Don Pfeifer is among the most recent inductees into the Volleyball Canada Hall of Fame.
Pfeifer has been involved with the Saskatchewan Volleyball Association for the past 50 years and today still continues as an active official, mentor and clinician.
So was the induction a surprise for the long-time Yorkton teacher?
“A few years ago a couple suggested I should be there,” he said with a smile, adding he just never made the effort to gather the highlights of his five decades long career in volleyball. “... So I thought it might, but I wasn’t hepped-up about whether it happened.”
Pfeifer also believes officials are at the best when no one notices them.
“The focus should be on the players and coaches, but it’s nice for officials to be recognized once in a while,” he said.
Pfeifer began his refereeing career in 1968 with an appointment as a local official, at the time he was teaching in Foam Lake.
That first year of involvement with volleyball was a learning experience.
“They, (the players), taught me as much as I taught them,” said Pfeifer.
Then fate perhaps played a card in pushing Pfeifer to greater involvement in volleyball.
“A Czech coach came through and gave a clinic in Yorkton. I took that and it spurred me on a bit more,” he said.
After one year in Foam Lake Pfeifer moved to Yorkton and spent the next 31 years in various teaching roles at Yorkdale Central School.
While spending almost his entire teaching career in Yorkton, Pfeifer’s involvement in volleyball as an official took him across Saskatchewan, Canada and the world.
Pfeifer’s advancement as a referee was rapid, as he gained his provincial designation in 1969, followed by his regional appointment in 1970, and his national designation in 1972. He became an international candidate in 1975, and received his International Certification in 1977 after participating in the 1976 Montreal Olympic Games.
Pfeifer continues as Saskatchewan’s only International Referee a designation he has held for 31-years.
Highlights of Pfeifer’s career includes serving as a member of the NORCECA Special Referee Committee from 1988 – 1992, a member of a three-man Special Referee Committee for the FISU championships in Zogreb, Yugoslavia in 1989.
“It was a privilege to do that,” said Pfeifer, although he added “there was lots of pressure,” in having to evaluate and make suggestions to officials from around the world.
Pfeifer was also a member and vice-chair Special Referee Committee for the FISU games in Sheffield England in 1991 working with the FIVB chairman and responsible for giving clinics, assignments, sitting on the jury and over-seeing all competitions.
Pfeifer also played an officiating role at four Pan American Games, five World University Games, the Commonwealth Games when they were help in Edmonton, and the Olympic Games in 1984.
“I could write a book,” he said with a grin, adding that is not in his plans.
While travelling the world as an official Pfeifer also served as the Saskatchewan ROC (Regional Officials Chairman) from 1971- 1984 before being selected and the Volleyball Canada Nationals Officials Executive Vice-Chair from 1979 – 1984 and the Nationals Officials Chairman from 1985 – 1990, notes his induction bio.
“Pfeifer has always had a passion for the sport and for helping others. His background of teaching, his attention to detail and organizational talents were blended together in the work and effort he put forth in educating referees and assisting all to reach their potential. To this day, many of the procedures that are used for assigning and mentoring other referees were implemented by Don,” detailed the bio.
“Pfeifer led and mentored many referees at the national level, but he never forgot his rural roots. He is a true ‘grass roots’ developer. He spends many hours ensuring his local referee base was being nurtured. When he was the NOC, ROC’s who were new to their position were met with regular, encouraging phone call so he could give them direction and a clear understanding of their role.”
“I like to teach and mentor and evaluate,” he said, adding it is the way to build a stronger base of trained officials for the sport, whether at the school level, national level of at the top international level of the sport.
In that respect Pfeifer whether it was going to Nipawin on a Wednesday to out on a clinic, or going to Victoria doing a national clinic Pfeifer said, “It’s different but it’s all important.”
In addition to attaining his accreditation as an International Referee, Pfeifer sites his highlights as having had the opportunity to officiate and run clinics in nine different provinces and at least 15 Universities and colleges throughout Canada as well as being honoured with Lifetime Memberships – by both the SVA Officials Association and Volleyball Canada Officials and having the opportunity to serve as the Nationals Officials Chair for Volleyball Canada for some 10 years.
Looking back at all the clinics and matches and travelling, Pfeifer admitted he wonders “how the hell did I do all that.”
Pfeifer noted it because of the support of his wife of 50-years, Sharon.
“I have to give her credit,” he said.
And while Pfeifer focused on officiating, his obvious love of volleyball rubbed off on his children.
Son Dion at age 17 was deemed one of the top three setters in Canada, said his Dad with a smile.
Daughter Delee played at Queens University.
And now grandsons Noah and Reid are playing the game, Reid on the U15 Saskatchewan team.
Through it all Pfeifer said he has tried to keep a rather straight forward philosophy, “pursue your passion, be compassionate, be a good listener, be approachable, be fair yet firm when necessary, be a mentor, be human.”