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Forty years after starting from scratch, Don Mayer is still at it

With more than forty years of involvement in the sport, Don Mayer has developed a far more discernable eye than most to the nuances of volleyball officiating.

That kind of longevity and commitment is impressive, perhaps even moreso when one considers that the soon-to-be sexagenarian virtually started from scratch.

"I played co-ed volleyball in grade 12; that was the only contact with volleyball that I had to the point," said Mayer. "A bunch of friends decided for fun to put a team in a tournament."

One of four children in a Chelmsford born and raised family, Mayer was not adverse to sport, in any way, shape or form. It's simply that hockey had been his winter pastime of choice. By the time he entered Ecole Secondaire Rayside-Balfour, high-school football would join the mix.

But Barons' coach and head of the physical education department Jean Gauthier knew that there was an even greater love of sport to his young quarterback, if only his energies could be channelled towards a given pursuit.

"He (Gauthier) mentioned that this (refereeing volleyball) might be an option for me," Mayer recalled. "I went out to the clinic the first year and failed the written test. I went back a year later, passed the test and have been reffing since."

The young man who would go on to pursue a diploma in office administration from College Boreal was nothing if not persistent.

"I was fairly strong-willed," said Mayer with a laugh. "I was a student of sports and learned pretty quickly."

Yet as avid volleyball folks quickly attest, the very core of ball movement in the sport can lead to lively discussions on end.

"Ball hadling is an issue to this day between refs and coaches - it's the one area that you work on your whole career," suggested Mayer. "The toughest part, early on, was being consistent. I was told by the coaches at the time that I wasn't consistent enough in calling the game."

Lift or no lift? Double touch or not? Seldom is their mass agreement with those attending a game, few of whom might enjoy the same unbiased viewpoint as the gentleman or woman at the top of the chair.

"When it comes down to it, what you want is the same kind of flow to the game, no matter what level you are doing," said Mayer. "You adjust what you call to the level being played."

One of only a handful of certified Level 3 volleyball officials in Greater Sudbury, Mayer had to demonstrate the same sticktoitiveness that he had shown at the very beginning of his journey. It would take years before he would finally earn his stripes at a more senior level.

"I had hinted at it, that I felt I was ready," said the man who had already worked volleyball game after game for more than a decade. "The caliber of ball that they want you to referee as a level 3 is college, university."

"You have to go to a lot of college tournaments down south."

Two years after entering the program that would lead to Level 3 status, Mayer was certified. Understandably, it is both a source of great pride, but also a chance to remain involved, in the way he would like, with a sport that he loves.

"Ever since I got into this, I've always loved the game - the speed of the game, the power of the game, the finesse," he said. "I am happy where I am now."

After devoting more than four decades to the sport of volleyball, that is all that really matters for Don Mayer.

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