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Mariner students play volleyball, hear message

By Staff | Feb 2, 2016

Bob Holmes has traveled to more than 5,500 gymnasiums and played more than 19,000 volleyball games in front of 5 million people. But there’s a reason he has played all these games, and a message that goes along with it.

The One-Man Volleyball Team visited Mariner High School Monday for one of several stops throughout Lee County to challenge teams of students and teachers to a game of volleyball and send a powerful message about bullying, suicide and drug addiction.

Holmes took on the Mariner girls volleyball team, a group of football players, faculty and even the entire senior class. It’s something he has done for so long that “Ripley’s Believe It or Not” has reported him as being the athlete who has played the most games in sports history.

Among the teams he has beaten singlehandedly include the NFL’s Bills, Steelers and Dolphins and baseball’s Toronto Blue Jays.

Holmes said he stands alone on the court and encourages kids to stand alone and not bow to peer pressure.

“When I was little I was always the last one picked for a team. That’s why I always played by myself. It’s kind of a beat the odds theme,” Holmes said.

Of his more than 19,400 matches, he has won 18,900 of them. Not bad for a man about to turn 60. But on this day, he met his match against a group of Mariner football players, who were able to hand him a rare defeat. For this, the student body got a free pizza party, where they would also be able to get a free app which would allow them to connect with people and share live streaming and set up groups. Kind of like a Facebook 2.0, Holmes said.

After the volleyball, Holmes got serious. He told stories about students who tried to kill themselves, people who did horrible things as a result of drug abuse, and showed horrific pictures of the result of those actions.

“Most companies advertise what’s fun now, but don’t care if you’re dead 10 years from now. They advertise things that can wreck your future,” Holmes said. “The reason I live in a gym is not for volleyball. I don’t want to see anyone in America end up dead or in a jail. I don’t want to see anyone as a flower arrangement on the side of the road.”

Holmes also promoted a product called the Saferlock, which keeps prescription drugs from getting stolen and possibly abused.

Deborah Simpson, CEO of Gatekeeper Innovation, talked about the product.

“Children are challenged every day by other students to bring home pills from their parents’ medicine cabinet. Drug dealers offer to pay them $20 a pill,” Simpson said. “The Saferlock prevents millions of kids from being poisoned every year. Why would parents put a $20 insurance policy to protect their children?”

Her son, Steven, helped spread Holmes’ message. Steven abused drugs when he was younger and saw many friends die as a result.

“I want to spread the message so they don’t have to experience the same pain I went through,” Steven said. “Once there was a bottle sitting on my mother’s counter. It was Oxicontin. Soon, I was hooked and the next seven years were a blur.”

As fun as the volleyball was, everyone got the message, young and old alike.

“Any time you can bring in someone with a niche to grab the kids then deliver a great message about bullying, drugs, it’s phenomenal for our kids to see and hear what he brought,” Mariner Principal Robert Butz.

His son, Christian, who also is president of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, said it was a great presentation of what people can do right in their lives.

“I hear about it, but I don’t really hang out with those people. I try to make friends in my group,” Christian said. “It’s great for someone to have that much energy and do what he can for these kids and not himself.”

Of course, it was the volleyball that drew everyone in, and those who played were in awe.

“I couldn’t believe how crazy his serves were. They were hard to return. He never played professionally and we still had trouble playing,” said Abagail Love. “I thought the message was amazing. That he had real examples of people was amazing. It about making the right choices.”