Referee Magazine featured Special Olympics Virginia's Shenandoah Regional Director Daniel Leake in one of their recent editions! Check him out:
Referee: Explain your day-to-day job with Special Olympics Virginia.
Leake: I'm a regional director. I cover a portion of the state, working with Special Olympics groups - called areas - in a number of ways. I like to say I run games for a living, and it's what I do best, but I work with areas to make sure all their volunteers are up to date on their certifications, that all the athletes have medicals, help a little in fundraising, and much more.
Referee: You're also in a special position with Special Olympics International. What does that entail?
Leake: That is technical delegate-volleyball for the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games in Seattle, and for the 2019 Special Olympics World Games in Abu Dhabi, in the United Arab Emirates. I usually make the playing schedule for the entire event, select the referees, work with the coaches and do whatever is needed to support the tournament.
Referee: What other international trips have you taken through Special Olympics, and in what roles?
Leake: I've been to Dublin for the 2003 World Games as a referee, but got moved to an administrative role.I went to Shanghai on four different trips for the 2007 Games as an assistant technical delegate. I was the technical delegate in Athens for the 2011 World Games, and had the same role in L.A. for the 2015 World Games. I've also done a week-long volleyball clinic in Belgrade and did a similar clinic in Jamaica.
Referee: What would you identify as the best and worst aspects of the world travel?
Leake: Getting to see different countries and cultures is easily the best part of this job. Long non-stop flights and language barriers are always an issue. Another issue is you're never really sure how much money you have in your pocket, and you're always doing some quick conversion rates in your head.
Referee: Do you find your work with Special Olympics rewarding on a different level than officiating collegiately?
Leake: Every referee knows that feeling when you have done a match or a game and just "nailed it." For me, it's the same when I run an event for Special Olympics. Special Olympics has so many athletes that can just inspire you. They give every ounce of energy they have in a game, but are always the best sports when it is over, win or lose.
Referee: You have a special project outside your professional duties that involves volleyball in Jamaica.
Leake: I was in China and when the event was over, there was lots of new equipment left over. The Jamaica coach told me they use a rope between two trees for a net and let some air out of basketballs for volleyballs. I have a lot of contacts in the volleyball world, and I just started asking around for any leftover equipment. In the past eight years, we have shipped more than 5,000 volleyballs to Jamaica. I've had lots of help with this and a tournament that I'm involved with, the Shamrock Festival in Roanoke, Va., has been a big help. We even brought that Jamaican coach in one year to thank everyone. Every referee, no matter what sport, can do the same thing. It's easy, just ask for help. Find that niche that needs filling and fill it. It's really that easy.
Leake holds both PAVO and USAV National referee certifications. He officiates in the Big East, Colonial Athletic and Atlantic Coast conferences. Leake is also the coordinator of volleyball officials for the Big South and Southern (NCAA Division I) conferences.
Great job, Daniel!