Indian volleyball has seen some extraordinarily talented coaches who have provided their heart and soul out for the team. One among them is Dakshinamoorthy Sundaresan. A veteran, Sundaresan has been coaching for more than 36 years. Recently, he has nominated himself for Dronacharya Award this year.
In a conversation with The Bridge, Sundaresan opened up about the game and his chances of winning the award. “I hailed from a rural background in down south of Tamil Nadu in Thanjavur. My village Thirukattupalli, where I did my schooling, shaped my love for volleyball. It was actually in my 10th standard when I saw my seniors playing volleyball and I developed the initial interest for the game which keep on playing till today. My journey started as a 15-year-old player and I travelled a long road from there," says Sundaresan.
Sundaresan with SRM university in the All India inter university volleyball tournament at KIIT university (Source: Facebook)
He has participated in multiple tournaments and won many prizes and also represented the university and state teams. After proving his worth as a player, he transformed as a successful coach about which he says, “When I was pursuing my BSc degree in Trichy’s St.Joseph College, my volleyball Coach Mr Balan backed my talent. He advised me to become a coach and develop players for tomorrow. That was a turning point in my career. After that, I joined a Diploma Degree in Coaching in Bengaluru. In 1984, after completing my diploma, I got my first job was with the Sports Development Authority of Tamil Nadu (SDAT). My first assignment was with the Tamil Nadu sub-junior Volleyball team which eventually attained the 3rd position in the National sub-junior Championships.”
Afterwards, he did several assignments with the State team and finally, he got an offer to work with the national junior women's team in their camp in Delhi. He also went as a coach with the team for the Asian Championship. Then Dakshinamoorthy switched his job from SDAT to Sports Authority of India (SAI).
“In 1993, I got a job in SAI. My first posting was in Guntur which produced many Indian Players like Ramana Rao. There, my role was to identify the local talent from villages. After a year of coaching there, I returned to Chennai. In 1995, the then Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalitha started a new scheme which was the biggest turning point in my coaching career. That scheme made Tamil Nadu a reckoning force in volleyball. For instance, from 2003 to 2020, teams from Tamil Nadu have won 10 gold, 5 silver and one bronze medals in National University Championships. Thirty-five players whom I coached went on to play for India and more than 80 players whom I coached got various jobs in sports quota. R. Kamaraj, Ukkara Pandian, Jerome Vinoth, Sivarajan, A.Bhagiyaraj, T.Srikanth are some of the players I trained, who have played for the national team," he says.
Sundaresan with S. V. Guru Prasanth and Srikanth, two players from the Indian U-21 Volleyball team in Asian U21 Championship at Bahrain (Source: Facebook)
On being asked about the growth of the sport he said, “Kabbadi and Volleyball are rural sports because both of these sports require less space. So they have been the go-to sports for many rural youths. I am seeing this trend not only in Tamil Nadu but also in other places like UP, Bihar, Rajasthan where people in the villages are liking this sport”.
Also when asked about his chances of getting the Dronacharya Award, he quipped, “I have applied for the award this year. There is quite a competition this time but I have worked very hard in my sport. This award will be a good reward for my work. I hope with the blessings of almighty and support from my well-wishers and players I could get it this time.”
Finally, Sundaresan also had a way forward for developing volleyball in the country. He said, “There are many players now taking up this sport. But due to the problems in the federation, these players are being left alone. I hope the federation issue is sorted out at the earliest, which is necessary for the sport's development. Also, we need to conduct IPL, Pro league style tournaments for volleyball to attract more talents. Local talents need to be identified and must be trained from grassroots. The Khelo India Scheme is an innovative approach in this regard, but it is still in its developing stage. Its efforts will be known only in the long run. Of course, women need to be given more attention to the sport. Nowadays, women volleyball players are recruited only in Railways and the of openings are fewer than men. Also, there are fewer tournaments for women. These issues are needed to be addressed for the growth of the game.” With these words, he signed off on a positive note. For a man who has been coaching for more than 36 years, the Dronacharya Award will be a perfect motivation.