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With a different SERVICE, now

Sheer commitment and hard work were the secrets of success for T.S.Balan.


OF COURSE, the function was to felicitate volleyball star G.E.Sreedharan. Naturally, he was the cynosure at the event, organised to honour him for engineering the Indian team to glory at the World Youth Volleyball Championship.

When all eyes were set on the former Indian captain, his attention was on an old man sitting among the audience. Much to everyone's surprise Sreedharan called him on to the stage and introduced T.S.Balan, a former international player, as his coach to the waiting crowd.

"Whatever I have achieved as an international player and coach is because of this veteran's committed efforts", he paid glowing tributes to his coach, in a voice choked with emotion. And there was a standing ovation for Mr.Balan, who served as coach for three decades.

Sheer commitment and hard work were the secrets of success for Mr.Balan. In fact, Balan was attracted to basketball during school days. But, it was P.Chelladurai, the then Director of Physical Education of the Sacred Heart College, Tirupattur, discovered the boy's talent in volleyball and nurtured him. Balan grabbed the opportunity with both hands and soon became instrumental for his school's win in various State-level tournaments.

Subsequently, he was selected for the State senior team. His ebullience earned him a permanent berth in the team for nine years, during which he also captained the team for two years.

"I was influenced by the trio Madasamy, Sulaiman and Asir. I was also lucky to have brushed shoulders with reputed international players including `black panther' A. Palanisamy of Melur, an Arjuna awardee, Athikannu, Arunachalam and Balram Menon of Southern Railway. I was able to hone my skills while playing with them," the veteran recalled.

Mr.Balan's consistent performance at the nationals earned him the coveted India cap. He was selected to play in a Test series against the visiting Japanese team in 1961. Later, he took to coaching and was recruited as coach of the Tiruchi district sports council in 1962. Having excelled in coaching assignments, Balan was selected as the State team's coach. It was he who coached the illustrious Tamil Nadu team that had brilliant players like Sreedharan, Ramana Rao,

Manoharan, Veeravelu, Danapal and Venkatesan in its ranks. It was no surprise when the team clinched the national championship title in 1976.

As coach of the State team he toured Sri Lanka and Bahrain. He added another feather to his cap when he was nominated as the chief coach of the country's women team, which won gold in the South Asian Federation (SAF) games at Dhaka in 1994.

"It was one of the most satisfying moment for me," he reminisces.

"There is no dearth of volleyball talent in the State. The game has a good future in the country, for which you need good coaches to spot talents and nurture youngsters in the districts. The presence of talented coaches like Dakshinamoorthy (who shaped Kamaraj, selected as the best setter at the world youth championship), Kalaiselvan (attached to the Sports Hostel, Tiruchi), T. A. Pari (Kancheepuram Sports Council) and Arumugam (Coimbatore Sports Hostel) augurs well for the State," he says.

Mr. Balan was full of praise for the programmes implemented by the Member Secretary of the Sports Development Authority of Tamil Nadu (SDAT), Davidar for the overall development of sports.

"Some of the schemes are really worthy and will positively produce good results in the years to come. The services of people like Sreedharan and Ramana Rao should be utilised fully," he advises. Talent

"The untiring efforts of the Volleyball Federation of India president, B. Sivanthi Adithan, and secretary, K. Murugan, have helped a lot in promotion of the game in the country. At present, the steps taken by the secretary of the State volleyball association, Martin Sudhakar, to revive the State youth championship is a good sign," Mr.Balan welcomes.

"We should adopt ladder system, so that we can have a bunch of juniors always ready to replace the seniors whenever necessary. The SDAT and the State association should pursue with the summer camps and should also have regular follow up," he says.

Mr. Balan picked up former international players Jimmy George of Kerala and Basith of Andhra Pradesh for a special mention.

"Both of them were committed to the core and they lived for the game. The untimely death of both of them in separate accidents was a big blow to the game, particularly for the young players," he recalls.

Even at this ripe age of 73, he is a regular visitor to the nearby Jamal Mohamed College grounds to watch the training schedule of the college volleyball team. He never fails to give the finer tips whenever necessary. "This keeps me in touch with the game, which I love so much," he signed off.

SYED MUTHAHAR

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