?'" Boesman recalls. "I hadn't played since 1992, so to come out in four days...I had four days to prepare for this."
After passing the initial tryout, Boesman's next step was proving to her future teammates that she could compete. Not long during the scrimmage with girls twenty years younger than her did Boesman show she belonged.
"She was just like one of us," Taylor Smith, teammate of Boseman.
Once accepted as a member of the Fighting Koalas, Boesman would not be deemed a starter. She has picked up quality minutes off the bench. Though she's only a sophomore, Boesman's experience is a quality Coach Audas can appreciate.
"She's the wisdom and experience of a coach coming from the voice of a player," Audas said. "Players respect coaches but players listen to their teammates."
Being a leader is just one of the roles Boesman is plays on this team. Her teammates and coaches say she is the head prankster amongst the girls. She's pulled a number of pranks on Coach Audas including disrupting a head-count on a road trip causing the team bus to be turned around.
Boesman calls herself a "kid at heart." But the experience of playing collegiate basketball isn't lost.
"I just think being able to play again, being able to finally live my dream that I've wanted to live but I gave up....just falling in love with the game of basketball even more," she said.
"It's just awesome....there's no words to describe it. It's a blessing in the sky."