Sue Ball stepped into the role of executive director and vice president of the national organization’s local branch in mid-July, and already she is taking on the challenges of a 50-year-old facility with many changes in store.
“When I heard about this position opening up, I called up CEO Baron Herdelin-Doherty,” Ball said. “He talked about the major renovations and expansions in store for this facility, and I was very excited about that.”
Ball said the branch, which, in addition to La Jolla and the Golden Triangle, serves parts of Clairemont and Mira Mesa, is in the process of devising a strategy to renovate the building at 8355 Cliffridge Ave., with plans for two new pools, a larger space for preschool and after-school childcare, more group exercise space, new locker room facilities and more. For the extensive undertaking — which includes changes to the Firehouse facility on Herschel Avenue — a market research company will survey 600 La Jollans who are not members, as well as a couple hundred members, to get community input for the overhaul.
“It will really help give us ideas about what the community wants in the way of programs,” Ball said. “We just want to make sure we’re building the right thing, offering the right programs. We’re trying to figure out the best way to serve La Jolla residents.”
Ball began her career with the YMCA 29 years ago, as a gymnastics instructor in Little Rock, Ark. Fresh out of college, she needed a job and the local Y was hiring.
She didn’t stay in that role for long, however. A few weeks after she began, a position for gymnastics program director opened up, and she asked her boss if she could apply. She was instructed to write an essay on how she would improve the program, and a week later, she was hired for the position.
She eventually went on to become the executive director of the downtown Little Rock branch — where Bill and Hillary Clinton regularly worked out — and after more than a decade in Arkansas, she moved down to Florida as a district vice president.
Then, two years ago, Ball said she was ready for another change. She decided to change coasts, and ended up running the Cupertino YMCA in Silicon Valley before hearing about the La Jolla position.
“I had heard a lot of good things about the CEO down here, and there were a lot of reasons I was excited about it,” she said. “Plus, I wanted to live in San Diego. If the same opportunity had presented itself in Idaho, I don’t know if I would have followed that.”
Asked if she had ever imagined herself nurturing a 30-year career at the YMCA, Ball said, “No. Not even when I first started. It was just a job.”
That job has turned into a labor of love for Ball, who said she hopes to be at the La Jolla branch “for many years.”
“The longer you’re with the Y, the more it gets into your blood,” she said. “It’s been a great career for me. I get to do all kinds of things — work with volunteers, fundraising, operations, just serving people. I think a lot of people look to make a difference in the world through volunteer opportunities. I get to do it through my job.”
New offerings at the La Jolla YMCA
The La Jolla YMCA, which opened in 1964, is growing in membership and program offerings. The facility is adding several family programs in September, with the goal of giving families more opportunities to spend time together with game nights, luaus, family exercise classes and more.
Starting on Sept. 1, the branch is offering a two-week Hall Pass. Potential members can try out the branch’s programs for free through Oct. 31, and if they decide to join by the end of the two-week trial period, they will receive $50 off membership.
“I think the perception of the Y for lot of people is that it’s just gym and swim,” Ball said. “But it really has such a broader reach than that. We are a charity, for sure, and we offer programs for children to older adults, childcare, inclusion programs for special-needs kids. One of our main goals is to strengthen the community, through getting people physically active, through youth development, through our high standards set for childcare programs, healthy living component. And we’re very inclusive. Anybody should be able to participate, regardless of their income or anything else. And that’s what sets us apart.”
For more information, visit www.lajolla.ymca.org.