Veteran official Dan Apol has aneurysm reffing match, dies at 44

VBM interviews Dan Apol, international beach referee

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Dan Apol, front row far right, attends the 2016 Olympic Games Preparation Seminar in Brazil, March 2016.

Editor’s note from Ed Chan:

I’m very sorry to report that Dan had an aneurysm while working a Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference match Tuesday night in Colorado Springs. He was taken off life support Wednesday.

Dan and I have been friends for a long time and I really enjoyed interviewing him and writing this story about him working the Olympics. He was a calm, friendly and positive force on the court. Dan was 44, an avid fisherman, camper, and skier (Dan skied 51 days this year). He leaves behind his wife, Bonnie.

A memorial service will be held in Michigan in honor of Dan on Saturday, December 17, 2016.  An exact time has not been set yet, but will likely be early afternoon.

Location is Hillside Community Church, 1440 68th St SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49508. Click here for church website.

Dan’s friend Keith Murless posted the following Wednesday on Facebook:

To all of the many “Friends of Dan,

I can’t tell you why. Something to do with blood vessels in his brain. A random accident. Or perhaps he was “called home” or “called up” by some higher power. But we’ve lost him.

Last night, while reffing a local volleyball match (of course), my best friend’s time was called. He was disoriented for a bit. But there was no trauma, no pain. Professionals collected him quickly, and took him to the best of care. But he’s gone from us.

Teams and spectators come together in a silent vigil for Dan Apol following the RMAC quarterfinal in which Dan's aneurysm ruptured.
Teams and spectators come together in a silent vigil for Dan Apol following the RMAC quarterfinal in which Dan’s aneurysm ruptured/Photo by Katherine Proano

He’s still here in Colorado Springs, on life support in a beautiful hospital. His family, having flown through the night, is with him now. He looks great. But he’s not here.

Orion is upstairs too. You all know the mastiffs. Artimus has left us, but his picture adorns most of the referee badges in the world. And now Orion. Bright stars in the sky. Dan will be joining them.

Such a bright star. We’ve all been so lucky to work with him; to call him friend.

And now, proud organ donor that he is, Dan will save some forty lives this week. That brings a smile to Bonnie’s face. Even today, when we are all forced to say goodbye.

THANK YOU!

Bonnie, and all of the family, want you all to know just how important your support has been. Thousands of texts and emails. Millions of prayers. And the hospital courtyard is filled with local ski bums and vagrant referees, all here to say goodbye.

But I need to ask you all a favor: The family needs time to grieve. Time to rest, and to begin to heal. Your quiet prayers are what they need, just now.

Several of us will be setting up an information stream. Details, for those who want them. Also various means to say goodbye, through flowers, or donations, or what have you. I’ll be posting links to this information on Facebook, and publishing them through referee channels as well.

We will also publish the details of services, as soon as they are known.

Thank you for your understanding during this difficult time…. and please join me in breathing to the stars… WE LOVE YOU DAN!

Lori Okimura, chair of the USA Volleyball board of directors, talked about Dan.

Dan Apol was first and foremost an amazing and very dear friend. I had the privilege of working with Dan for many seasons on the FIVB World Tour. He was often the first one at the site and the last one to leave, always offering assistance and a kind word exactly where and when it was needed. I remember fondly Dan volunteering to work the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championships for the under 19-age group in Bermuda back in 2006. When Hurricane Florence hit the island Dan was the first to grab the shovels and buckets to start bailing out court number 6 then court 5 then court 4 and eventually made his way with the backhoe, the shovels and the buckets all the way to court number 1.
He was one of the greatest ambassadors for USA Volleyball and one of our most accomplished Olympic and Paralympic international referees. His knowledge of the game, his professionalism, his kindness and sense of humor and his passion for those who played are among the many reasons why Dan was so well respected around the world. I was proud of him every time he stood up on the stand, and I was honored to call him a friend.

VolleyballMag.com will post more details here as we get them.

Feel free to comment about Dan below or visit our Facebook page, Facebook.com/Volleyballmag, where some of us have already begun to pay tribute to Dan.

This is our Q&A story that ran on this site just before the Olympics:

At the Rio Olympics, 20 indoor and 16 beach referees will be tasked with judging and administrating the matches fairly. VBM had a chance to chat with Dan Apol, the USA designated beach referee (Patricia Rolf, the former Marquette coach, is the USA designated indoor referee).

Apol, a ref since 1991, is a full-time volleyball official. He lives in Castle Rock, Denver, and is one of a handful of referees in the world who have both the International FIVB beach and International Para-volley (handicapped) certifications and is also an NCAA official.
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He has 12 years of International experience and was an Olympic referee in London 2012. As you might imagine, an international referee racks up plenty of frequent-flyer miles. Apol has officiated in 30 different countries and will spend 87 days this year officiating outside the U.S.

Referees must be selected by USA volleyball to become a national official. It takes a minimum of three years to become a national referee, candidates must attend a variety of training programs and be evaluated numerous times. What’s more, candidates must attend international referee school prior to age 41. There are one or two international clinics per year. International beach referees are forced to retire at age 55.

“Beach is an image sport, they want their officials to be youthful and be fit as well,” Apol said, adding that on the average international beach referees are 15 years younger than their indoor counterparts.

VBM and Apol visited on a number of topics, starting with the difference between the Olympics and major competitions.

Apol: “It’s all the same players, all the same referees, all the same delegates, all the same people telling us what to do, except that it’s two levels higher,” Apol said.

“It’s higher than the tour finals, it’s the Olympics, it’s every four years, it’s the highest sporting event in the world. The pressure is unbelievable. We probably only do two or three matches each day, but we go through three or four meetings every day for 19 days in a row. What we did wrong, what the proper protocol is, etc.

“One thing that’s new this year is they have the video challenge system, which is really cool. The last men’s Olympics ended on a questionable lines call. Who’s to say what happened, but now there’s indisputable video evidence. ”

“It helps us deal with the players. Instead of yelling and going all Tim Hovland, they just initiate a challenge. Everybody watches the review on the TV, and there’s no problem. It’s a good thing for us.”
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VBM: How do you deal with the pressure?

Apol: ”I try to relax a lot. You have to mentally prepare yourself. It depends on what you need. A lot of times, I’ll go for a walk, other folks read rule books and go through video footage, I try to relax and let it go, not dwell on it, good or bad.”

VBM: How do you deal with difficult coaches or players?

Apol: “I don’t normally deal with coaches, but I saw an event in Gstaad where a Brazilian coach was standing up in the bleachers and yelling at an official for several minutes. I’ve never seen that before, it’s a bit of an unusual situation. There’s a lot of time that we’re not on the center court, the side courts don’t have the video system, more of the personalities come out a little bit.

“It’s not always as difficult to deal with because it’s not always in the English language. If they’re arguing in their second language it’s not as difficult. For sure we don’t put up with as much discussion as we do on the AVP Tour. I can’t remember when the last time a player was awarded a delay for refusing to play after a discussion (on the AVP tour). On the world tour, if someone talks for five seconds, then they have to play. And if they don’t play, then it’s a delay. The discussion period is definitely more brief on the FIVB.
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VBM: Are there any significant rules changes for the 2016 Olympics?

Apol: Generally speaking, any significant rule changes occur after the Olympics. They’re going to try some new things, because the FIVB is trying to speed up the game. The match has to fit into a one hour slot for television purposes, and if they don’t start their match at the top of the hour for NBC, then NBC puts a different sport on, and volleyball loses the TV time. They’re trying to keep every match within a 50-minute slot at the most because there’s a 10-minute warmup period.”

“This year we have had an emphasis on speeding up play. Our target is 12 seconds between plays, on a normal play, which is rampaging fast. It’s mind-boggling even how must faster it is than last year. They’ve done studies that show that a two-set match is three minutes shorter than it was last year, and a three-set match is six minutes shorter than last year.”

“It really pushes the athletes, and I think it’s going to be a great thing, because it keeps everybody more interested . If there’s 30 seconds between rallies, viewers can decide that they can go to the bathroom, get a snack, or change the channel. Keeping the pace up maintains the crowd involvement.”

VBM: Are you concerned about Zika?

“No. I refuse to be afraid, based on what I’ve heard in the U.S. media. I’ve been down there twice so far this year. Once we were out in the sticks a ways at the Brazilian training center, and I did get bit by a mosquito, and nothing happened. I don’t know if it was the Zika mosquito, it died when I smacked it. They’ve been spraying standing water for mosquitoes, when I was there in March I didn’t see a mosquito for 10 days.”

VBM: What do you do when you’re not blowing a whistle on a referee stand somewhere?

Apol: “I do a lot of camping, fishing, and skiing. I skied 51 days this season.”

The full list of Olympic officials:

Beach volleyball – Referees

Giovanni Bake (Republic of South Africa)
Jonas Personeni (Switzerland)
José Maria Padron (Spain)
Charalampos Papadogoulas (Greece)
Davide Crescentini (Italy)
Roman Pristovakin (Russia)
Osvaldo Sumavil (Argentina)
Mário Ferro (Brazil)
Elzir Martins de Oliveira (Brazil)
Juan Carlos Saavedra (Columbia)
Lucie Guillemette (Canada)
Carlos L. Rivera Rodriguez (Puerto Rico)
Daniel Apol (USA)
Lijun Wang (China)
Djamal Bergheul (Algeria)
Kritsada Panaseri (Thailand)

Indoor Volleyball – Referees

Andrey Zenovich (Russia)
Juraj Mokry (Slovakia)
Fabrizio Pasquali (Italy)
Susana Rodriguez (Spain)
Piotr Dudek (Poland)
Vladimir Simonovic (Serbia)
Arturo Di Giacomo (Belgium)
Paulo Turci (Brazil)
Rogerio Espicalsky (Brazil)
Nasr Shaaban (Egypt)
Taoufik Boudaya (Tunisia)
Denny Cespedes (Dominican Republic)
Hernan Casamiquela (Argentina)
Luis Macias (Mexico)
Heike Kraft (Germany)
Jiang Liu (China)
Joo Hee Kang (Korea)
Mohammad Shahmiri (Iran)
Ibrahim Al Naama (Qatar)
Patricia Rolf (USA)

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