They were bound by chronology and competitive juice.
James and Kaylyn Bayly, the two youngest of seven children, evolved into multi-sport athletes at Lakewood High in the 1980s and ultimately prep softball coaches who reveled in facing each other when feasible.
“Kaylyn and I were like Velcro growing up,” James said.
Hence the reason James, coach at Mount Dora Christian Academy, pauses to compose himself two or three times during a recent phone conversation. About a half-decade ago, frontotemporal dementia gradually began eating away at that brother-sister bond, gradually detaching Kaylyn from her family, peers and hundreds of players she helped nurture in more than a quarter-century as a coach.
Last June 13 — 12 days shy of her 54th birthday — Kaylyn died from complications of the ruthless disease, stunning much of the local prep sports community unaware of the mostly private battle the former Lakewood and Countryside coach had waged. She was survived by her wife, Liz Collins; four of her six older brothers; and numerous nieces and nephews.
“I think the disease is brutal,” James said. “I think people don’t understand it. They think it’s an old-age memory loss, but when it affects a girl at, really, 48 ... it’s brutal.”
Now James wants to honor the spirit of the sibling he loved, respected and sometimes battled. The one whose diverse and prosperous coaching career included two state vollyeball final fours (1993, 1994) at her alma mater, and a state softball title game appearance at Countryside in 2016.
With the assistance of various beneficiaries and some of his sister’s longtime peers, he is holding the first Coach K Bayly Memorial Tournament on the Canterbury School campus in St. Petersburg on Saturday.
“Our plan is, as long as we can, we’re going to do this every year,” said veteran Canterbury coach Jody Moore, a five-time state champion who credits Kaylyn with helping her get established in the local softball community. “So this is our inaugural showing.”
Three teams — Canterbury, Countryside and Mount Dora Christian — will face each other in a three-game, round-robin format starting at 10 a.m. Moore said teams will gather for prayer and breakfast beforehand. Shirts commemorating the event will be available, and various items will be raffled.
Additionally, a $750 scholarship will be awarded to a senior from each team hoping to further their athletic career. James’ Facebook page includes information for those wishing to contribute financially to the event.
“Most importantly, when we do the presentation of the scholarships, make sure the kids understand that they’re not getting a scholarship because they’re the best player,” Moore said. “They’re getting a scholarship because they carry themselves through the game the way Kaylyn would be proud of.”
Stay updated on Tampa Bay’s sports scene
Subscribe to our free Sports Today newsletter
You’re all signed up!
Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.Explore all your options
The St. Petersburg Times’ volleyball player of the year for Pinellas County in 1985, Bayly played volleyball, soccer and softball at Lenoir-Rhyne University in North Carolina. By the time she was inducted into that school’s athletics Hall of Fame in 2014, she had entrenched herself locally as a coach who conveyed life lessons through the prism of athletics without sacrificing on-court or on-field success.
She guided Lakewood’s volleyball program to five district titles and two state tournaments before moving to Countryside, where she led the Cougars to state final four berths in 2000 and 2004. She took over the Cougars softball program in 2003, and coached both sports for a decade before the demands of both gigs — as well as injuries sustained in a car accident — prompted her resignation as volleyball coach in 2013.
“I think she was a true competitor, and when you’re a competitor, you’re really trying to coach the life lessons through softball,” Moore said.
“What’s ironic is, so many people focus on throwing and catching when, if you really focus on the life skills, then you are a very competitive softball team. So I think that’s what really was a differential for her — she cared for the children and their ultimate future more than any sort of win.”
Ironically, one of her final shining moments helped inspire Saturday’s event. In 2017, the Cougars softball team reached the final of the Doc 4 Life Varsity Showdown in Belleview, which honored a former Belleview High assistant coach and local dentist who had succumbed to cancer. Countryside’s opponent in the title game: Lake Brantley High, coached by James Bayly.
The Cougars won, 5-4, snapping Lake Brantley’s nine-game win streak. Roughly a year later, Kaylyn began showing signs of the rare neurodegenerative disease that causes nerve cells in the brain to gradually lose their ability to function.
“I know she spent a good year at Countryside being sheltered by the staff and the (physical education) coaches,” James said.
“She was the head of the department at one time, and taught everybody everything they needed to know about computers and their planning and their assignments. Then she couldn’t take roll, she couldn’t put her grades in. ... It’s a horrible disease.”
Saturday could offer catharsis through competition, as well as a chance to raise awareness not only of how Kaylyn lost her life, but how she lived it.
“It will definitely be an emotional day,” James said, “but it will fun to finally get her back into the limelight where she was prior to her getting this disease.”
Contact Joey Knight at email@example.com. Follow @TBTimes_Bulls.