Hopefully you go into every match with a game plan. Even if you don’t know the team you are playing you should have seen a few things in warm up that might give you a few ideas , or worst case, you’ve decided to start serving at the shorter guy
But what do you do when things don’t go your way? When should you give up on your plan and try something new?
Obviously there is no fixed answer to this. Each match and each opponent will be different, but here are a few things to look out for.
5 tactical changes to turn a beach volleyball match
1. Change service target, then change back. Sometimes the player your serving will find a good rhythm. For example he or she might make 5 or 6 side outs in a row. This is a pretty obvious time to make a change. If the player you are trying to beat is in a good rhythm, then you should serve a few balls at the other player. Give him or her some time to cool off and then go back to to the first player later. Hopefully after they have had to set 5 or 6 balls, they might be a little less sharp when you serve them again.
2. “Second balls” in defensive transition. Sometime you make a lot of digs against an opponent, but have trouble converting the digs into points. This is common for a team with a classic “defender/blocker” formation, where the smaller player is in the back court. These teams often make a lot of digs because the defender is small and fast, but then have trouble putting the ball on the sand on the counter attack. This can often result in a lot of long rallies.
A good solution is to play a second ball whenever the opportunity arises. (The “opportunity” is when the back court player can make an “easy” dig. I.e he or she is not diving out of control). In this situation, bump the ball up onto the net above your blocker. This should give your blocker a lot of options. Pokies, hard attacks, or sharp cut shots.
3. Vary the service direction, location, source and depth. This is another way to break a side out players rhythm. The short serve is very often a good option because apart from being hard to receive, it breaks your opponents approach for the attack. The effect of the short serve can be maximised by mixing it with deep serves. If you are losing a match and having trouble scoring points on your serve, think about where you have been serving. On your next serve, start from a different place on the baseline, aim for a new location and change the depth of the serve as well as the height and direction.
For example, of you have been serving cross court at the left side player, try moving to the right side of the baseline and try a short serve on the line in front of him or her. Maybe on the next serve, serve higher, and deeper, so the ball loops high over their should er to baseline.
Any change in the receivers position will effect the set, and consequently the attack. If your losing, this is an easy way to change the side out attackers rhythm.
4. Change the way you are attacking. Usually when things are not going your way, you are having some trouble with side out. If you are receiving serve, then think about how you are losing points, and try to change it.
For example, perhaps the opposition blocker is huge and he or she is stuffing every shot you play. Ask your partner to set you a little more off the net and then start shooting over and around the block. Take the big blocker out of the game, and play against the defender instead. Combine this with some back sets, to create different angle that you can use against the defender.
On the other hand, maybe the defender is awesome and she or he is digging every shot you play. In this situation, you could try hitting at the blocker. High into the hands, or aim at the sides of the block. Many blockers are weak when ball hit their hands, as opposed to the arms.
5. Side out with second balls. Another option to change a difficult side out situation is to start playing second balls. Pass a little higher and let your partner attack on two. This is something you should practice in training a little bit, and can be very effective.
The key to turning a losing situation into a winning situation is change. If you’re losing, then something needs to change. I think it’s better to lose trying some new ideas and maybe making things worse, than by sticking with the same plan through an entire match and losing anyway.
Here is an old post with a very advanced side out strategy. It shows two different attack positions, and I wrote it up after watching Todd Rogers make a beautiful tactical change to win the grand final in Klagenfurt a few years ago. Rogers was having trouble siding out from the outside set, so he changed to an inside set forcing the defense to change their system. The fast line shot.