Rai living his dream through NDA

Kathmandu, August 7

Kumar Rai is a well known name in Nepali volleyball. Someday, he had a dream of playing volleyball and win accolades. He failed as a player but that did not stop him from marching ahead.

The 49-year-old Rai, who hails from remote Malta of Shankhuwasabha district in Koshi Zone, came to Kathmandu after finishing his School Leaving Certificate exams in 1988, the same year he failed to make it to the district team for the Eastern Regional selection competition.

“I failed as a player as my height let me down despite having a tremendous interest in playing volleyball,” says Rai, who is five-foot-four-inch tall. “The time was different when we used to play. There was no system of libero or lifter at that time. Otherwise I could have easily fit in the team,” rues Rai.

“I was selected in school’s team and we played invitational tournaments within the district while studying at grade six in Saraswoti School. When I joined Himalayan School in Khandbari for grade nine, I got chance to play in Birendra Shield and we finished as runners-up in 1987,” he remembers. “But I could not go beyond that due to my height,” he added.

Keeping aside volleyball and his dreams, Rai joined Ratna Rajya Campus. After two years, Rai got a platform to continue with his first love when he started teaching at Bright Future School in 1990. He formed a team of teachers and started playing volleyball at the school. The team even participated in a couple of events.

As per the suggestions of the guardians, Rai got a chance of forming boys and girls teams at the school and train them as well. He spent four years and also led the teams in various school-level tournaments. “We used to play volleyball just for entertainment. But one fine day some guardians came to us and requested to train their children. As per the suggestions, we formed boys’ and girls’ teams ans started training. They were doing good in school-level tournaments but I had to quit Bright Future School in 2005,” he said.

Rai then established his own school, New Diamond Academy in Naikap (now Chandragiri), along with four other partners. Rai formed boys’ volleyball team to begin with but that did not work. He then turned towards athletics, but failed again. He did not give up and came up with a girls’ volleyball team and started training them in 2007.

“Ramila Tandukar was the only tall player in the team, while other members were too short for volleyball. I not only trained them the basics of the sport, but also instilled confidence into the players. There were just seven players when I started the training. Six of the players, except for Tandukar, left the school the following year and I remained almost empty handed again. I picked up the potential players and started the training again. Almost all the players were unfit because of their height but I worked hard to make them technically sound as I had Tandukar as the main player,” says Rai.

NDA started participating in school-level tournaments and also won medals. The specialty of his team is that the girls are as young as 13 years and with the average height of five feet. Rai got pumped up with the success and started dreaming of winning major titles, as a coach this time around. “The team started producing good results and that attracted others’ attention,” adds Rai. “I kept on putting in a lot of hard works and I was able to come up with a team that is not only a threat for others but also title contenders in all the tournaments,” he says.

It did not take long for Rai to get established in women’s volleyball. He was not a certified coach but he discovered the formula of winning, making his team technically sound. He conducted training for girls at the school whenever he got time. Being a principal and coach, Rai is very clear in his mission for his girls: study and play volleyball.

After a series of participations, Rai and his team stunned the volleyball fraternity when they bagged the NVA Club League Volleyball Championship in 2013. Very few people believed what they just saw on the court. A weak-looking team claimed the major title, that too defeating the likes of departmental sides, who are considered strong teams in women’s volleyball. That was just the beginning for NDA as the team went on winning many more accolades throughout the country and the team established itself as a strong force in women’s volleyball.

The other side of the story is equally interesting. The Nepali women’s volleyball will always be indebted to Rai and NDA for producing talented players. NDA’s product, Ramila Tandukar ruled women’s volleyball for a decade and after she went to the United States, the national team has another talented player in Pratibha Mali. While the departmental sides and other teams sign already-established names, NDA has been producing champion spikers. Reshma Bhandari, Ranjana Khadka and Manisha Tamang are other few names who trained under Rai and have been playing for Nepal APF Club.

A proud coach, Rai now has another big dream. And this one is for the nation. “My dream is to produce players who can win medals in international stage. If I get a couple of players like Pratibha Mali, I can definitely make a team that can win medals in Asian level,” says Rai, the FIVB Level-II license holder coach.

“I got the chance to learn a lot of things from the training in India two years ago and I have been applying the same here,” he says. “Now I want to go a further step ahead and take the team to a new height.”