All-Time Great, Pioneer Scotty Bailess Passes Away

By Bill Kauffman (bill.kauffman@usav.org) | June 21, 2019, 7:02 p.m. (ET)

Scotty Bailess receiving the All-Time Great Player Award
Scotty Bailess receives the 2014 USA Volleyball Flo Hyman All-Time Great Female Player Award from Kevin Barnett

COLORODO SPRINGS, Colo. (June 21, 2019) – USA Volleyball is saddened to learn of the passing of Alnet “Scotty” Bailess, the 2014 USA Volleyball Flo Hyman All-Time Great Female Player and member of USA Volleyball’s Hall of Fame. She passed away Friday morning after battling recent health issues.

Scotty BailessBailess, 89, was among the pioneering players who helped push women’s volleyball onto the Olympic Games program in an era when sporting opportunities for females were limited, particularly in team sports. She won silver at the 1955 Pan American Games – the first such games that included volleyball and among the first-ever events that featured a women’s team sport from the United States. Nine years after volleyball’s introduction at the Pan American Games, volleyball was added to the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games, thus becoming the first women’s team sport to be contested at an Olympic Games.

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“USA Volleyball is saddened to hear of the passing of Scotty, who was a trailblazer in not only volleyball, but women’s sports in general,” USA Volleyball CEO Jamie Davis said. “She competed in an era absent of all the major international volleyball events that are available today, and without the fanfare our women’s teams enjoy in the United States and overseas. Because of Scotty and her teammates from the 1950s, the sport of women’s volleyball has grown to become the number-one team participatory sport in the United States high schools with playing opportunities now available at all levels from grassroots to college to international competitions representing Team USA.”

“As a member of one of our first U.S. National Teams that represented the USA at the 1955 Pan American Games, Scotty and those women paved the way for women like me,” said Lori Okimura, who has served as USA Volleyball Board of Directors chair since 2014 among her many roles over the last three decades.

Prior to the Pan American Games, Bailess earned all-American first-team honors at the 1951 and 1954 USA Volleyball Open National Championships, and followed with a second-team selection at the 1956 Nationals in Seattle, which marked her final Championships.

Even well after her playing career, Bailess continued to lend support to USA Volleyball and help the sport grow. She would attend the USA Volleyball Open National Championships taking in matches in the various divisions. Bailess could also be found courtside watching the U.S. Women’s and Men’s National Sitting Volleyball Teams compete against other international teams during the Open Championships, or in the stands watching the U.S. Men’s National Team compete in FIVB World League matches.

Scotty Bailess with Sitting Team CoachesBailess was a leader from an early age, demonstrated by graduating from high school as valedictorian at age 15 and graduating from Stephen F. Austin State College at age 19 in 1949. In her first job as coach and teacher in Liberty, Texas, some of her high school students were only a year younger.

Bailess’ innovation helped develop her love of volleyball as a young girl. She and her sister would use balls made from hole-in-the-heel socks using a barnyard fence as the net. Prior to college she would play volleyball on an outdoor court during lunch and recess breaks. It was not until attending Stephen F. Austin that Bailess played volleyball on an inside court in a gym. While in college, she earned 15 letter awards in volleyball, basketball, tennis, softball, field hockey, speedball and badminton. But volleyball remained her calling over the other sports.

During the spring of her second year as a coach, she founded the Houstonettes volleyball team which won USA Volleyball Nationals in Los Angeles in 1949 – the first year that included women’s volleyball. She joined the six-member team herself in 1950 and helped the squad reach the semifinals before losing. All was not lost for Bailess as she met her future husband, Benson, during the tournament. They married in December of 1950 and traveled to the 1951 USA Volleyball Nationals at Springfield, Massachusetts, where her Houston Eagles team beat their rivals Red Shield to win the title.

The Houstonettes revived in 1954 and the team and won Nationals at Tucson and the National AAU Volleyball Tournament in Galena Park, Texas. Bailess, along with her Houstonettes team and three All-Americans from California and one from Fort Worth, were selected to play in the 1955 Pan American Games in Mexico City. Bailess competed in the Pan Am Games only six months after giving birth to her second son.

Bailess was a charter inductee into the SFA Ladyjack Hall of Fame in 1986 and later was enshrined into the SFA Hall of Fame in 2009. Each year SFA’s most outstanding player receives the Alnet “Scotty” Bailess Volleyball Award.