Comox resident inducted into Volleyball BC Hall of Fame

Gary McWilliam has been recognized by Volleyball BC for his long-time commitment to officiating the sport at every level of the game. The Comox resident is among seven new members who were inducted into the organization’s Hall of Fame, Saturday in Burnaby.

“It was a total surprise (to be recognized),” said the retired teacher who continues to referee. “I was fortunate. I’ve been to Hawaii, Japan, Korea to referee and take part in big events. And all across Canada.”

McWilliam first involved himself as a coach in 1970. While there was no shortage of coaches, he recognized the need for qualified officials to enable volleyball to thrive in B.C.

“We had to do something to allow the coaches to know they have referees if they’re having tournaments.”

So he put together a referee team locally and around B.C. to help schools compete. But it wasn’t an easy task because officiating a sport is not for everyone.

“You have to really hunt for people,” McWilliam said. “You can’t get kids because they want to play. It took quite a while, but we did manage to get a refereeing core from here. I think we’ve hosted three provincial championships out of Vanier alone.

“What is it as a referee that you are trying to do? You’re trying to make it possible for players to achieve the level that the coaches have given them. You’re not there to punish them, or to go on a power trip. It becomes a job of trying to help the coaches out.”

McWilliam obtained a provincial referee designation in 1971, regional certification in 1977 and national in 1980. He served as B.C.’s Regional Officials Chair from 1979-’88. During this time, he improved officiating standards by implementing several changes and programs, including a monthly newsletter and a novice officials program. He also initiated a more professional looking standard dress code for officials.

“We created a number of different programs. When I was regional, my biggest push was to get as many people into positions that they could climb the ladders with some experience, and not just go right to the top of the list. That would cause a lot of people to quit.”

McWilliam has mentored several Hall of Fame volleyball officials, and officiated numerous high-level events, including a Canada versus U.S. men’s pre-Olympic match at UBC in 1983.

Perhaps surprisingly, he has never been a volleyball player.

“I’m only five-foot-five. But there’s a difference between volleyball refereeing and say soccer or basketball, because in those games the refs are running and moving. In volleyball, you’re in a static position the whole time. You don’t get to pump up your heart rate as you’re running, but you have to make decisions. It’s a different decision-making.”

He preaches calmness and assuredness for anyone interested in officiating.

“You have to be firm. And you have to know the rules.”

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