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