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Finding Her Community

June 12, 2023

A Girl on the Court

You can catch Jean Bailey on the pickleball court every week here at the Jordan YMCA. It’s true that she’s only about to begin her fifth month at the game, but she’s already started her fifth decade at the Y. Jean’s family has been both big and small over the years, but the YMCA has always met her where she is and been part of her community.

The Baileys first started with a family membership in the early eighties. A few years before joining the Y, Jean had joined the Bailey family. She married Buddy and became a bonus mom to two boys, including Monte Bailey, who now sits on the Jordan Y Advisory Board. Back then, Jean took “Stretch N’ Flex” group classes. Buddy and Jean’s two youngest children took swim lessons and joined youth sports.

“I got to watch my daughter play basketball here,” Jean shares. “She’s now 42… She was a girl on a team full of boys. The boys were pretty aggressive and she was a small thing, but she wanted to play.”

Jean remembers how the coach devised a way to ensure her daughter Michele got some court time. He played to her strength as a free-throw shooter.

That Special Sauce

Monte Bailey also remembers that he and his siblings went to Flat Rock River Camp, and Michele, and his younger brother Gerrad, even attended preschool here.

“I don’t think that there’s really any other place out there that caters to families and builds a community the way the Y does,” he says. “I don’t think they’ve really figured out that special sauce that the Y has.”

As the children grew, the Y didn’t fall behind, either. During Monte’s teen years, he and a football teammate exercised at the Y after school. Then, in his early twenties, he played pick-up basketball here. Now Monte is a father, and Jean’s grandkids enjoy the center as well.

An Unexpected Connection

But even as her immediate family began to look different and her extended family grew, the Y didn’t stop meeting Jean’s own needs for community. Her husband passed away in January of this year. After having cared for him for so long, Jean determined that it was time for her to start taking care of herself. She started out in the Wellness Center on the elliptical machines as well as walking around the Y.

One day, in an effort to get in more steps, Jean walked all the way down the hall toward the gym.

“I heard the paddle and the ball and I just stopped and looked in the door,” she says. “And then Miss Audrey just walked over to me and said, ‘Hi, you wanna try?’ I said, ‘Mmm, I don’t know.’ She said, ‘Come on!’”

This woman didn’t even know Jean, but she walked over to her and told her that she could use her paddle. Jean took it and walked onto the court. Right after class on that first day, she went to Walmart and bought a paddle.

“If pickleball’s playing at the Y,” Audrey says, “I’m generally here. So I generally come every Tuesday and Thursday because of the people and community. They’re very welcoming. They have welcomed me – because I wasn’t the first one to start this.”

And that's what Jean loves about pickleball: the comradery. The players rotate so that one set plays two games at a time and then sits out while another set comes in. Jean shares that the time of sitting and connecting is almost as fun as the game itself. Everyone has a story to tell.

Not One Bad Experience

And Jean has her own story: she has lost 25 pounds since February. With that weight gone, her knee joints are feeling better and she makes it around the pickleball court more easily!

“Looking back, the Y has been there for my family, my husband, my kids, for myself – myself now,” Jean says.

When asked what stands out to her about the Y, she says that “it’s still here after all these years, and still very caring.” That has never changed: the staff and the people that you meet make the YMCA a welcoming community.

Jean smiles: “I’ve not had one bad experience here at the Y.”

We’d love to be a part of your health journey, whether as an individual or along with your family. Check out our youth and adult sports here. Want to share your story with us? Visit our website for a chance to be featured.

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