Former Hope College soccer player, Justin Bailey, was only 23-years-old when he was killed in a drunk driving accident this summer. As the team continues to heal they dedicated Friday night’s event to their friend, renaming their game against Madonna University "Justin Bailey Night".
It was emotional not only for Justin’s friends, but also for his family. Both showed up to support the team and to honor Justin’s memory, as well as his love for the game.
"The significance is that Justin played with pride and passion and intensity,” Head Coach, Steven Smith said. “What do we want out of our guys tonight -- pride intensity passion."
And that is exactly what Smith received.
"There's definitely going to be a lot more adrenaline running through my veins that's for sure,” Justin’s friend, Shaun Groetsema said. “But I think you're going to see a different Hope team tonight then you really would anywhere else because of the fact we're playing for Justin."
Each player welcomed Justin’s family with open arms before the game, and wore special jerseys in his honor. The number one on the front symbolized one team working together and the five on the back remembered Justin’s old number.
"It's going to be an awesome way to honor him,” Groetsema said. “But at the same time it is going to be hard for a lot of us that have known him for so long."
The quiet and shy Justin is described as one of the most talented players on the field.
After a summer without him, his family received a piece of his uniform that will forever remind them of Justin’s time with the team.
"He had had a discussion with his mom just before he died and he had indicated that everything that he learned about his job he learned at Hope soccer not in his business classes,” Smith said. “We laughed about that a bit because the tuition was for the business classes, but life was learned out here on the field."
Because Justin always wore a headband to keep his long hair back for games it was headbands that were sold at the game for the Justin Bailey Memorial Scholarship. The scholarship will be made available to a Hope College student who represents the idealism of Justin’s competitive spirit and his desire to share life with others.
Friday night Hope College won their game 3 to 1 against Madonna University.