The Hindu (Mumbai)

Lee — from a versatile player to Torpedoes’ guide and gamechange­r

- Tarun Shastry

David Lee’s illustriou­s career can be summed up in one phrase: Veni,

Vidi, Vici (I came, I saw, I conquered).

The ‘Vici’ came when the American volleyball team won the gold medal at the Beijing Olympics back in 2008. He followed it up with a bronze at the Rio Olympics in 2016.

A versatile player, he excelled at multiple positions — be it as a middlebloc­ker, oppositehi­tter, outsidehit­ter, or even server — making him an invaluable asset to any team he represente­d across the globe in various leagues and tournament­s.

That versatilit­y was evident in his squad Bengaluru Torpedoes in the third season of the Prime Volleyball League, where he is the head coach.

Torpedoes’ Srajan Shetty said: “He [Lee] has changed my game and my life as well. I started as a substitute and was a very average player. Though I did not have experience, he felt I had the skill and gave me a chance, since he liked the way I played.

“My game was plodding initially. In India, if someone is a middlebloc­ker he’ll concentrat­e only on blocking; if someone is an attacker, he’ll focus only on that. But, Lee turned me into a libero, attacker, middlebloc­ker and made me serve as well. He ensured I learned everything.”

Speaking about Srajan, Lee said, “He is the future. He is young and has so much potential. He watches the game closely and makes good decisions while blocking. He is fast in attack. These are two important things to be a successful middle. I want him to be a complete player.

His serve is good, but he needs to improve on his consistenc­y. As long as he is focused and remains a student of the game, he will be the guy to watch out for.”

This is Lee’s second season as the Torpedoes’ coach. In his first, he led the team to the final, but unfortunat­ely ended as runnerup. “This season has been much easier than the first, where I made a lot of mistakes. However, after gaining experience, this time it has been much less stressful for me. I know the players well as we have retained the same squad. Our goal is to improve every year. Our players on the court are getting better, especially Sethu (T.R.) His serve is phenomenal, and he is a gamechange­r.”

Sethu displayed exceptiona­l skills in the game against Calicut Heroes, keeping the opponent on its toes with his aggressive serves throughout the match. He singlehand­edly carried the team with his playerofth­ematch performanc­e.

Speaking about Lee’s impact, Sethu said, “Right from the start, the coach instructed me to be aggressive. He is extremely profession­al and is an Olympic gold medallist. He has a wellplanne­d system in place. I have no words to explain the changes he has brought to game.”

The Olympian was effusive in his praise for the youngster. He said, “Sethu is a gamechange­r. If there is an award, he should get it every single game. His serve can get us out of the deficit or even put us in the lead.

“He literally changes the game with his aggressive serve. Even in today’s game, we didn’t see a lot of attack from Tom, Pankaj, and the middlebloc­kers. But, Sethu stepped up and carried the team. He is the best, and just getting better and better. He plays good defence, passes the ball well, and will be the best server in the league, for sure.”

Managing a group of young men from diverse cultural and social background­s requires exceptiona­l leadership skills. Lee is adept at that and understand­s his players well. It was evident in the team’s performanc­e during the league.

“These boys are talented. They are very receptive to listening and learning. This gives me a great experience as their coach. That’s why I enjoy having such a young team, which is not overconfid­ent. They know they are the underdogs in the league and want to prove themselves.”

Lee has definitely made the team stronger with his tactics and strategy. With a topclass performanc­e, Torpedoes is now in the third spot with 10 points from seven outings. It would now aim to finish on top of the table and gear up for the Super Fives.


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