Assuming you are reading this article, you must have at least some interest in the Beach Volleyball culture. We, at the BeachVolleyballGuides hope to educate you about this fascinating sport and ensure that you will be able to discuss it in detail with others. We will cover all the different areas of Beach Volleyball in-depth and educate you on the basics of this sport. So without further ado, let us dive right in!
What is Beach Volleyball?
Beach Volleyball, the lesser-known counterpart to indoor volleyball, is yet another team sport. However, instead of being played on a hard court, Beach Volleyball is played entirely on sand.
The court itself is divided by a net, the dimensions of which will be discussed further in this article. The objective of this indoor volleyball alternative is the same, to make sure that the volleyball touches the ground of the opposing team’s court and to make sure that it does not ground on your side of the court. Sounds simple enough. But that is far from the actual truth!
You have to remember that because the opposing team has the same goal as you, this “simple” task becomes unimaginably hard. And as you get better at the sport, the number of factors that you must consider when trying to win a point increases significantly.
So, what are the different ways that you can achieve the goal of getting the ball to fall on the opposite side? This can be done in several ways: either hitting, or spiking the ball; tactically placing or cutting it onto a free spot on the court, or humiliating your opponents by placing an impenetrable wall in front of their attack and blocking them.
Furthermore, as you begin your Beach Volleyball journey, you can also consistently gain points through basic bumps and weak serves, but as you progress, winning with these means becomes significantly harder.
The governing rules of Beach Volleyball are that each team is allowed only three touches before being required to send the ball to the opposing side, with each player not being allowed to touch a volleyball consecutively.
Makes this sport quite interesting, doesn’t it? It also shows the level of ball control that is required for this sport to be played professionally. The further intricacies of the Beach Volleyball rules will be discussed in the Beach Volleyball rules section of this article.
One other important thing for you to understand is that unlike indoor volleyball, where there are twelve players on the court, Beach Volleyball is slightly different. There are only four! Yes, you have read that correctly, only four players attempting to cover the entire court. To be more specific, only two players have to cover a massive 64 square meters of a court in a matter of seconds.
In effect, this is what makes this sport so significantly different from indoor volleyball. While Beach Volleyball is slower paced in comparison to indoor volleyball since you are unable to make five-player spiking combinations and alternate your sets between players, Beach Volleyball is by no means less tactical or strategical. Beach Volleyball athletes have to rely more on technique and less on brute force to force the ball to the ground.
They have to identify the empty areas of the court and place the volleyball there with overtly high accuracy to prevent the opposing defender from reaching it. And you may be asking, isn’t that easy considering I have 64 meters to work with? The answer would have to be… No! Definitely Not. Professional players are quite successful at being able to cover those 64 meters efficiently, and the respective roles of the players will show you how they are able to do just that.
So, now that you have a general idea of what Beach Volleyball is about, let us dive deeper into the details of this mesmerizing sport. So stay attentive and make sure you are taking notes!
Beach Volleyball History
Now that we have covered some general questions about the nature of Beach Volleyball, we would like to first cover the history of this sport. How did Beach Volleyball come about? What made people decide to play it? And, how did the sport evolve over time?
If you want these questions answered, then buckle up and enjoy the ride as we do our job and tell you about the history of Beach Volleyball. However, if history is not for you, then you can skip this section by clicking HERE.
For those of you that stayed, let us begin. So, where did Beach Volleyball originate?
While the definite origin of this indoor volleyball alternative is slightly muddled, it is believed that Beach Volleyball was played often in 1915 on Waikiki Beach in Hawaii, at the Outrigger Canoe Club. An interview in 1978 was conducted with one of its members who said that in the club a volleyball net was placed and that’s supposedly when the first-ever game of Beach Volleyball was played.
Following this, approximately five years later, the beach conditions in Santa Monica, California, allowed further Beach Volleyball development and the growth of its popularity. As Beach Volleyball began growing as a sport, playing nets were placed and soon Beach Volleyball was played by the general public for recreational purposes. Those keen to business and fascinated by this sport did not miss this opportunity and in the late 1922 eleven private Beach Volleyball clubs were opened and two years later, the first several Beach Volleyball competitions were held. But, there was a striking difference between modern Beach Volleyball and its former self.
Beach Volleyball was initially played the same way as indoor, classic volleyball, with six players on each side. It was only in 1930, when a member of the Santa Monica Athletic Club, Paul “Pablo” Johnson, proposed the idea of, what is now the common standard, two-player Beach Volleyball. The parable behind his idea is fascinating, so we will summarize it for you!
While waiting for twelve players to gather for a regular game, Johnson and his three companions decided to attempt to play the sport with only four of them, and that is when the first game of doubles was ever played. He concluded that with two players on the court, the height of the blocker could be neutralized by the speed of the defender. So his “doubles” idea was a balancing act. Simply by reducing the amount of players, Beach Volleyball became a more fair, balanced, and dynamic version of itself.
This better, two-player, Beach Volleyball started to become more recognized and played in other clubs and by the public soon after. However, now, even as two-player volleyball is the standard way to play Beach Volleyball, the six-man variation is still widely played for recreational purposes.
In our opinion, there is simply not enough space for six players to be supported by the smaller Beach Volleyball court dimensions of 8x16 meters. The sport instantly becomes an arena for arguments as people struggle to avoid each other while moving around the minuscule court.
In the 1930s, Beach Volleyball continued to gain popularity and for the first time has transitioned to Europe. Ten years later, competitions with different rewards began being played. However, sadly, Beach Volleyball does not come even remotely close to the lucrativeness of other team sports such as Basketball or Football. And while the struggle for money is definitely present, it also shows that the athletes are in there for the love of the sport and not simply compensation for their performance.
You may be surprised to hear about the first prize that was offered upon winning a competition. The winners of a 1948 tournament held in Los Angeles, California were awarded a mere case of Pepsi. While other sports were offering thousands of dollars for first places, Beach Volleyball players could at least down their thirst a little after ridiculous physical exertion.
It wasn’t until the 1960s, that the first-ever professional tournament was held with a monetary reward. The tournament held in France had a prize fund of 30,000 French Francs. Obviously worse than a case of Pepsi. But as you can see, the Beach Volleyball community was indeed growing. Similarly, in that decade the first-ever Manhattan Beach Open was held, and it is still considered to be one of the more prestigious tournaments of the sport.
The 60s were the most defining decade for Beach Volleyball. Even The Beatles were seen engaged in a match of Beach Volleyball with the US president John F. Kennedy fanning over that match.
However, it was not until 1976 that the first professional Beach Volleyball tournament was held. It was the Olympia World Championship of Beach Volleyball, which fell on Labor Day Weekend of that year. Consequently, the first “World Champions” of Beach Volleyball were pronounced to be Greg Lee and Jim Menges, who once again split the “generous” 5,000$US between the two of them.
The Volleyball Magazine continued hosting these events and in 1978, after a successful tournament, Jose Cuervo, the sponsor of the event, decided to expand from a single tournament into three separate events. This became known as the “California Pro Beach Tour'', with the events of the first year being held in Laguna Beach, Santa Barbara, and Redondo.
The event continued expanding and soon became known as the Pro Beach Volleyball Tour. In 1984, the price pool became more generous and $300,000 were split across 16 separate events. The end of the year resulted in the formation of the Association of Volleyball Professionals, also known as the AVP which is the most well-known volleyball tour in Beach Volleyball in the United States.
Speaking about the globalization of Beach Volleyball, the first-ever international Beach Volleyball exhibition was held in 1986, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and had as much as 5,000 spectators. Spectacular for the sport at the time.
A year later, the main governing body of volleyball, the FIVB, helped host the first international tournament with a prize pool of $22,000. Sinjin Smith and Randy Stoklos took home the gold medals of that tournament. Two years later, in 1989, “the first FIVB-sanctioned international circuit”, called the World Series, was organized. This gained popularity and helped bring Beach Volleyball into the Olympics of 1996. In 1998, the sport was added to other, additional, multi-sport events such as the Pan American Games, Central American Games, and several more.
Until the 1980s, unfortunately, the growth of Beach Volleyball was stagnating. However, famous volleyball players such as Sinjin Smith and Karch Kiraly, brought some attention back to Beach Volleyball. Karch Kiraly’s (one of the best volleyball players ever) Olympic success in 1996 “revived” the sport as he took the first-ever Olympic Gold medal for Beach Volleyball.
In 2001, juniors finally started to gain the ability to test their potential as the FIVB began organizing U21 World Championships and within several months, included the U19 age group as well.
Throughout the years, when speaking about AVP and Beach Volleyball in the United States, the organization’s success was everything but calm. The organization filed for bankruptcy in 1998 and 2010, and only in 2013 made a re-appearance, under new leadership and is now considered the leading United States, Beach Volleyball tour.
Read more about this Beach Volleyball tour giant HERE.
From this discussion, we hope that it became clear that the sport of Beach Volleyball became globally recognized, with the USA and Brazil being the two dominant forces. The sport continues to grow, with each year offering new events for upcoming players to test their Beach Volleyball abilities.
And if you want to be one of such players, then make sure to check out our GUIDES that will allow you to take your Beach Volleyball Skills to the next level.
And now that the history of the sport has been discussed, we can delve into the intricacies of the sport itself.
Beach Volleyball Rules
In this section, we will educate you on the Beach Volleyball rules. If you read it completely, you will be able to argue with the stubborn, “regulars” at your local beaches that always seem to know the rules better than you.
If you have played Beach Volleyball, you know exactly what we are talking about. However, simply refer these ignoramuses to this article if they continue to argue their, almost always wrong, position.
First, it is important to mention who actually decides the rules. The main governing body for the sport of Beach Volleyball, as mentioned previously, is the Federation Internationale de Volleyball, FIVB abbreviated. Every four years, the FIVB publishes the Official Beach Volleyball Rules, which discloses all the rules of how Beach Volleyball should be played internationally. We use the word “should” here because if you have watched a professional game of Beach Volleyball, you will see that the rules are often bent by human error. A wrong set call, an out-of-bounds call that was actually inside, and so on.
So now, let’s discuss the rules of Beach Volleyball!
As stated previously, a team in Beach Volleyball consists of two players as compared to six in indoor volleyball. These players can not be substituted or replaced. After the service, both of the players are required to be within the bounds of the court. However, their exact position is not dictated, and they are free to move on the entire court as they wish. If in indoor volleyball you have to rotate and can be faced with positional faults, in Beach Volleyball that is impossible.
In Beach Volleyball a point can be earned in several ways: If the ball lands on the opposing side of the court, if the opposing team hits the ball “out”, meaning that it does not land within the court boundaries, the opposing team commits a fault or the opposing team receives a penalty for their action.
The team which gains the point is the one that gets to serve the next ball and continues doing so as long as it continues to gain points. It is important to mention that if a ball lands on the court boundaries indicated by lines, the ball is considered to be “in”. Additionally, the ball is considered in, if it touches a player even outside the court boundaries, so if you can, aim at the player if you know you can’t get the ball inside. The ball is considered out if it is outside of the court boundaries, touches the volleyball net’s antenna, does not fly through the antennae, or if the ball crosses completely under the net.
Each rally corresponds to a single point, unlike basketball where there are two and three-pointers. Beach Volleyball is played until a team reaches 21 points in best-of-three matches, with the final set only going up to 15 points.
Another important factor to mention is that similar to tennis, ping pong, and many other sports, if two teams are at a match point (meaning 20-20 for example), the set continues until the difference between the two teams is two points. So technically, a set can go up until 102-100! That case of coke will sound quite good then.
The game of Beach Volleyball includes many, rather subjective faults. We say “rather subjective” because the referee ultimately decided what is considered a fault and on many occasions, the ref’s call is quite different from the player’s.
So, what is a fault? In Beach Volleyball, a fault occurs when a referee decides that a team has made an action against the Beach Volleyball rules. If a fault is committed, the opposing team is given a point and gains the advantage of being able to serve. The list of common Beach Volleyball faults includes:
Double contact: A double contact occurs when a player touches the ball twice consecutively. In Beach Volleyball, this fault often occurs during setting, when referees, in comparison to indoor Volleyball are particularly picky about the hand contact during a set. Consequently, this fault often causes the most controversy and anger from the players who argue that their set was indeed “clean”.
Four hits: Another common fault occurs when the ball is passed over the net with four touches. Considering that you are only allowed to make a total of three contacts, it becomes obvious why this is a fault.
Catch/Lift: Similar to the Double contact fault, this one occurs the most during the setting movement of a player. In contrast to indoor volleyball, where the sets tend to be extremely quick, Beach Volleyball players often have a very smooth setting motion and at times hold the ball in their hands for milliseconds too long, leading to this fault. This fault is also one of the controversial ones and is the cause of plenty of yellow and red.
Service order fault: This fault is quite rare and occurs when the players mix up the serving order.
Foot fault: This fault occurs during service, when the server accidentally enters the court before finishing the serve.
Net touch: This is arguably the most common fault in Beach Volleyball. Additionally, it is the most self-explanatory one as well. It occurs when a player, during any point of the game touches the volleyball net, and the point is hence, given to the opposing team. We find, through research and personal experience, that this fault occurs primarily during blocking and attacking. Especially at times where you are greedy and want to slam the ball down, harder than you should, or when you want to block further than your small hands let you.
We have discussed the most common rules of volleyball, but will dive deeper into them in the Gameplay section of the article. However, prior to that, we find that it is important to discuss the dimensions of Beach Volleyball equipment.
In the 1990s, the FIVB implemented major changes to the Beach Volleyball ruleset. They increased the size of the volleyball from 65-67 cm to 66-68 cm, and reduced the court size from 9 m x 18 m to 8 m x 16 m. This change was quite controversial to those stubborn fans of the sport who are ignorant to change. The FIVB officially accepted these rules in 2002.
Beach Volleyball Court Dimensions
As mentioned previously, modern Beach Volleyball is played on a rectangular 8m x 16m court. For those of you who are lazy to do the calculations, it means 8 m x 8 m per team. The game is played on sand which should be evened out before each match begins to reduce the chance of injury. The boundaries of the court are indicated by placed lines that are equaled out before each service as well.
The Beach Volleyball court is divided with a net that is 8.5 meters long and 1 meter wide. The height of the net varies by gender.
However, there are certain adjustments for veteran and junior tournaments as well.
The antennae, which are placed on two sides of the net are 1.8 m in height and indicate the area in which the ball is allowed to cross the net.
The lines that indicate the boundaries of the two courts are 5 cm wide and define what is considered “in” and “out” during a play.
You can read more about the Beach Volleyball Court HERE.
The Beach Volleyball Ball
After the 2002 rule implementation, the Beach Volleyball Ball has a circumference of 66-68 cm, a weight of 260-280 g, and an inside pressure of 0.175-0.225 kg/cm2. Additionally, the ball is made out of water-resistant material to prevent the sweat from breaking it and ruining the mood of the participants.
To find out more about the most used Beach Volleyballs read THIS ARTICLE.
Differences from Indoor Volleyball
Now that you know about the Beach Volleyball equipment, to ensure that you understand how Beach Volleyball is different from its indoor counterpart, we will conduct a quick comparison.
The amount of participants varies in the sports with two players per team in Beach without any substitutions versus six players per team and six substitutions in indoor. Another important factor is that in Beach Volleyball, coaching is not allowed during matches with certain exceptions for junior competitions.
So if an arrogant coach starts screaming, it is your right to go and tattle on him to the ref.
However, unlike in classical volleyball, with the exception to an alternating service, there are no further player specific rules. Meaning that a player is able to hit from any part of the field and is not bound by rotational rules as in the indoor version of the sport.
One rather major difference is that open hand tips or dinks, or what looks more like dunks in classical volleyball are not allowed. This would simply make it too easy for players to find empty spots on the field and throw the ball there without requiring much technical skill. In amateur games, the difference between a dink and a cut is often the cause of many arguments.
Another difference is that in Beach Volleyball, a block is considered as a touch, meaning that after a block touch, the team only has two touches remaining. Additionally, players are allowed to cross under the net as long as it does not bother the opposing team, and by bother we mean physically and not emotionally.
The last important difference that often leads to a difficult transition from Indoor to Beach revolves around open-hand setting. We have seen many people during their transition get irritated by this “annoying” and “useless” Beach Volleyball rule. In Beach, it is extremely uncommon to receive a service with a set due to subjective double-touch and lift faults.
This makes it difficult for those who are used to the set receive, to adjust their body position to be able to bump the ball precisely. Additionally, setting over the net is not allowed… Unless, the player’s shoulders are perpendicular to the player’s shoulder line, and the ball does not spin “too” much. You can probably see what makes this rule irritating. Because ultimately no one knows what the “too much” means and it is difficult to evaluate the perpendicular boundaries of the set.
We have seen way too many controversial calls by the refs and controversial sets by the players. So to avoid this, simply focus on improving your bumping abilities and you will not fall into this trap. But, we must also quickly mention that if done correctly, a set over the net on the second touch, will often catch the opponents off guard and can be very effective.
Let us now discuss the general gameplay of this sport so you can grasp the idea of the flow of a regular Beach Volleyball match.
In a competitive match, prior to the warm-up, the referee settles the servers vs. receivers argument with a coin toss. The referee assigns each team a side of the coin, and consequently, the team that gets their respective side of the coin is free to decide either which side of the court they want to start on or whether they want to start the set with reception, service. Considering that Beach Volleyball is played outside, winning the coin flip in some situations, can be quite advantageous.
Think about it this way: Playing outside is significantly different than from playing inside primarily because of the wind and the sun. These two factors are what also make Beach Volleyball interesting. Although there are no six people on the court, the wind interferes with the position of the ball, especially when the wind is stronger than the player. This shows that in windy conditions, the team that wins the coin flip should logically choose the side on which the wind blows in their face and focus on winning taking the first point. If the opposing team fails to maintain the ball until the first court rotation, your team will have a powerful wind-serve advantage. Just make sure that you serve harder to actually manage to get the ball over the net.
Once, the coin flip has been conducted and the teams have been assigned their roles. They will maintain this service order throughout the set, and in the following set, the roles will initially be reversed. If the game continues to the third set, another coin flip is conducted to assign the roles again. You can say that at least some portion of the game is decided by a coin flip.
After the service, the opposing team will attempt to get the ball over the net using less than three touches, usually in the following order: bump, set, attack. The bump allows for high accuracy in the reception and the initial control of the ball. The second player’s job is to either attack himself if the initial bump is good enough, or set the ball back to the attacker, so that he can slam it down. The latter case is the standard.
An important factor to mention is that when two players manage to make contact with the ball simultaneously, it counts as two touches, however, the third touch can be done by either player.
A good setter can identify where the attacker feels most comfortable at hitting and can, with high accuracy, continuously, set there.
As the receiving team goes to attack, the defending team attempts to stop that attempt through a block and through good defense. Both of these players attempt to trick the hitter to make their attack predictable and easily defendable. Easier said than done pretty much. However, with enough practice, intuition allows for better reads of and hence, both, better defense and attack.
The rally continues until a fault is experienced or a ball touches the ground after which the point is rewarded to the respective team. The game is played until a team reaches 21 points in the first two sets and 15 points in the third set if a match reaches it. Additionally, the teams switch the sides of the court every seven points to balance out the effects of the wind and the sun in the first two sets and every five points in the third set.
We find that it is important to shortly discuss the player roles in Beach Volleyball.
As you can probably imagine, there can not be too many specializations in a sport where there are only two players. If you thought this way, then you are indeed correct. The two specializations in Beach Volleyball are blockers and defenders.
A defender’s role is to receive and chase after the oncoming attacks. His job is to defend the parts of the court that the blocker is unable to cover himself. He takes the position on the court according to their agreement or according to blocking signals shown by the blocker before the rally begins. Do not worry, these signals will be discussed in greater depth further in the article. Defenders tend to be agile, fast, and athletic to ensure that they manage to cover the distance required for a proper dig and are able to attack efficiently.
A Beach Volleyball blocker is the yin to the yang of the defender. He is positioned in front of the net and it is his job to take away a certain part of the court, usually either line or angle. The blocker indicates the part of the court which he takes away for each opposing player using certain volleyball blocking signals, which you will learn more about soon. A Beach blocker is usually, physically quite different from a defender. Blockers tend to be tall, have superior jumping ability, have insane timing, and position themselves intelligently to read and stop the attack of the opposing team.
Some teams choose not to specialize in these roles and are adept at playing both positions. There are certain advantages to this, the main one is that it saves energy between the players. However, by choosing not to specialize, their overall skills will often be inferior to the opposing players of the same positions that focus their energy on developing the techniques required specifically for their position.
Additionally, on offense, the players specialize by playing on either the left or right sides of the court. This specialization allows for greater consistency as the players have to develop the muscle memories specifically for their chosen side.
The players tend to choose their playing side according to their dominant hand with righties choosing primarily to play on the left side while lefties on the right side. However, as the majority of players are indeed right-handed, they simply choose the side which feels more natural to their playing style.
The Norweigan right-handed monsters, Christian Sorum and Anders Mol can be used as a perfect example of what we have just discussed. Christian Sorum specializes in defense and plays on the left side of the court, while Anders Mol is a dominant blocking force and tends to play on the right side of the court. Their success as Beach Volleyball players shows that this specialization strategy is highly effective.
Now that you have understood the specializations of Beach Volleyball, let us look at another intricacy that makes a lot of people rather mad. What is considered a hit or a cut in Beach Volleyball?
Beach Volleyball Hits and Cuts
In Beach Volleyball, the ball may touch the entire body of the player. So, you technically can play the sport with your legs entirely except during the service. Nonetheless, kicking a volleyball would get a lot of people’s blood boiling. Unless it actually works of course. However, although you are able to have the ball touch you anywhere on the body, you must “hit” it. It must bounce off the body, it can not be lifted or thrown, that would instantly be considered a fault and you will be punished with a loss of a point.
Another major part of Beach Volleyball occurs when the volleyball is right above the net and both the attacker and blocker can reach the ball simultaneously. This scenario is known as a Joust. Winning a joust probably is the best feeling in Beach Volleyball. By shutting down the opposing player, you simply assert your dominance and emotionally impact them. A block usually has the same effect. The team on whose side of the net the ball lands after the joust, is able to continue the rally with all three touches available.
During reception, especially when the ball is not being hit with a lot of force, it must be received “cleanly”, meaning that if for some odd reason you decide to set a receive, you must do so with both hands coming in contact with the ball simultaneously. The conclusion from this is that you simply shouldn’t set a service but rather a position yourself well and bump it or use an overhand “hammer”.
One uncommon intricacy that tends to be the subject of many arguments revolves around a hard-driven hit. During those, the defender is allowed to make a double contact and a slight lift of the ball is also allowed. This is, once again, subjective as it is difficult to decide what a “slight lift” entails. Alternatively, the second point of argument comes from attackers arguing that the hit that was lifted wasn’t actually “hard-driven”. This is especially prevalent in amateur tournaments.
As mentioned previously, dinking the ball is not allowed, and these differences lead to a drastically different play-style of Beach Volleyball as in comparison to indoor Volleyball.
Let us now discuss your burning question, what about the blocking signals that you have mentioned before. Well, let us teach you!
Beach Volleyball Blocking Signals
Because the Beach Volleyball teammates are co-dependent, they must be able to communicate their ideas without giving out the information to other players. Not only that, but they must also be able to divide the 64 meters between themselves accordingly.
To do that, they must rely on blocking signals which indicate what part of the court the blocker is going to cover. These signals are paramount in helping both the blocker and defender understand their respective positions. These signals are shown on the buttocks of the blocker or defender and are given with both hands, with the left-hand corresponding to the opposing player who is on the left side, and the right-hand corresponding to the other player on the right side. The blocker can also shake their hand to hint on which player he wants the defender to serve on. So now that you know their function, what are the common blocking signals in Beach Volleyball?
Common Beach Volleyball block signals
- Closed Fist: This signal means that the blocker will block “the ball” and use his own judgment and timing to try and catch the attacker off guard.
- One Finger: The blocker will proceed to close the line of the hit, meaning that if the attacker tries to hit line, the blocker’s hands will be placed accordingly.
- Two Fingers: The blocker will proceed to close the angle, meaning that he needs to prevent the attacker from hitting and cutting to the diagonal.
- Three Fingers: The blocker shows that he is going to block the angle of the attacker and then jumps and blocks the line.
- Four Fingers: This is the opposite of the three-finger signal, meaning that the blocker is going to show that he is going to block the line and then in the last moment, jump and block the angle.
- Open Hand: This signal indicates that the blocker will not block the attack and will pull from the net.
- Fingers with a pinky: This is a lesser shown signal, which indicates that in addition to the blocking position indicated by the number of fingers, the blocker will pull diagonal versus the regular line pull.
Learn more about the Beach Volleyball blocking signals in our Understanding Hand Signals of Volleyball article.
The Beach Volleyball Skills
Now, we will proceed to discuss the different Beach Volleyball skills and what they all mean!
Beach Volleyball Serves
Serving is the skill that allows the rally to begin. It is the act of sending the ball into play by hitting it to the opposing side of the court. There are a lot of different ways to serve the ball. However, the two main categories of serving are overhand service and underhand service. When beginning your volleyball journey, especially as a junior, you were most likely taught the underhand serve first, but over time have transitioned into serving overhand.
Each category separates into several more parts and players can specialize in their serve variations. The outside conditions and the skill level of the players dictate which serve variation to use. Some players specialize in a specific serving variation, as for example Adrian Carambula, who is also known as Mr. Skyball.
Overhand Serves: The title of the category is pretty self-explanatory. In professional Beach Volleyball competitions, about 90% of the serves are served overhand with the exception of Skyballs primarily served by Adrian Carambula.
Float Serve: The float serve is a powerful tool. This serve has no spin and is greatly affected by the wind. Just like having the potential to fall down like a nail, it can also easily fly out of bounds.
Jump-float Serve: This is a float serve, but it is done jumping, which allows for a sharper trajectory.
Top-spin Serve: The topspin serve is a powerful variation of the overhand serve where the serving person adds a topspin to the ball by flicking his wrist and forcing the ball to spin in a certain direction. This serve is extremely powerful when serving against the wind as the wind is going to cause the ball to drop even faster.
Jump-Serve: The jump serve is often used in competition as the powerful variation of a top-spin serve. It drastically minimizes the trajectory and can be thought off as a cannon, with some servers being able to serve with a speed that goes above 100 kilometers per hour. Now, imagine that if you add some oncoming wind to this serving method, and the ball is going to drop before the receivers manage to even blink.
The Usual Underhand Serve: This is probably the first service you were taught when starting at Beach Volleyball. It is not powerful and usually has a high trajectory. Being aced by this service is considered a humiliation in Beach Volleyball.
Skyball: the Skyball gained popularity after an Italian player, Adrian Carambula, started successfully acing people with it at the professional level. It was not only humiliating, but established him as a superior player and a dominating server. The name Skyball is pretty self-explanatory. To serve a Skyball, the player stands facing the parallel to the service court line and uses his underhand to serve as high as possible, letting the wind and trajectory do the work.
Reverse Skyball: Similar to a Skyball but using the inside of your hand for the serve.
Jumping Underhand Serve: Just don’t...
Beach Volleyball Passing and Setting
Both bumping and setting fall into this category and these are the two skills that everyone should perfect first. These skills are the fundamental of not only Beach Volleyball, but all other variations of Volleyball. The best players in the field have perfected these skills to such an extent that they can flawlessly bump and set the ball most of the time.
The mistakes in these skills occur primarily from the “double-touch” and “lift” faults discussed previously. These skills dictate the position of the ball and how the attacker is going to hit your pass and largely determine his success at earning a point.
It is also important to describe what “digging” is. Digging is a term used to describe the action of a player attempting to pick up the opposing team’s attack, whether it be a hit or a cut that a player is forced to chase after.
Bumping: In order to bump correctly, you should focus on maintaining a solid, balanced leg position and on your bumping platform. You should not move your hands in a drastic manner, but rather let the ball simply bounce off them with slight adjustments. You control the direction of the bump with the help of both your hands, legs, and shoulders. With time, you will understand how to better control the ball.
That being said, getting to that point takes a lot of practice and thousands of bumping repetitions. So do not give up just yet! Continue practicing and you will definitely improve. The ball will fly in the direction of your shoulders and that should be your primary focus when practicing this skill.
Setting: In comparison to indoor volleyball, Beach Volleyball setting is significantly more difficult, as you should be able to adjust to the wind and maintain correct hand positioning to avoid getting a fault. The main principle in setting is getting under the ball and facing the direction to where you want to set the ball, with the exception of backward setting of course.
You form an approximate triangle with your hands and position them above your head. The triangle is representative of an aim and you should, most of the time be looking through it as you approach for your set. Setting takes even longer to perfect than bumping. Professionals themselves often encounter lifting faults which is why you should expect to put hundreds of hours into this skill itself!
Blocking is an entirely different art of itself and requires patience and good timing. It is the action of reading the attacker and placing your hands over the net to prevent the ball from entering your side of the court in the first place. One of the most irritating feelings that you will experience in Beach Volleyball is the feeling of a ball barely flying over your block. You simply feel helpless and hope that you have created a sufficient trajectory for the defender to be able to reach the ball and dig it.
A block can be used to either score a point (when the ball lands on the opposing side’s ground) or to reduce the speed of the attack (when the ball touches the block and flies on the same team's ground). While a successful block is obviously the best-case scenario, if you have managed to create a high trajectory without touching the ball itself, you have succeeded as a blocker.
When blocking there are tons of things to consider. These factors include: correct hand positioning, jump timing, adjustment to weather conditions, psychological understanding of your opponent, and much more.
We physically cannot describe all this knowledge here as this would result in an additional 50 pages of purely blocking content.
However, we have indeed forced one of the best blockers in the world, Edgars Točs, to write those 50 pages for us, describing how he has succeeded and blocked the best players in the world. If you want to share his success and improve your Beach Volleyball blocking, you can access the “Block Like Edgars Tocs: Blocking Guide” and learn everything there is to know about blocking.
In Beach Volleyball, the attacks can be split into two separate categories, either spikes or shots. A spike is what Volleyball is known for. It is your ability to hit the ball hard with a downward, and hopefully undefendable trajectory. A shot, on the other hand, is a more tactical type of attack.
Shots often do not have a high speed and may have a high trajectory. They are used to avoid the blocker and place the ball tactically onto the free spaces on the field of your opponents. This type of attack forms the beauty of Beach Volleyball and what makes the sport so dynamic.
Furthermore, shots can be separated into several categories as well: Cut shots, a sharp variation of a shot which is placed usually at an angle; roll shots, during which the attacker places quite some topspin and trajectory on the ball, usually to toss it over the high block; and last but not least, poke shots, these are often condemned by indoor players, primarily because of their inability to do them, but are very effective nonetheless. These are the drinking alternatives in Beach Volleyball and involve the attacker using his knuckles or fingertips to poke the ball over the net.
Lastly, we would like to talk about the main governing body of Beach Volleyball.
The FIVB, or Federation Internationale de Volleyball, is the main governing body of both indoor and Beach Volleyball. The headquarters of this organization is, like most other headquarters of all other organizations, located in Lausanne, Switzerland. The current president of the organization is Ary Graca. The FIVB was founded in 1947 in a successful attempt to create an international governing body for the different kinds of Volleyball. The organization was fully formed on the 20th of April with Paul Libaud being its first president.
One of the primary goals of the FIVB was to create a unifying sport event for Volleyball. And hence, in 1949, the first-ever international Volleyball event was formed. It was the World Championship.
The FIVB did a fantastic job at globalizing the sport and helped Volleyball enter the Olympics with the indoor variation entering the competition in 1964 and Beach Volleyball following in 1996.
The objectives of the FIVB, were to consistently improve Volleyball and help the sport grow through the provision of various, major female and male Volleyball Tournaments.
Okay athlete, if you have read this entire article, then you truly must be passionate about Beach Volleyball. We hope that you have learned at least some things that you have not known before about this sport. While this has been more of a theoretical article, we do offer practical guides as well.
Our goal with this article was to help elevate your understanding of the backend of the sport. For you to be able to understand the common terminology in Beach Volleyball and be able to argue the rules with ignorant amateurs, which hopefully you are not. If you found this article useful, please support our efforts by sharing it across social media. Thank you for sticking with us, and if you want to learn more about Beach Volleyball, access our blog Here.
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