The Wyoming Valley Chapter of Volleyball Officials will gather soon to prepare for the upcoming high school boys season.
It will do so without one of its charter members and its leader of nearly a quarter century following the loss of John Shields, 57, who was found dead in his Trucksville home on Feb. 8.
“We have a mandatory meeting scheduled the 14th of March,” said chapter secretary/treasurer Kathy Goeringer. “I’m not sure what we’re going to do, but somehow we’re going to get through it.”
Shields was remembered at a memorial service at Kniffen O’Malley Funeral Home in Wilkes-Barre on Feb. 23.
The volleyball community remembers him as a long-time referee, a former King’s College head coach and someone who supported the sport of every level whenever possible. If there was a new volleyball event being started anywhere within driving distance, Shields could be expected to make an appearance, lending his support in one form or another.
“He loved to be around the game,” said North Pocono boys coach Jud Holdredge, a former Tunkhannock and University of Scranton coach and long-time college officiating partner of Shields. “If he got paid or he didn’t, that was fine. He was there for the kids.”
Shields became certified as a Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association volleyball official in 1974. He was there when the Wyoming Valley Conference and Wyoming Valley Chapter of Officials were formed a few years later and served as rules interpreter for the chapter since 1990.
“He was the heart and soul of volleyball in northeastern Pennsylvania,” Goeringer said. “His reach was not only here in District 2.”
Shields could also be found working matches in the Lackawanna League, throughout the rural stretches of District 4 to the west and at regional colleges.
“Believe me, if I were a coach, I would want him to do my game,” Goeringer said. “He was that good.”
Shields worked many of the biggest matches, including District 2 tournaments throughout their 30-plus year history and nine PIAA state finals between 1985 and 2012.
“If there was a game, he was there,” said Holdredge, whose late father Ernie coached Tunkhannock to a state title, two other championship match appearances and a 249-match conference winning streak. “He was always involved, trying to help and encourage people to play the game.
“He loved the sport and he represented the area very well.”
Promoting the sport included encouraging enthusiasts to become involved as officials.
“Right up until the last moment, he was always trying to get new blood into refereeing,” Holdredge said. “This past year, he got a few young men who had graduated high school to call the college lines and try to introduce them to officiating. We’re going to miss that.”
Holdredge regrets that an attempt to get Shields inducted into the Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Hall of Fame fizzled two years ago when he had trouble getting Shields to supply a thorough listing of his accomplishments in the sport.
Shields graduated from Bethlehem Catholic and King’s College. He worked for Pennsylvania Gas & Water as a payroll officer and was later employed in the banking industry. He is survived by a sister, Gloria Sprankle, of Altoona; and a brother, Edward, of Chattanooga, Tenn.