BARRHEAD - The Lou Rondeau Alumni Volleyball tournament means different things to different people.
For those who attended Barrhead Composite High School (BCHS) and played for the Gryphons it’s a chance to catch up with each other, reminisce and swap tales of their youth. For current Gryphon players, it allows them to hone their skills against seasoned veterans.
Either way, the result is some very competitive volleyball.
On the Labour Day long weekend, 100 past and prospective players participated in the three-day event. Initially, the tournament was held later in the fall, but organizers moved the date to make it easier for alums working and living outside the community.
The teams consisted of BCHS graduates as recent as 2022 to those who graduated in 2011. However, in past years, the range has been much greater.
Lou Rondeau and Gayle Lamonthe started the tournament 40 years ago, in 1983.
"We both had just moved to the high school and were both physical education teachers, and I was involved in the volleyball program, so it seemed like the right thing to do," Rondeau said.
He added the first tournament was relatively small, with only a handful of alumn teams participating, not including the current or prospective Gryphons.
"We couldn't go back that far, perhaps 10 years," Rondeau said, noting that BCHS' volleyball program really did not take root until the mid-to-late 1970s.
Although that meant the tournament in the initial years, remained small initially, the competition the current BCHS Gryphons squads faced was top-notch.
"The oldest alumni player was only 27 or 28," he said.
Of course, as the years went on and the volleyball program continued to grow, Rondeau noted the number of available players and their average age increased, as has the number of players with college, university or even professional volleyball experience.
"Unfortunately, there isn't anyone in this year's tournament from those initial years. They are just getting a bit too old to play," he said, noting some of the alumni would be closing in on 70.
That being said, Rondeau noted that it is not uncommon for players in their 40s or 50s to participate.
He added that the annual tournament serves as an impromptu reunion and gives the senior Gryphon teams a boost over their rivals.
Rondeau said most teams start their season at the start of the school year, and the annual tournament not only gives the current crop of Gryphons a head start on other schools, but gives them a chance to play higher calibre teams not usually seen at the high school level.
"It is a great way to break them in," he said.