Instead of playing volleyball in Salt Lake City this week, Doug Beal could be touring in the East with the U.S. National Team. He'd be considering final cuts for the Olympic team and be trying to win another gold medal in Seoul.

But Beal gave up coaching after the 1984 Games and, after serving two more years as the national team director during the coaching transition, officially retired last year from the national volleyball scene. He still spends some time with the men's team and may go to Seoul to observe the competition, but more than anything else, he can enjoy watching U.S. volleyball's hold on the world."For our team to go to Seoul as the prohibitive favorite . . . that's a stunning situation for those of us who have been involved," he noted. "For so many years, the U.S. was just the doormat of the world. We'd be lucky to even qualify for half those tournaments."

Beal, 41, now works for a volleyball equipment company and is the player-coach for a men's masters entry in this week's U.S. Open Volleyball Championships, Billauer Chiropractic of Marina del Rey, Calif.

"Everybody started as a player, and you'd like to keep playing as long as possible," mused Beal. "Everybody loves to come to this tournament and play."

Beal and his teammates, all former national team players, were cruising through pool play until Wednesday afternoon, when they lost 15-11, 15-13 to Boys Week Out of Alameda, Calif. With a 5-1 record, Billauer still easily qualified for the championship stage of the tournament, starting today and continuing through Saturday.

If this were not an Olympic year, the U.S. national team would be competing in this tournament, too. But Beal remains from '84, and he remembers the Games in the Long Beach Arena very well. "The whole Olympic experience is a fantastic memory," he says, as the subject comes up again. I've said over and over that the Olympic Games went by much too fast for me. And the fun part of coaching is seeing guys develop that are just national heroes now."

And for Doug Beal and many others in town this week, the real fun of volleyball is still playing.

--- LOCALS UPDATE: Generally, Utah teams struggled in Wednesday's pool play. In the men's senior division, Dalzen/Utah of Provo lost two matches to California teams to fall to 3-2, but all six teams in the division move on to championship play. In the men's open division, Fallout of Provo finished 3-3 and in the women's open division, Jokkue of Salt Lake City stood 1-2 prior to two matches today. All the teams in that division also move on to the tournament stage.

Championship games are scheduled Friday in the men's and women's senior and men's golden masters divisions as the event continues at the University of Utah and East High.