John D. Syer (10th March 1937 – 10th August 2009)
John Syer, founder of the (then Scottish Amateur Volleyball Association). has died of bone cancer in London – aged 72. For the older members of the SVA. John will be remembered as the man who founded the Association, started the National Championships (which became the Scottish Cup), started the National Leagues, and formed the National Teams.
John first came to Scotland, saw and fell in love with Edinburgh – in the last intake of National Service – two great years he said when he played hockey for the Army and learned to type! He did his degree in languages at Edinburgh University. He’d seen volleyball played on the beach in Algeria and got involved with the game in the Scottish Universities (then dominated by foreign students – especially at St Andrews) and became determined that home-grown Scottish Players should learn the game. He worked – unpaid for the first year and later as the SVA`s first National Director – with Eddie Still in Edinburgh, with Jimmy Hogg at Dalziel, and with Alistair Morgan at Jordanhill PE College to ensure that the game spread in schools, clubs and colleges, and he encouraged people like Alf O`Brien to help him put the infant Association on a sound footing.
He had been a player of the then Great Britain Team with Nick Moody and Ronnie Hamilton coached by Dave James, but wanted Scotland to have its own Association and its own National Team. The first foreign tour – of Luxembourg, Germany and Switzerland took place in June 1970 and the first Scottish Team (with players such as Ronnie Hamilton, Des Bradley, Kenny Anderson and Charlie Ferguson) entered the Spring Cup in Sweden, 1971 – and a first victory, over Norway, was recorded. John encouraged people like Nick Moody to get involved with coaching the Scottish Junior Team and then to take over as National Team Coach. John had been coach at Edinburgh University, later coached Dalziel FP`s and formed the Spartans Club in Edinburgh.
Because of Johnís proficiency in languages (French and Italian) he was invited as interpreter and go-between for the Americans, the French and Italians at all the big FIVB. Meetings in Europe and at various World Championships and Olympics around the World. This meant that John (and therefore, the SVA.) had the inside word on forthcoming rule changes, coaching and the future of the sport. His personal contacts enabled foreign coaches (such as Hidde van Der Ploeg, the Dutch National Team Coach) and teams (such as Club Athletico Paulistano from Brazil) to come to Scotland, enabled the first FIVB. Coaching Course to be organised at Largs, the first Scottish referees (such as Ian Dyett and Hugh MacLean) attended FIVB. Officiating Courses and the Junior Menís European Championships (with players such as Barry Robertson, Donnie McPherson and Jim McKenna) were held at Meadowbank.
John will long be remembered in Scottish volleyball for his powers of persuasion and encouragement to get people to organise, to take part and to play at the highest levels.
Frank Leighton (Dundee Volleyball Club)
On behalf of Scottish volleyball and the Association I would like to extend our sincere sympathy to John’s family and friends. This year, Scottish Volleyball celebrated forty years as an Association. John played a massive and significant role in establishing where we are today. Scottish Volleyball owes John Syer a great deal.
Margaret Ann Fleming
CEO Scottish Volleyball