Hot sun, warm breeze, and soft, powdered sand make for one relaxing day at the beach—unless you’re training with the ninth-ranked player on the National Volleyball League Professional Tour, Tim Wooliver. Founder of the Texas Volleyball Tour, trainer, and head coach, Wooliver emits an air of enthusiasm when speaking about volleyball-related endeavors. A perpetual habit of Wooliver’s daily life is sharing his love of the game with other volleyball enthusiasts and sideline onlookers who, after spending any amount of time with the gregarious athlete, are likely to soon be persuaded to try a new sport. “Every time you go out and play beach volleyball, you learn something new, work on your craft, and keep getting better,” Wooliver said.
At the age of 19, Wooliver, who was accustomed to throwing fastballs and curveballs from atop the mound, was in search of a change: “During that time in my life, I didn’t work very hard and took things for granted.” As a pitcher, Wooliver was comfortable being in control of the game and keen on being largely responsible for its outcome. He saw a similarity in two-man beach volleyball and, drawn by the allure of the sand court, quickly developed a passion for the sport. (Wooliver, however, never had any interest in indoor volleyball. He found six players on the court “too crowded” and the games much too “corporate” for his playing style; he preferred a two-man team in a more “chill” setting.)
Wooliver turned pro in 2000 and has been racking up an impressive accumulation of accomplishments ever since. The most significant: winning the Barefoot Wine National Volleyball Championship in back-to-back years (2009 and 2010). “The tournament was a single elimination format. Lose one match, and you’re out,” Wooliver explained. After playing four grueling matches in a row against the top volleyball players in the country, Wooliver and his volleyball partner Colin Kaslow reaped the rewards of championship. “We were tired, and cramping from battling all day,” Wooliver remembered. “We won not only money and trophies but the reward of getting to play against [Olympic Beach Volleyball gold medalists] Phil Dalhausser and Todd Rodgers. They beat us, but the matches were pretty close.” To make the national championship wins even more noteworthy, Wooliver dedicated the games to one of his biggest supporters and a ubiquitous friendly face in most tournament crowds—his mother, who recently passed away. “I was proud to honor her with those wins,” he said.
Nearing the end of his professional playing career (though still competing in national tournaments such as the MotherLode in Aspen, Colorado), Wooliver’s continued passion for the sport resulted in his founding the Texas Volleyball Tour in 2010. His mission: Unite the Texas beach volleyball community and drive the sport to a new level in the Lone Star State. The Tour welcomes players of all skill levels, from recreational co-eds to semi-pros, pros, and a juniors division. Tournaments are played throughout the state—mostly in Austin, Dallas, and San Antonio—with the end goal of competing in the championship. Points are accumulated according to tournament placing and are used for seeding the championship. Tour champions and point leaders gross swanky prizes, such as Beach Cruisers, Oakley gear, and some cold, hard cash, as well as intangible rewards (such as meeting new people and having an awesome volleyball experience). Wooliver is no stranger to the often spa-like amenities pro players typically experience at tournaments (decked-out players’ tents and beer gardens, to name a few), and he is adamant that these details be incorporated in the Texas Volleyball Tour. “We want to treat everyone like a pro, regardless of skill level,” Wooliver said. “Every player [in the Tour] should be treated like an elite athlete.”
The Tour, while allowing Wooliver to remain involved in the sport, does break him away from court time to focus on event planning and production. Wooliver is actively involved in the Tour, though he gives considerable credit for its success to Cassidy Murray, who heads up sponsorship and marketing responsibilities, and Jack & Adams Bicycles, which sponsors the event. “With their contacts and knowledge of event production, [the Tour] is really a skeleton of what they do,” Wooliver explained. He added, gratefully, that, “Without them, none of this would have ever happened.” In addition to gaining such helpful event-planning knowledge, Wooliver served up an ace with his recent engagement to Murray. “Look how that worked out,” he laughed.
In a sport typically dominated by female players and a state primarily infatuated with high school football, Wooliver still forecasts a sunny outlook for the growth of his sport. Currently, 31 colleges and universities throughout the nation offer beach volleyball as a collegiate sport, with a growing handful offering athletic scholarships. The Texas Volleyball Tour’s junior division has also seen tremendous growth, increasing from 15 players in 2012 to over 40 at present. When Wooliver was asked the best method of converting these young men from traditional high school sports, he replied, “Let their passion grow organically—[they’ll] see how fun it is, and [then]…word of mouth.” This season, Wooliver started training about 15 boys, and he has no doubt that numbers will increase. As a coach, Wooliver aims to “inspire and teach kids how to play, get better, and enjoy the game,” and so he has done with 23-year-old local standout Courtney Trevino, who trained with Wooliver for many years and made this year’s National U26 Beach Volleyball Team. Trevino, currently in California, has aspirations to make the 2016 USA Olympic Team and continues to train with Wooliver when she’s in town. “Not only has she developed into an outstanding volleyball player,” Wooliver asserted, “but she is a great role model for young girls.”
Fitness enthusiasts who are looking to give their running shoes a break and explore new exercise options can try out volleyball-specific training offered by the Texas Volleyball Tour. There are three different phases of training for juniors and adults: Basic Skills & Light Conditioning; Skills, Strategies, & Conditioning; and Elite Training. All players get quality “Tim time” during their session. A maximum of eight players from each class are broken into groups of four; an assistant coach works with players on physical training while Wooliver improves game skills. For those who may shy away from the idea of a jump serve or a friendly game of pepper but still want an intense workout, Wooliver offers a class called Straight Up Fitness, which focuses on stability, plyometrics, weight training, speed, and overall fitness. “All exercises are performed in the sand,” Wooliver explained. “You burn so many calories [from the extra effort required]; it’s a phenomenal workout.”
At one point, the Texas Volleyball Tour had planned to host three-time Olympic gold medalist Misty May Treanor in a clinic this month in Austin; Treanor cancelled, however, saying it was “too hot” at that time of the year for her to attend.
Detailed information about the tournament, which has play in Austin, San Antonio, and Dallas at a variety of dates, can be found online; information at texasvolleyballtour.com includes registration, training sign-up, and more upcoming events. Although Southern California may be cooler (at least temperature-wise) in July and considered the nation’s beach volleyball mecca, the Texas Volleyball Tour satisfies Texans with a local hub and some spectacular play all their own.
Beach Volleyball Rules
Teams have two players
(no substitutions or replacement; if one is injured, the team forfeits the match).
Points are scored on every serve over the net, regardless of which team served.
A rally (hitting the ball back-and-forth between the two teams) occurs after the serve; it ends when the ball hits the ground or the referee calls an infraction. The team that wins the rally wins the point, and the team that gets to 21 points wins the set (game). If a ball hits the ground outside of the court, the last person to touch the ball is responsible and the other team gets the point.
A match is won by winning two out of three sets.
If each team has won a game, the third game goes to 15 points instead of 21. A team must win by 2 points, so scoring continues past 21 (or 15) until that happens.
Teams switch sides every 7 points to even conditions (sun, wind), so that no team has an unfair advantage.
If there is a third 15-point set, sides are switched every 5 points.
Players do not get a break for rest or drinking during the side change;
however, each team has one time out per set.
Play begins with the ball being served from behind the back line of the court, over the net, and into the opponent’s side.
The server begins play by serving (hitting) the ball from anywhere along the back line; the ball must go over the net and into the other side within bounds (if it hits the net and falls into the opponent’s side, it is in play). Only one attempt at the serve is allowed.
A team is allowed three hits on their side.
One or two hits and over is also allowed, but four or more hits on a side are not. A player cannot hit the ball twice consecutively, unless it is touched during a block.
The defense can jump and block the ball to keep it from coming over the net.
The blocker is allowed to reach high over the net, and is also allowed to “penetrate” the airspace on the spiker’s side of the net. But the blocker cannot actually touch the ball until the spiker has hit it; if the blocker touches the ball after it is spiked, that counts as one hit, and the blocker is allowed to immediately touch it again. But then there are only two more hits allowed on his/her side before the ball must go over the net.
A player can cross under the net to the opposition’s side to hit the ball as long as there is no contact or interference with the opposing team.
But in doing so, a player cannot interfere with the other team’s ability to play the ball.
Antennae, the net and the court:
The sand court is a rectangle that measures 16 x 8 meters, bisected by a net. The net height is 2.43 meters (approximately 8 feet) for men and 2.24 meters (7.4 feet) for women. Two antennas extend upward on each side of the net, in line with the court lines, and as the ball goes over the net it must pass inside those antennae to be legal. Players are not allowed to touch the net in the action of playing the ball, but incidental net touches are not a fault.
Beach Volleyball Warm-ups
This is one of the exercises we do at the beginning of practice to warm up. Start at the serving line and jump back and forth over the court line until you get to the net. Then, jump backwards to the serving line. Repeat on the other leg. These should be slow, controlled jumps; the purpose of the exercise is to loosen the legs up before getting into drills. You keep going for 40 seconds on each leg.
This is the same as single-leg jumps except you use both legs.
Do two sets of 20 of these plyometric exercises, which will help your vertical leap, explosion, and quickness. We alternate this in on plyo days, as you only want to hit plyometics hard once or twice a week; when you do them depends on your next tournament because you don’t want to have tired legs going into competition.
This is an exercise we do to warm up and time our block; it helps with your vertical, too. Start at the end line, run to the net, block jump, backpedal, and repeat for two sets of ten repeats.