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T HE WOMEN ’S I SSU E

Bailey Pons

H I G H S C H O O L SEN IO R AN D B O U N C IN G BU LLDO G MEMBER Bailey, 17, is a senior jumper with the Bouncing Bulldogs, one of the best jump rope teams in the world. The Bulldogs, founded 30 years ago by Coach Ray Fredrick Jr., have competed and led workshops in Costa Rica, Japan, China, Peru, France and many other countries. Bailey has won many individual awards and her group has been the best female group in the world for the last three years, and for the last two years it won the top prize at a double Dutch speed competition at the Apollo Theater in New York. This summer, she will graduate from Woods Charter School. In July she and her team will defend their title in Norway during her last competition with the group.

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hen Bailey jumps, the ordinary quickly becomes miraculous. The first jump or two are familiar from any playground or gym in the world, the rope arching casually around her. But then the rope disappears in a blur, and Bailey is now on one hand and now she’s somersaulting. Now the rope is buzzing beneath and around her, and she seems immune to the normal bounds of speed and gravity. “It may seem simple,” Bailey says, “but it’s hard to understand the connection that can come from a single rope.” She’s been strengthening the connection for 11 years. Bailey came to the Bulldogs by way of a five-day summer camp when she was 6. She was excited from the beginning, she says, but not just because of all those amazing jumpers. When she first entered the gym, “they had all these awards on the table.” She remembers thinking, “I want those trophies just like them.” “It was pretty immediate for me,” she says. The bigger kids “were so good and so skilled,” and “I always wanted to be like that.” Bailey has several trophies of her own in those cases now, but, in April, when given a chance to talk about her accomplishments, she talked mostly about her group. Her senior group (ages 15 and up) has four other members – Jordyn Watkins, Megan Shohfi, Alex Bush and Ragan Copeland – and they’ve worked together for six years. 56

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May/June 2019

“Our group is really close-knit,” she says, “and you create this language together.” That chemistry is at the root of their dominance. It is difficult, in fact, to separate her success from that of the group, she says. “I do my best when I’m jumping with my peers.” Communication, she says, is crucial in Double Dutch, when two members turn two ropes simultaneously, one member jumps, and another calls out encouragement and guidance. “You can have one of the best jumpers in the world in the middle of those ropes” she says, “but if the turners can’t turn, then it won’t work.” It is a sentiment at the heart of a lovely riddle in the Bulldogs’ teaching. “You always have to stay in your own lane,” Bailey says of a core principle handed down from coach to mentor to the littlest Bulldog. It means focus on your effort and don’t worry about what another team is doing. But when it comes to helping teammates, those lanes are wide. It’s what they teach the students. “We pair them in partners,” she says, “so they learn how to encourage their teammates and how to lean on one another. “I’ve been here for 11 years, and jump rope has been a huge part of my life, but the thing it’s taught me the most is the importance of serving others,” she says. “I think the opportunities this program gives you to literally connect yourself with a jump rope to people from around the world,” has “come to define who I am and how I live in the world.” Bailey, who will attend UNC in the fall and is considering majoring in public health, says the mentoring has been as rewarding as the success. “When [children] are really struggling and working to get this one skill, and then they get it for the first time, they get this huge smile on their face. And you give them this high-five and in that moment they feel so accomplished and proud of themselves. I love helping them find that confidence.” At a practice in April, Bailey monitored three younger double Dutch jumpers. One turner was smaller than her partners and the jumper’s feet caught in the rope. Bailey walked toward the smaller child and told her to watch the jumper’s feet, then stepped back. The small child turned the rope this time in deep, strong arcs, and the jumper cleared them until time was called and the rope fell slack. Bailey walked smiling to the small child and gave her a high-five. The child smiled back. – Michael McElroy 

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Chapel Hilll Magazine May/June 2019  

THE WOMEN’S ISSUE

Chapel Hilll Magazine May/June 2019  

THE WOMEN’S ISSUE