Rob Thompson was first introduced to volleyball when some fellow teachers at Nelson Intermediate School put together a social team – he spent the next 33 years introducing the sport to others.
Rob has taught the game to thousands of kids over three decades and on Friday was presented with a distinguished service award from the Tasman Volleyball Association. He says receiving the award was a bit like listening to an episode of his own “This is Your Life” show.
“It is a nice feeling to have introduced so many people to the sport. Currently we have about 80 kids playing, but over the years it would add up to be a lot, I suppose.”
Waimea Intermediate’s Helen Weir was also presented with a distinguished service award last week, making around six recipients in Tasman – which includes Nelson, West Coast, Tasman and Marlborough – along with five life members.
Tasman Volleyball’s Allan Brodie says Rob has put in a huge amount of effort for the sport.
“Work like Rob’s is invaluable. Nelson Intermediate right now has seven teams playing on a Wednesday night at Saxton Stadium and that competition is why 10 to 15 years later Pat Shone, Jack Redpath and those boys are in the top team in the country and teams like Waimea College are national champions, because they started young and got some quality volleyball.”
Rob says he’s seen some top players come through the school but one of his highlights is the annual summer tournament, played between intermediate schools in the top of the South Island. Rob organises the volleyball part of the tournament each year and says it’s a mammoth task.
“We often use as many as 20 courts and 50 teams take part in that. That’s 300 kids playing all at once.”
Allan says Rob’s got the competition down to a fine art.
“In his retirement, he’ll still have to come down and run that day because no one else will know how to do it.”
For the sport has also run in his family with his son Josh coaching the Nelson College for Girls A team, but Rob says his coaching career is coming to an end. “My days are probably numbered,” he says.
“But there’s a good atmosphere here with the teams, there’s some really neat kids playing and their attitude is fantastic. They want to be there.”
Allan hailed Rob’s efforts over the years and says the sport is in good health because of volunteers like Rob.