HIGHLANDS RANCH, CO (March 29, 2017) – Wind Crest retirement community resident Bill Cavanaugh likes volleyball. So much so that he just officiated his 21,300th game, a world record if ever there was one. The milestone came this past week at a Chatfield High School match and it reflects his affinity for the game and the people he has met on and around the courts.
He has been officiating volleyball games for the past 24 years throughout the United States and overseas. The games have encompassed International Lines, College, USA National, Special Olympics, Junior Olympics, National Federation High School, Colorado Senior's League, and many school, city and church adult leagues.
"Probably the biggest challenge of officiating so many different levels is that the point system, rules and protocol are often different," said Cavanaugh, who first played volleyball when he was 43 years old. He continued playing until he earned his referee certification in 1993.
Cavanaugh, who officiated 750 volleyball games this past year, got his start in refereeing when he was on the Board of Directors for the Rocky Mountain Region Youth Volleyball Program, and where he met a man who was a retired USA National referee who asked him if he ever thought about officiating volleyball.
"Several days later he called and stated he was looking for officials to help run the City of Boulder Adult Leagues, so I attended a class he conducted, took the written test and he hired me," said Cavanaugh.
After just one week on the job, Cavanaugh was asked to go to the four city recreation centers and evaluate all the officials and provide them some feedback on their interactions with the players, their signal mechanics, and how to be professional. "Here I was a new official trying to be very diplomatic and telling 20-year experienced officials what they were doing wrong," said Cavanaugh, a U.S. Army veteran and former IBM manager.
Volleyball, it seems, is in Cavanaugh's blood. He has been a player, coach, scorekeeper, clinician, trainer, evaluator, and rules interpreter. He has mentored and recruited many volleyball officials.
"I've always tried to use good judgement and be very professional, punctual, prepared and positive, while creating a safe environment and two-way communications," he said. "I take pride in what I do and I try to be consistent and make adjustments when needed, based on the skill level of the players."
Cavanaugh's volleyball officiating has been self-rewarding in many ways, not the least of which is the lasting impact he has made on people. An experience in Seattle, Washington, always brings a smile to his face:
"I was eating at an outdoor diner and a lady came over to our table and asked if I was a sports official," he said. "Turns out that I had officiated her in college many years ago."
He recalls another experience with equal fondness:
"I was walking on the beach in Hawaii and I heard someone calling out, 'Is that you Bill?' When I turned around the lady smiled and said, 'You refereed me in the Colorado Senior League several years ago.'"
Grandparents often approach Cavanaugh after volleyball matches to let him know he referred them in adult leagues, or their sons or daughters in college, or their grandchildren in high school. "It is, indeed, a small world," he said.
"Just like the many circles that are created when you throw a stone into a lake, I hope that I have created a 'ripple effect' on many lives and they, in turn, have recruited others to get involved in the great sport of volleyball," he said.
Cavanaugh's wife Shari has been with him on each of his officiated volleyball passes, which has amounted to tens of thousands over the years. They moved to Wind Crest nearly two years ago from their former home in Littleton, Colorado. They have 4 adult children and six grandchildren.