Father of Scottish volleyball and sports psychologist; Born March 10, 1937; Died August 10, 2009.

John Syer, who has died of bone cancer aged 72, was the founding father of Scottish volleyball and went on to become one of the foremost sports psychologists influencing some of the top Olympic athletes in Britain and beyond, as well as working within the inner circle of some leading professional football clubs.

Originally from Kent, he came to Edinburgh for his national service and was based near Kirkliston. He fondly remembered his time in the army as it taught him to "play hockey and to type" and he went on to study languages at Edinburgh University.

It was during a holiday to Algeria that he first came across volleyball, watching the locals playing on the beach. He immediately became hooked and with the game taking off in Scottish universities - most notably St Andrews and Edinburgh - he quickly became involved.

In the early stages of the game, Scottish teams like Dalziel and Edinburgh had to travel to England to play in the British League. Syer was due to go to New York to take up employment but was persuaded to stay in Edinburgh, a city he loved, and set up the Scottish Amateur Volleyball Association (SAVA), the forerunner for the Scottish Volleyball Association (SVA).

Working as a volunteer, he used his contacts at Edinburgh University to get others on board, including the association's first treasurer Alf O'Brien, who was to remain in the post until recent years and who himself passed away earlier this year.

But it was the energy of Syer who spread the game to corners of Scotland it had not previously reached - taking coaching and refereeing courses and ensuring the infrastructure was in place for the game to thrive.

He set up the first Scottish Cup, which preceded the Scottish League which was launched in 1968, and started the Scotland national side - who played their first matches against Holland, Germany and Switzerland in 1970. The following year under Syer, Scotland travelled to the Spring Cup in Sweden where they recorded their first international win (against Norway).

"Wherever we went in Europe, someone would know John as he was involved with the international federation (FIVB) where he acted as interpreter and he became the go-between for the Americans, French and Italians," recalled former Scotland national team player Frank Leighton.

"I remember once we were in Milan and he was approached by the Japanese national coach as he had known John from working with the FIVB.

"It was a time when the Scotland team was taking on some of the best teams in Europe but it could not be sustained as we were working with only 12 players."

He was a director of the SVA for 10 years and then became involved with the Findhorn Foundation where he was a staff member and he trained as a Gestalt therapist at the University of California at Santa Barbara (UCSB).

He set up the Sporting Bodymind Group with business partner Christopher Connolly in 1979 and, at a time when sports psychology was still sneered at in some quarters, he was invited to work with Tottenham Hotspur by then manager Keith Burkinshaw and was credited with helping the team win the FA Cup in 1981.

Players such as Steve Perry-man, Glenn Hoddle and Steve Archibald spoke highly of him and Syer went on to work with Hoddle when he was manager of Southampton and also worked with Gordon Strachan when he was manager of the club.

Syer worked with a number of sports teams and individuals, and cyclist Chris Boardman spoke highly of Syer's influence when he won Olympic gold in Barcelona in 1992.

In 1986, Syer devoted more of his time to working with business clients such as Ford, Jaguar and British Telecom.

Syer is the author of Team Spirit: The Elusive Experience and co-author of four books with Christopher Connolly - including Sporting Body, Sporting Mind, Team Building Team Leader's Guide, Think to Win and most recently How Teamwork Works.

He kept his links with Scottish volleyball and Leighton recalled a recent visit to his office in London.

"He was still very highly regarded in sport and, when we were in the office, Arsene Wenger phoned for him, which shows what sort of circles he moved in." By Roddy Mackenzie