Growing an organic beach volleyball player

As the coach of a team that’s,… well to put it bluntly; short, :-) I am constantly looking for new ways to win points and make a more consistent side out.

There are plenty of standard side out patterns that you can look to for ideas, and the guys out there on the World Tour are constantly coming up with small tweaks to their games to increase their own percentages, but I am finding that the best place to look for inspiration is at the players themselves. Looking at what they do well, and improving on it. Not trying to improve their weaknesses (although doing that is also important), but finding improvements that flow with their natural style and can be easily implemented.

I remember when I first started playing tennis, I had an OK forehand, and a horrible backhand. I spent most of my time practicing my backhand with the idea that I would be a better player if I was equal on both sides. My backhand practice was mostly about trying to get the ball in to court.

One day my wife, who is a tennis coach, told me that she could not understand why I was wasting so much time on my backhand, when I am going to make 90% of my points with my forehand. She was right. It was much easier to improve my forehand, which I did, and I started to win a lot more tennis matches. I quickly developed an inside out forehand, and a cross court angle that I could disguise.

My forehand developed very quickly naturally, almost on it’s own.

In beach volleyball, the starting point for a side out plan should be your best consistent shot. The shot that wins you the most points. Your strength. From there you can build more shots into the mix, to keep your opponents guessing, but always ensure that your best shot is available when you need it.

When it comes to expanding the shot range that a player uses, watching your player is often the best place to find the next point scoring shot. For example, perhaps your player likes to get up high and look for a sharp angle hit from the left side. If he or she is good at hitting that shot, then she’s probably in a good position to hit a good cut shot too. That would be an easy shot to ad to the mix.

I have also found that some players get a “favourite” shot stuck into their head. I often see these favourite shots coming out time and time again, whether they are winning points or not, especially under pressure. When these shots are losing points, my reaction used to be to try to stop the player from using them. I have swung my thinking around the other way. If the player is falling back onto one particular shot under pressure, then for some reason it’s comfortable for him or her. That means that he’s confident in playing it, and that is a great starting point for adding a weapon to your side out arsenal. Rather than trying to remove a shot that makes a lot of errors, turn it into a shot that makes a lot of points.

By watching your players and observing their natural tendencies, you can help them to grow “organically” rather than trying to force a style upon them that makes them uncomfortable.