Village High School AFJROTC sponsor Sgt. Joe Campbell will achieve a milestone when he officiates the sport of sitting volleyball for his sixth and final Paralympic Games, in London.
Campbell will be the first sitting volleyball referee to participate in six Paralympics dating back to the 1992 games in Barcelona, Spain. “It’s been an awesome 20-year career,” Campbell says. “It’s bittersweet. As far as whistling goes, I’ll miss it.”
International volleyball rules state that an official may not referee past age 55. Campbell’s retirement will not take effect until 2014, but the London games will mark his final eligible summer Paralympic officiating opportunity.
Campbell’s career as a volleyball official began in 1979 when he took a course while being stationed abroad with the United States Air Force in Misawa, Japan. He continued to referee and coach the sport after transferring to Brooks Air Force Base in San Antonio, as well as in Las Vegas, Nev., where he provided referee clinics.
“I quickly realized the true passion these athletes had at playing the sport,” he recalls. “It didn’t matter what their physical disability was, they played as if they had none. After the tournament I was asked if I would be interested in becoming a certified referee for disabled volleyball, and I agreed.”
Campbell has traveled the world in the last two decades, participating in other events such as the World Championships, Junior World Championships, Parapan American Games and Standing Volleyball World Cup. Through all his travels, he said Sidney, Australia, in 2000 was the most memorable. He also said the international language barriers have never caused an issue.
“In order to be an international referee, you have to speak English, so that made it easy for me,” he says. “From a coaches’ standpoint, there’s always a translator available to explain something if there’s a question or other issue.”
Although he would love to continue officiating past the 2012 Paralympics, Campbell said he is fortunate for the opportunity he’s had, and found it fitting that his international career will go full-circle in 2012.
“I think it is fate that my career began in Great Britain in 1992 and I will complete my last Paralympic Games in Great Britain in 2012,” he says. “I’m thankful for everyone who has helped in making my career possible, and I wish the best to every referee that continues to provide their service in such a wonderful sport.”