Sideout scoring began in the 1920’s on the courts of Santa Monica. A sideout is defined by receiving a serve from an opponent and winning that point. In sideout scoring you can only win a point when it is your serve, therefore matches can last for hours. What is most important to learn from the sideout scoring era is that offensive efficiency of being able to: pass, set, and attack, outweighs the importance of defensive skills such as digging and blocking.
Beach volleyball is a 2 on 2 sport where your team must be able to sideout in order to win the match. Either you are getting served, where it is your responsibility to pass and attack, or your partner is getting served so it is your responsibility to set and communicate the open court to your partner. Let’s think about indoor volleyball where there are six players. What is your or your son’s responsibility during the sideout phase? Is he just a passer, just an attacker, a setter? Even as the teams’ outside hitter after passing the ball your team still has 3 or 4 other options to set on any given play. Out on the sand it is only you; you and your partner must sideout.
Many coaches say beach volleyball will 100% help your indoor volleyball game, and that is true. Many coaches say beach volleyball will help your indoor game because it gives you the opportunity to practice every skill- I agree with that as well. Beach volleyball is played in deep sand, and in many places hot weather. Beach volleyball is an endurance sport and can help as a cross training tool with just about any activity. Where beach volleyball helps the most in my opinion, is the amount of times you get to practice the same skill (passing, setting, attacking) in a different way.
In beach volleyball the three main elements of the game are sun, sand, and wind. I will try and cover each of these and explain how these elements affect the game.
Passing- For starters, you need to be able to pass half of the court instead of a third or a forth. In the sand once I pass the ball, guess who is getting set, that’s right! I am. Once you pass the first contact for your team you have to run up to the net to jump and hit. Short and deep serving is more common in the beach game because you can take someone out of their approach. This means you can put opponents in situations where they can pass the ball well, but not attack effectively, therefore making it easier to defend.
When the wind is blowing at my back and I am passing, this is called the bad side. The ball can easily drop in front of me because of the wind. In order to prevent this, I need to step up a few feet in the court thus exposing much of the backline. The server who is hitting the ball is now much less likely to miss because they can hit the ball harder and deeper, thus putting more pressure on the passer.
Setting- In beach volleyball both platform and overhand setting are used. When your partner is being served, setting is much more than setting the same ball in the same spot every time. Maybe your partner was served deep and needs time to get to the net so you need to set the ball higher. Perhaps your partner passed the ball away from the net and now you need to use your platform to put spin on the ball and get it up to the net. There are many things to think about, but it is safe to say setting is an extremely difficult skill to master on the beach. The job of a setter is no longer done once the ball goes up in the air, the next thing to do is communicate open court for your attacker. In indoors there are 6 players on the court, so there usually isn’t a major area that is significantly open. With only two players on the sand, there is generally an open spot and it is up to the setter to try and paint a picture for the attacker about what is open, while the attacker is focused on contacting the ball.
Attacking- Well let’s start with the fact that you most likely just passed the ball and have to immediately adjust gears. In indoor, every offense runs a “spot set” each player hits from a certain zone 90% of the time. In beach volleyball most offenses run a “relationship set” meaning the set should go right in front of where the passer just passed the ball. Even Olympic gold medalists can’t pass the ball in the exact same spot every time, so most of them just pass the ball close to the net and use different footwork patterns to attack the ball in all different spots along the net. Instead of indoors where you hit the ball out of the middle/leftside/rightside of the court every time, on the beach you hit the ball out of every spot.
When playing out in Hermosa around 12pm when I was 19 I told my partner’s dad that I could not see the ball after the set. The sun was directly in line of the path of the set, and I had to wait until it was way too late to see the ball and would hit the ball into the net. Paul Stevenson told me “Kyle sets you the same ball every day in practice you know how long it takes from set to attack, look straight up and hit the sun.” After a couple of swings and misses during warm ups, the tip actually worked pretty well. Once the ball was no longer in my vision I reached up and tried to hit the sun. We went on to beat Chris Austin and Kris Johnson in the finals of the tournament.
Attacking into the wind is beach volleyballs ultimate equalizer. When first playing, the wind feels like you are playing with some sort of fake string. You see the ball in one spot and are about to hit it, and then the string gets pulled and all of a sudden you are in the completely wrong spot and hit the ball into the net. Once the wind stops being disadvantages, it can start becoming an advantage- as hitting the ball into the wind can create tough attacks. There were times I would literally go to bed praying for more wind. No seriously, we were in Poland playing against Latvia in the World Champs and our two opponents were 6’8 and 6’9. We could not block them, so we needed wind in order to try and serve them off the court. Wind did not come, we lost 21-14, 21-15 in the best game of our lives. No seriously, once again I had some incredible digs just….then got housed. (Being blocked by an opponent where the ball hits the ground before either players’ feet do).
Read this and think about your indoor season that just completed. What skills did you perform, what responsibilities did you have? Think about what I just wrote, when you can master the sand….indoor gets easy.
Interested in playing beach? Spring Beach Club tryouts are this Sunday February 11th from 8:00 am - 11:00 am at West Valley College!
To learn more about Bay to Bay Beach Club, click here.
To register for Beach Tryouts, click here.