Well, the first week in Cali was just as hard as I expected. Deep sand, chilly weather, tough competitors, and high winds were just a few variables I had to adjust to. But, the good news is that it’s over and we ended with a tournament victory at Ocean Park in Santa Monica on Sunday.
With minimal training as a team, Geena and I went out with a couple of focuses: minimizing errors, playing a “small game” (keeping everything close to each other and not spread over the court), and having good technique. We also made communication a top priority and saw significant improvement after struggled with it big time in the first game.
After a few games we re-organized our focuses a little to reflect what we thought was necessary for the rest of the day: “dig to kill” (as opposed to our “dig to hitting error”), tougher serving using angles and the wind, and playing our game as opposed to being responsive to the other side.
With good communication we realized that we both preferred the right side but were comfortable enough to play on the left. Our decision was simple: If teams got 2 real points in a row, we would switch.
While we played well most of the day, beach volleyball is always going to be a game of momentum—which can shift in the blink of an eye, especially with rally scoring. The versatility and mental awareness of the momentum that Geena and I had as a team were two key elements in our tournament victory.
Keeping to the plan, we switched sides as soon as a team would earn 2 real points in a row. So many times the switch led to an easier ball to the person getting served or a service error for a point. With long games to 28 we were given 2 timeouts per game. Time out management was another tool we used well in shifting momentum back to us. If we were up by several points and let the other team back into the game, we would call a time out before we lost the lead. After a minute of regrouping we often would open the lead back up.
Most players will have a dominant side they prefer playing on. But, having the ability to be “comfortable” on the other side is a great quality, not only in finding partners but to change the flow of a game. The versatility it adds to a team can be a huge addition. Another skill, while more mental than physical, that is arguably more crucial, is the ability to identify momentum and how to swing it back to your side. Keeping track of runs and how they were earned is a tough task but is so helpful in making decisions relating to switching sides, calling time outs, taking extra time to dust off, fix the lines, etc. Beach volleyball is a game of momentum, and if you can manage it, you will likely be one step ahead of your competitors.