Benefits of Beach for Your Court Game

I played indoor volleyball for about three years before I picked up the beach game and I can remember what a disaster the most basic skills and movements were when I first hit the sand. Learning to transition between beach and indoor definitely had its challenges, but the more I played on both surfaces the easier it got.  It also didn’t take long to realize how much the sand was helping my indoor game.  These are the biggest improvements that I saw with myself:

Increase in Body Control – Having to play against the resistance of the sand helped my body control in my indoor game as well as my overall balance.  I quickly noticed that I was not floating as an indoor blocker and I was quicker to transition from hitting to blocking.

Confidence in My Skills – As one of only two people on your side during a beach game, theoretically, one has to play the ball at least once each time it’s on your side of the net.  Some indoor players will be subbed in for a few points to strictly do one skill (get a block, pass a serve, serve, etc.).  A player naturally gets way more touches on the ball and has to use all skills to be successful. Taking this experience to the hard court makes you so much more well-rounded and less specialized.

Increased Court Awareness – Building confidence in all skills leads to a player’s court awareness improving.  It’s easiest explained in that the beach game forces players to be so much more involved because they are constantly having to make plays.

Physical Fitness & Endurance –  Playing beach naturally helps the indoor game with foot speed, reaction time, endurance and jumping.  The resistance of the sand is responsible for helping me to be faster and definitely jump higher when I’m playing indoor.  Add a dabble of Texas heat and central Texas humidity, and your endurance gets immensely better.

Attaining “sand legs” can be tough at first.  Here are a few tips that helped me when I first started playing beach and still help me today, especially if I haven’t played in the sand for a while.

Be in a low athletic position at all times.  During the indoor game I have found that I can get away with being lazy and standing straight up, yet still have success.  Reminding myself to be in a low athletic position at all times immediately helps me and my touches on the ball instantly get better.  Being in this position before contacting the ball cuts out having to do it as you are making a play on the ball.   A simple way to illustrate the positivity of doing this is as follow: A blocker pulls off the net not in this position and the attacker shoots a short shot in front of them.  The blocker has to bend down and move to the ball.  If the blocker pulled off in a low athletic position they would have one less movement and have a better chance at getting the short shot.

Focus on the lower body.   Focusing on firing the hamstrings and quads when making plays is very helpful.  Placing emphasis on exploding to the ball from that low athletic position is key. One USA coach once told me, “Buns and guns, fire them for a good bump set.”  Moving down to the ankles, flexibility is key in aiding with movement as well.  Gliding through the sand is easier than trying to move like Frankenstein.  When I focus on flexing my ankles it makes a tremendous difference, especially if the sand is deep.

Master the beach approach.  Unlike indoor, the approach on the beach does not have a broad jump.  The elements of the sand and wind do not allow for it.  When first starting, players have a hard time with this, but once the concept is grasped, a person’s offense will be so much better. In addition, when first starting it’s important to get the most air out of the sand that you can. Emphasis on the back swing and reaching high will also help a person’s approach on the beach.

While they both have bumps, sets, and spikes, the beach and indoor game are very different. Being able to play both is awesome and playing beach can help your indoor game tremendously.  While it may be tough at first to find your “sand legs,” it’s definitely worth going out and looking for them.  🙂

by Courtney Trevino

Tips in the Offseason from Courtney Trevino: Blocking and Serving

Today I was working on my block pulling footwork and I was imagining game like scenarios to help my mind simulate the situations. Doing this sparked an idea to write about, positioning the serve to aid your teams blocking scheme.

Obviously the game is never black and white, but there is a concept that I use, especially when I’m the server and have to run up to the net to block.  The concept is pretty simple but sometimes overlooked.

Envision this: I am the server and have to run up to block. The block call is “line” on both opponents.

My thought: in order to help my team defense, serve on the sideline side of either player (obviously whoever my team has decided to go after). The reason is simple. Generally if you serve towards the sideline, the player’s pass is going to be closer to the sideline. As I run up to block, I have put myself in a position to block a hard line hit, and allowed my defender to have the angle and run down the high line shot.

Think, if I were to serve towards the middle and try to block line…the pass would go more towards the middle. My block becomes a little tougher to make efficient, and the defender has lots of shots to cover. Not to mention if I decide to pull, I have made it hard on myself to cover the line side because I have to pull at a diagonal.

Using this idea of ball movement, let’s look at what to do if the block call is “angle.”

In order to set up the block to be most efficient and allow the defender to not feel overwhelmed, I would serve the opponent on the inside of their body. As talked about above, generally the pass would be more towards the center of the court. This would leave the defender one half of the court, and a shot above the block. A team defense with a line block is always tougher so using this is crucial.

Don’t forget about the audible call, “switch!” For instance, if the blocking call is “angle” and I serve a ball towards sideline that gets passed close to the antenna but a good set is still put up, I would yell, “switch!” so my defender knows they now have the angle and I’m blocking line. If I were to stick to the original “angle” call, my defender would have a tiny bit of line to cover, I most likely wouldn’t be able to block all of the angle hit, and a lollipop shot over my angle is an easy point for the other team.

To summarize the above strategy: if you’re blocking line, serve towards the outside leg. If you’re blocking angle, serve towards inside leg.

As I said before, the game is never black and white but this is a strategy to consider. Factors such as wind, opponents running play sets frequently, and opponent weaknesses and strengths should always be considered.

Until next time,

-Court