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Transitioning to Beach Volleyball

There are several notable differences between indoor volleyball and its beach counterpart: The court is smaller, there are fewer players per team, and there are a number of rule changes. But those differences are fairly easy to adapt to, once you become more educated and familiar with the nuances of the sport.

What makes the transition most difficult is dealing with the outdoor elements: The sun, the wind, and the unstable playing surface.

Here are a few pointers to help smooth the transition to the beach.

Develop Your Sand Legs

Outside hitters tend to transition easiest to the sand because they are required to excel in several aspects of volleyball in the indoor game. 17 out of 19 girls on the USAV’s Youth and Junior Beach National Team were outside hitters.

If you don’t have much experience maneuvering in the sand, then it’s time to play catch-up. Playing on the beach is very demanding and the only way to acclimate your body to the rigors of the sport is to log some serious training time in the sand.

Jogging can be a good way to ease into the transition, but sprints are even more beneficial since volleyball requires short, successive bursts of speed rather than sustained endurance.

Incorporating drills and/or exercises that simulate the types of movements required in volleyball is also a must. Check out our guide on strength training for beach volleyball for examples of drills and exercises designed to develop the muscles needed for the sand.

Strengthen Your Core Muscles

Core strength refers to the ability of the abdominal, back, and hip muscles to support the spine and keep the body stable and balanced. Maintaining a solid foundation of strength in the core muscles is important for any sport, but it is especially important for beach players because the game is played on an unstable surface. Developing a powerful core will improve every aspect of your game, from spiking and passing to defense and blocking.

Check out the iSport guide on developing core muscles for examples of strengthening exercises.

Say No to Sunburns

Don’t let a sunburn ruin your game. Always pack enough sunscreen to last the whole day. A ‘sport’ or waterproof sunscreen is highly recommended because they are resistant to sweat, which means you spend more time playing and less time worrying about re-applying sun block.

Shield Your Eyes

Protect your eyes from the harsh ultra-violet rays and take the opportunity to show off a stylin’ pair of shades.

Hot Tip: Grab a Hat

If you prefer not to wear sunglasses, or if you are looking for extra protection from the sun, consider packing a hat in your beach bag. Any hat that you choose should fit tightly, so that constant motion won’t cause it to continually fall off; a baseball cap works perfectly.

Sunglasses designed for a high amount of activity are probably your best bet, since you’ll be moving and diving in all directions throughout the game. If you’re having trouble choosing a pair, or if you’re not sure whether the one you chose is appropriate for the sand courts, here are a few examples of features to look for:

  • U.V. coating: A U.V. coating will ensure that your eyes are protected from harmful rays emitted from the sun. If you are unsure if a pair of sunglasses has a U.V. coating, ask the sales person. In this case it’s definitely better to be safe than sorry.
  • Polarized lenses: Anyone who has been to the beach knows that the sun’s reflection off the sand and surf can create a pretty nasty glare which can make it difficult to track the ball. Polarized lenses help eliminate the glare and enhance your vision on the beach.
  • Rubber grips: Rubber grips, usually found on the nose piece or ends of the frame, can help keep your shades where they belong.

Remember, a pair of sunglasses does not need to have all of the features mentioned above. Just try to get some that provide protection from harmful U.V. rays and are snug enough to ensure that they won’t fly off your face.

Play to the Wind

As you become a more seasoned player you will learn to view the wind as an ally instead of an enemy.

Until then, here are a few tips to help you deal with the added adversity:

  • Lower the height of your passes and sets: The longer the ball is in the air, the more it will be affected by the wind. Neutralize the wind by keeping the height of your passes and sets to a minimum.
  • Snap your wrist: Snapping your wrist over the top of the ball when spiking generates topspin. Topspin can be especially useful on the beach, because it allows an attacker to better control the trajectory of their hit.

Work on Your Game

Indoor volleyball often requires players to specialize in one position. Consequently, many end up honing certain skills sets while neglecting others: For example, the impressive hitter who can hammer out kills like nobody’s business but can’t pass a ball to save his/her life. This can be a successful strategy indoors, but on the beach, it’s the recipe for failure.

There are only two positions in beach volleyball: the left side and the right side of the court. That means that both players should be able to do a little bit of everything (pass, set, and hit) fairly well. So if you lack certain skills and it starts to be detrimental to your performance, it’s time to focus on bringing your entire game up to par. The more well rounded your game, the easier you will be able to transition from indoors to the beach.

Utility players generally transition from indoors to the beach easily.

The Beach is Calling

When transitioning from the indoor game to the beach, chances are you’ll encounter a few bumps along the way. (Even Misty May-Treanor, two-time Olympic gold medalist, found the adjustment to be a challenge at first.) The key to the switch is good preparation. So take the tips outlined above to heart and you’ll be in superior beach form in no time flat.

Making the jump from the hardwood to the sand can be tough. This beach volleyball guide is full of tips and suggestions to help new beach players transition smoothly.
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