A lot of people assume beach (or sand) volleyball and indoor volleyball are the same game, just that sand volley is played in the sand and with less people on a team…I can’t tell you how much that frustrates me.  Attention everyone: BEACH VOLLEYBALL IS IT’S OWN SPORT!!  The only thing that’s the same is some of the basic skills, such as passing and hitting, but even those have to be performed in much different ways in the beach game.  Therefore, you might understand why players have a hard time converting their indoor success to success on the sand.

So just HOW do you transition your game from indoor volleyball to sand/beach volleyball?  I am going to do my best to help you right now, giving you the best tips I can think of …

Number 1: GET USED TO THE SAND! No need for a partner, a coach or balls for this and it’s one of the most essential steps to a smooth transition. All you have to do is run in it, side shuffle in it, karaoke in it, skip in it, jump in it, sprint in it.  After you are done training or playing do twenty minutes of everything I just mentioned, alternating between each. Run in the sand around the court for those 20+ minutes and do different exercises as you go along each end line. I PROMISE you will feel an improvement the next time you play, as long as you don’t go back and forth between indoor and sand. However, even if you do alternate between the two it will definitely help your game in both disciplines, it just won’t have as profound an effect on your sand game.  This idea goes for every type of movement you might make while playing sand volley, you can do block jumps alternated with pulling moves and then do an approach back up to the net, in a kind of circuit- i.e. block jump on the left, pull line, approach jump on the left, block jump on the left, pull angle, approach on the right, block jump on the right, pull line, approach on the right…etc. I hope you get the idea and get creative with it.

Number 2: Save every dollar you can.  Sand volleyball requires you to travel to tournaments.  This can become expensive.  Wait tables, walk dogs, babysit, do whatever you can to add money to your beach volley account. It’s never too early to start, if you’re in high school or college and don’t have to pay for travel/lodging/expenses related to volleyball yet, take advantage of it and start saving your pennies for when you DO have to pay for everything! This is probably the hardest thing for players trying to transition to the sand to deal with, and it is an unfortunate part of the transition, but if you do everything I tell you here hopefully it won’t take as long to become successful and make a profit playing on the beach. In the meantime consider it a rite of passage, we’ve all had to go through it.  And on the plus side, the range of beach volleyball events is getting wider, there are a higher number of “developmental” tournaments where you can have a chance of making some prize money while not competing against the BEST in the world right off the bat.

Number 3: Be your own coach. This means so many things.  Be self motivated, push yourself when you think you have no more left to give physically OR mentally, BE DISCIPLINED, ask questions, pay attention, figure out who you need to talk to to get to tournaments. It also means watching players who are better than you and trying to emulate what they do, i.e. teaching yourself.  If you’re having a hard time with a certain skill have someone video you doing it on your phone and then watch and critique it yourself.  It’s amazing how clear some things are when you just watch it back on tape.  Set up practices, networking is huge in sand volleyball, but it’s also easy.  Meet people who are like minded and set up some training sessions where you end with a match.  And if all else fails, get out there by yourself, set up your lines and antennas and practice solo, people will most likely end up asking you to play.

Number 4: Learn the terminology and the importance of signs and communication. This is something I believe Jen and I are the best in the world at and it helps more than most people assume, don’t be most people, this is super important on the sand!  Some of the more unique terms and concepts:

  • Pulling (I didn’t know what this was til WEEKS after I started training!)- as a blocker, if the opposing team has set the ball off the net giving the hitter less chance of hitting the ball down, you move off the net into a defensive position (usually with your hands up to dig overhand). This may be the most unique difference between sand and indoor!
  • Poking (you cannot open hand tip on the sand!)- this can be done in a variety of ways and for a variety of reasons, it can be done on offense and defense, and occasionally to set. I think a photo best describes what a “pokie” is…if you look at my hand you can see it’s semi-closed and I’m making contact with the flat part between the knuckles on my pointer and middle fingers, you can also get the tip of your thumb in there if you think it gives you more control, also notice my arm is straight.


  • Digging- you CANNOT take a “free ball” or a serve with your open hands, you have to get them together before you contact the ball. You also have to be ready to run down a line shot or a cut shot on defense.
  • Hubby-wife- during serve receive it is essential you always talk about who has the middle ball! When someone serves down the middle and both players make a move to the middle and then pull apart because they each think the other is going to get it, this is called the hubby-wife.  ALWAYS call who’s middle it is! Say, “my middle” or “my call” before the serve.
  • Blocking signs- this is basic, but essential.  Holding one finger behind your back on your right hand means you are going to block the other LEFT side hitter (who is on YOUR right) down the line.  Not the shot (unless you can get it), just the hit.  If you hold two fingers behind your back on your left hand it means you are going to block the other RIGHT side hitter (who is on your left) angle.  You can also PULL into these areas and your defender will still know what area to fill, because you’ve told them which areas you are taking on each hitter.
  • Calling- after you set your partner it is REALLY important that you immediately look at the other team’s defense (don’t watch your set!) and tell your partner where the open area of the court is.  In basic terms, if the blocker is blocking line, the defender will be sitting in the angle so the setter needs to call LINE! If the blocker is blocking angle, the defender will make a later move to the line, you have to wait to see if they move and when they do you have to call ANGLE! or CUT! or CROSS!  And if the other team pulls off the net as your partner is going up to hit you must call NO ONE! (refer to the photo, Jen is screaming at me to poke to the open area)
  • Communication- there is NO wrong way to communicate. The only bad communication is no communication.  Talk about everything.  Before the play, during the play, and after the play.  Tell your setter where you want your sets, high, low, inside, outside. Talk about where the other team is playing defense when your partner is hitting.  Talk about where they are weakest and where your team should be serving them- deep, short, to the left, right or down the middle…. etc. Use your imagination.

Number 5: DON’T get drawn into the party culture.  It’s hard to forgo Pier Ave. after the Hermosa Open, which I actually don’t suggest you do (unless you’re not 21 yet!), but you have to keep partying to a minimum.  People are fun, the surroundings are beautiful, and the parties are awesome, but your goal is to be a great beach volleyball player and that is at odds with being a party person.  Plus, you always have to be on the lookout for your next and better partner, if you develop a reputation for staying out late and drinking it will be hard to convince people to play with you.  I didn’t say abstain altogether, you have to enjoy your journey, I just said keep it to a MINIMUM.

Number 6: Learn about healthy living!! Moving and jumping in the sand is hard enough, add a 10 pound weight belt (i.e. muffin top) and it becomes even harder! Beach volleyball is a 24/7 job that includes watching what you eat all the time, yes there are times to splurge, but never times to completely let go, you always have to be on the wagon.  Getting enough rest and sleep is also part of the job, if you burn the candle at both ends your performance will suffer.  You have to make time during the day to sit and rest, use that time to focus on how you’re going to get better…or just zone out in front of the TV, your brain needs time to rest too 🙂

Number 7: Make sure your lifting/exercise regiment reflects what you need for the sand game.  Static Olympic lifts with heavy weight and a ton of time in between sets is not conducive to the explosive cardio based endurance the game calls for.  I don’t know if that makes sense and I’m not a certified trainer, it’s just my personal opinion that your weight routine needs to include cardio or minimal time between sets, like 15 seconds, with less weight and more reps.  There are only two of you out there, you have to be explosive for up to an hour with minimal rest between rallies, I don’t believe a simple Olympic lift-based weight routine will get you there.  Also, when you are doing cardio make sure you’re incorporating intervals, speed up for a little, sprint for a little, recover for a little then do it again.

Ok, that’s about all the info I can think of right now that needs to be known if you’re trying to transition to the beach.  I hope it helps!! If you have questions leave a comment and I will do my best to respond!




Comments (7)

Liz Gooding

February 6, 2013

Great insight, if only I was 30 years younger! Good Luck for the coming season .....


Samantha Weed

February 9, 2013

Hey April,

My name is Sam Weed and I live in Birmingham, Michigan. During the summer I play beach, but the rest of the year I pay indoor. Also, during the winter it is very challenging to play in the sand. I am traveling to Florida for Spring Break this year to go train with a beach coach, but all the training I can do right now is play indoor (also I have been running, jumping in water). Any advice would be great.

-Sam Weed

P.S. I followed you on intsagram and then you "liked" one of my pictures, and I nearly passed out for excitement!


    April Ross

    February 13, 2013

    I never had to deal with not being able to train because of the seasons....but I would imagine playing 2v2 indoor might help you get better at the beach game even if you can't be in the sand. It might even be a good stepping stone, master some stuff on the hard floor where it's easier to move and then get in the sand. If you can play before or after your team practice for a little I think that would be the best option until the weather cooperates :) Sounds like you're doing all the right stuff otherwise though, good luck!


Meryl Loop

February 13, 2013

How do I get started with competing? Are there any tournaments or camps in particular that I could go to to get started or noticed?


    April Ross

    February 13, 2013

    Depends on where you are... in California there are tons of CBVA tournaments that anyone can play in, outside of CA I'm not so sure, but if you check the USAV website they should have a list of camps you can attend. Misty May also runs volleyball camps so maybe google it and see if there are any of those coming up!



February 18, 2013

Interesting words about searching for a partner. It's been quite something to see how few regular partnerships are remaining intact for next season. You and Jen are quite the exception rather than the rule, but would you say the 'rule' is more like someone like your partial-namesake Summer Ross (she's had 15 partners so far in her still-pretty-young career) or somewhere in between?



March 8, 2013

April, this spring my 11-year-old daughter will play beach volleyball with her 10-year-old partner for the first time. Both girls are on an indoor team together. Can you break down what girls this young really need to work on and perfect in order to be successful? I would imagine they don’t need to attend to quite as many details, but rather focus on basics. Am I right? If so, what basics should they focus on? Thanks!