Technique and skill in any sport will only get you so far. To be at your best as a beach volleyball athlete or coach, it is essential to also enjoy your experience and have fun. That is usually the reason every athlete starts their beach volleyball journey, so why should it be any different when you are a veteran athlete or coach?
Todd Rogers, Founding Beach Nation Coach, Olympic Gold Medalist and now the Head Beach Coach at Cal Poly emphasizes the importance of having fun by saying
“This puts in to perspective what we all did at an earlier age. The why is because we loved the game and enjoyed challenging ourselves with what are kind of random touches, but what made us all better players. I still sometimes go outside in the yard and set the ball up and down to myself just because I enjoy challenging myself to see if I can still set a spinning ball cleanly.
It’s not about competing with someone else…just competing with myself. It’s not about working towards the Olympics…. but just because I can and because I enjoy it. At the heart of it is the pure essence of the game OR WHAT SHOULD BE THE REASON WHY ANYONE PLAYS.”
Beach Nation shares 3 ways to improve your beach game while also having fun:
1. Play as often as you can
Play with people older, younger better and not quite as good, every opportunity to play is an opportunity to improve your game. What is important is that you always stay focused, and when playing with players who are better than you, use the opportunity to learn and improve. When you are playing with players that are below your level it creates a fantastic opportunity for you to add more control to the game for them. Make sure your serves are placed where you want them to go. Give your partner a better set to make it easier for him/her to place the ball. Help create a level of consistency that allows you to work hard and raise the level of the game on your side of the net. Every time you play you don’t need a coach, you don’t need to be seen, but you do need to play with focus, practice using your best technique and have some fun too.
2. Maximum touches
Bump and / or set the ball to yourself 50 times in a row. If you cannot do 50 yet, you will be surprised how quickly you will get better by doing this drill.
Drill #1: This is a drill that creates a lot of touches and helps you to develop a feel for the ball. Sitting on the floor (or a chair) get your platform out away from your body and keep bumping the ball. As you get better at this you can start to lift the ball higher or lower and work on that “feel” of the ball against your forearms. When you are done bumping work on your hands by hand setting. Keep your hands high and keep your wrists back. You want to keep your hands as soft as possible so that you never hear or feel a slap as your hands touch the ball.
As you get better with hand setting try and lift the ball higher and closer to the ceiling. Then when all this is done work on passing from one arm to the other, back and forth, left arm to right arm and then back again.
Drill #2: Putting a piece of tape up against a wall at 7’4 or at 8′ and passing against it for 10- 15 minutes a few times a day is a lot of fun and will help you to develop a ‘feel’ for the ball coming off your forearms. This drill should always be led my moving your feet behind the ball, bending those knees and really working your platform so you eliminate arm swing ( left with your legs not swing your arms).
Patty Dodd is now the Founder of MB Sand Volleyball club but before that she played professionally on the sand and before that she was an indoor player for UCLA. At 5’8 she an undersized outside hitter, but she worked hard and utilized the wall to get more touches.
As she says “the wall shags for you and never yells at you!“
As a way to advance the wall drill you can pass the ball off the wall and then bump the ball to yourself, set the ball to yourself and then bump it again off the wall. You can also work on setting balls off the wall and then progress that drill by setting it to yourself so you bump it back to yourself and then set it again against the wall (set, bump to your hand and set against wall).
You will get more touches in 20-30 minutes doing these two drills alone than most players get in two hours of practice.
3. Take it outside!
Take the two drills above outside so that you can really work on getting your feet under the ball and then executing the skill. You can even do 10 minutes of these skill before you have a practice or incorporate some of these skills into your warm up routine as well.
Beth Van Fleet is the Head Beach Volleyball Coach at Georgia State University. One of her favorite alone drills is the solo serve and pass-set progression. Using the same 7’4 or 8’ line you marked on the wall for passing, you can work on serving. Take 6-12 steps from the wall and practice serving just above the line you drew. You can stand directly in front of the line or to either side to work on serving different angles. Serve a few sets of 10 and keep track of how many times your serve hits the wall just above the line. As you become more consistent, take a step back.
If you want to challenge yourself a little more (and have access to a slanted one story roof – preferably with no windows below it), consider serving the ball onto the roof then running up to platform pass it when it rolls off the roof. You can pass to yourself, set to yourself, catch it and return to a serving distance to repeat.
Practice good technique in these drills every time you warm up and every time you play. Your game will improve because most good athletes are limited by bad technique. So fix it here, fix that technique now, go have a ton of fun playing when and where you can, and get those alone touches. We play because it’s fun, go be great and go have fun!
Written by Beth Van Fleet, Georgia State Head Coach and Beach Nation Coach