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

2012 Summer Take Aways: Preparing for Next Summer’s Beach Season

Hello All!

Whoah! It’s mid August! July and August have been a huge whirlwind of emotions, hard work, life lessons, travel, and tons of beach volleyball!  I got back to Austin on Friday and hopped right into my last school season of indoor yesterday. On my flight home I had some great time for self reflection. It was a very surreal feeling knowing that my next trip back to California would be moving there permanently!  One thing was clear: I have to do everything I can in my spare time to prepare for next summer’s beach season. 

I started making a list that I titled, “2012 Summer Take Aways.” It covered concepts I needed to emphasize within my own game, goals of mine to improve my style of play, and skills that I wanted to improve on that I would use to shape my off season workouts. While some may think it is a random list, I feel that it is something I will refer to between now and next season. The list included the following:

#1 Fitness: This will always be an emphasis and is key to be able to compete. Just playing volley is not enough. My goals here are pretty basic…quicker, more explosive, stronger, and to take care of my shoulder.

#2 Being an equally good defender as I am a primary blocker: This will probably be one of the toughest things for me to accomplish. I have spent lots of hours on a skill that set me apart from my peers in California, pulling off the net! However, I have also realized that I want to be able to play with any sort of player and feel like I can be successful. Looking into the future, it will only help me and make me that much better of a partner to be able to do both.

#3 Becoming more of a power player: At the higher level, I have found that establishing a power game early on makes people respect it and leads to my finesse game opening up. While I love to make shots, it doesn’t work at a high level unless opponents respect my power game.

#4 Movement without the ball: Have you ever thought about the amount of time spent touching a volleyball in comparison to not touching it during a match? It pretty gnarly what small percentage it really is! Keeping this in mind, movement without the ball is almost more important than with the ball. With this being said, I have a few points I will keep in mind through the off season and movement without the ball will be a focus for me.
“No time to have lunch”: If anybody watched the Olympics, Misty May is the best example for this idea. It’s pretty simple really…How quick can I get up once I am down? If May dives, she is up ready to hit the set from Walsh before the set goes up.
How quick can I get to POI (point of intersection)?: Essentially this is how quick during a play can I get back to base as a blocker or defender.
Land and get off net: As a blocker, how quick can I track the ball, get off the net, face my target and make a set. How good can I be setting a dig that is 20 feet off the net? I want to be great at this!  The transition game is so important and is crucial at high levels.

#5 Movement with the ball: While moving without the ball is crucial…so is the actual touch on the ball. There are a few things that I took note of that I like to refer to mentally when there is a skill I’m struggling with:
Passing, digging, setting: Stay on the ball as long as possible! This concept works extremely well when playing with the FIVB ball because it is so hard to control. Emphasizing the idea of making calm contact with the ball helps imporve accuracy and control.
Setting: “Draw line early”. Get body to the ball quick, and draw the line for the set early to ensure accuracy. When this idea is over exaggerated it helps tremendously in windy conditions.
Passing and digging: “CHEST UP! See your hands!”. When these 2 ideas are done, success happens for me. The minute I get into a passing slump, I think about keeping my chest up and lifting the ball. When playing defense, if you can see your hands, good things happen (overhand digging, platform digging, diving, etc.).

I am looking forward to taking these points and using them as a guide in pretty much everything I do in preparation for next season. This past summer was incredible and I am so thankful for the opportunities I had. I cannot wait to continue from where I left off. More importantly, I am ready to work now!

Thanks for all the support! GO USA!
-Court