Beach volleyball is a team sport played by two teams of two players on a sand court divided by a net. In order to keep the ball in play, a team can only hit the ball up to three times before returning it over the net. It has been an Olympic discipline since the 1990s.
As in indoor volleyball, the object of the game is to send the ball over the net in order to ground it on the opponent's court, and to prevent the same effort by the opponent. A team is allowed up to three touches to return the ball. The ball is put in play with a service—a hit by the server from behind the rear court boundary over the net to the opponents. The rally continues until the ball is grounded on the playing court, goes "out", or is not returned properly.
The team winning a rally scores a point and serves to start the following rally. The four players serve in the same sequence throughout the match, changing server each time a rally is won by the receiving team. Originating in Southern California (United States), beach volleyball has achieved worldwide popularity.
In 1920, new jetties in Santa Monica, California created a large sandy area for public enjoyment, planting the seed for beach volleyball development in that region. The first permanent nets began to appear, and people soon began playing recreational games on public parts of the beach and in private beach clubs. Eleven such beach clubs appeared in the Santa Monica area, beginning in late 1922. The first inter-club competitions were staged in 1924.
Most of these early beach volleyball matches were played with teams of at least six players per side, much like indoor volleyball. The concept of the modern two-man beach volleyball game is credited to Paul "Pablo" Johnson, an indoor player of Santa Monica Athletic Club. In the summer of 1930, while waiting for players to show up for a six-man game, Johnson decided to try playing with only the two people present. The game was forever changed. Though recreational games continue to be played with more players, the most widely played version of the game, and the only one contested at an elite level, has only two players per team.
Beach volleyball began to appear in Europe in the 1930s. By the 1940s, doubles tournaments were being played on the beaches of Santa Monica for trophies. In 1948 the first tournament to offer a prize was held in Los Angeles, California. It awarded the best teams with a case of Pepsi, supplied by Dr. Caleb Mohrhauser, often noted as one of the most enthusiastic patrons of early beach volleyball. In the 1960s, an attempt to start a professional volleyball league was made in Santa Monica. It failed, but a professional tournament was held in France for 30,000 French francs. The first Manhattan Beach Open was held in 1960, a tournament which grew in prestige to become, in the eyes of some, the "Wimbledon of Beach Volleyball".
In the meanwhile, beach volleyball gained big popularity: in the 1960s The Beatles tried playing a hit in Los Angeles and even US president John F. Kennedy was seen attending a match.
In 1974 there was an indoor tournament: "The $1500.00 World Indoor Two-Man Volleyball Championship" played in front of 4,000 volleyball enthusiast at the San Diego Sports Arena. Fred Zuelich teamed with Dennis Hare to defeat Ron Von Hagen and Matt Gage in the championship match, Winston Cigarettes was the sponsor. Dennis Hare went on to write the first book on the subject of Beach Volleyball: The Art of Beach Volleyball.
The first professional beach volleyball tournament was the Olympia World Championship of Beach Volleyball, staged on Labor Day weekend, 1976, at Will Rogers State Beach in Pacific Palisades, California. The event was organized by David Wilk of Volleyball Magazine, based in Santa Barbara. The winners, the first "world champions", were Greg Lee and Jim Menges. They split $2,500 out of a total prize purse of $5,000.
Volleyball Magazine (first story had to do with natalie) staged the event the next year at the same location , this time sponsored by Schlitz Light Beer. In 1978 Wilk formed a sports promotion company named Event Concepts with Craig Masuoka and moved the World Championship of Beach Volleyball to Redondo Beach. Jose Cuervo tequila signed on as sponsor and the prize purse. The event was successful and Cuervo funded an expansion the next year to three events. The California Pro Beach Tour debuted with events in Laguna Beach, Santa Barbara and the World Championship in Redondo.
In following years the tour expanded nationally and was renamed the Pro Beach Volleyball Tour. It consisted of five events in California and tournaments in Florida, Colorado, and Chicago. Top players included Karch Kiraly, Randy Stoklos, Singin Smith, Andy Fishburn, and Steve Obradovich. By 1984 the Pro Beach consisted of 16 events around the country and had a total prize purse of $300,000. At the end of the year, however, Event Concepts was forced out of the sport by a players' strike at the World Championship and the Association of Volleyball Professionals (AVP) was founded.
At the professional level, the sport remained fairly obscure until the 1980s when beach volleyball experienced a surge in popularity. Players like Sinjin Smith, Randy Stoklos, and Karch Kiraly became household names. Kiraly won an Olympic gold medal in beach volleyball in its first Olympic appearance in 1996, adding that to the two Olympic golds he won as part of the USA men's indoor team, and has won 142 titles In 1987, the FIVB created the first World Beach Volleyball Championships, played in Rio Janeiro, Brazil won By Sinjin Smith and Randy Stoklos. The FIVB began organizing worldwide professional tournaments, and laid the groundwork for the sport's Olympic debut in 1996.
Despite its increased popularity in the 1980s and 1990s, American beach volleyball suffered setbacks. In early 1998, the American women's professional tour – the WPVA – closed its doors and filed for bankruptcy. Later that same year, the American professional men's tour – the AVP – also filed for bankruptcy, plagued by problems as a player-run organization.
In 2001, the AVP reemerged as a for-profit, publicly traded company that combined the men's and women's professional tours, with equal prize money for both sexes. In 2010, the AVP shut its doors once again and filed bankruptcy.
In 2011, the European Beach Volleyball Championships for players under the age of 20 was held in Tel Aviv, Israel.
Nudists were early adopters of the game. Records of regular games in clubs can be found as early as the 1920s. Given the outdoor nature of nudism/naturism a beach version of volleyball was naturally adopted. By the 1960s, a volleyball court could be found in almost all nudist/naturist clubs. A large (over 70 teams) nude volleyball tournament has been held each fall since 1971 at White Thorn Lodge in western Pennsylvania and several smaller tournaments occur each year throughout North America.
Rules and gameplay
Rule differences between beach and indoor
Beach volleyball is fundamentally similar to indoor volleyball: a team scores points by grounding the ball on the opponents' court, or when the opposing team commits a fault (error or illegal action); consecutive contacts must be made by different players.
The major differences between beach and indoor volleyball are:
- Playing surface – sand rather than hard court
- The dimensions of the court are 16 by 8 meters, compared to 18 by 9 meters in the indoor game.
- The beach court has no "attack line", unlike the indoor court, which has such a line 3 meters from the net.
- Team size – two rather than six, with no substitutions allowed
- Scoring system – best of 3 sets played to 21 (15 for a deciding set) rather than best of 5 to 25
- Overhand touches and tips – open-hand dinks are illegal
- A block at the net counts as one of the three allowed touches in the beach game, but not in the indoor game
- Open-hand setting standards are different in the beach game –double hitting is called tighter but lifts are slightly more lenient
- Coaching during matches is not allowed
- There are no rotation errors on the beach – players may switch sides at will
- It is legal to cross under the net in beach volleyball as long as it does not interfere with opponents' play
- Teams switch ends of the court every seven points, rather than between sets
- There is no Libero in beach like there is in indoor
The only similarity in the courts used in the two forms of volleyball is the net. In both versions, the height of the net is 2.43 meters for men and 2.24 meters for women.
As in indoor volleyball, there are several basic skills competitive players need to master: serving, passing, setting, attacking, blocking, and digging.
Serving is the act of putting the ball into play by striking it with the hand or arm from behind the rear court boundary. The skill is similar on the beach and indoors, with the exception that on the beach the wind often has a significant effect on the trajectory of the ball.
The pass is the first of a team's 3 allowed contacts, and is also very similar on the beach and indoors. However, the standards for hand setting (handling the ball overhand using finger action with the hands separated) are stricter on the beach. In practice, this means that players are effectively forbidden from setting the ball on serve receive; similarly, players seldom use a hand setting motion as the first (except on a hard driven attack) or last of the three allowed team contacts. Digging is a similar skill to passing, but the term is not used to describe receiving the serve or a free ball, but rather refers to an attempt to prevent an opponent's attack hit from touching the court.
The set is the second team contact, and its purpose is to position the ball for an attack on the third hit. A hand setting motion is often used, but bump setting, an underhand motion in which the ball bounces off the forearms, is also common. When using the hand motion contact for the setting the ball has to come out "clean". This means that the ball cannot spin at all in the air once it leaves the setters hands. If a referee determines that it was not a "clean" contact then they will call a double contact and the point will be given to the other team. After completing the contact, the setter typically turns his attention to the defense and communicates to his partner whether a blocker is up and which area of the court is open. The second contact can also be used to attack the ball.
Attacking includes skills such as spiking—hitting the ball hard with one open hand on a downward trajectory from above the top of the net; rolling—a similar motion to spiking, but softer and with an arcing trajectory; and dinking—directing the ball very softly low over the net. Attack hits are also frequently made with a poking motion with the knuckles or stiff straight fingers.
Blocking is an attempt to direct an attack hit by the opponents back into their court by reaching above the top of the net. Players often decide against blocking (if the pass and set are not in a good position to produce a spike attack) and instead opt to Peel off the net and dig. This peeling action is a skill almost exclusive to beach volleyball.
A team is composed exclusively of two players, who must always be in play and who cannot be subjected to any substitutions or replacement. At the moment the ball is hit by the server, each team must be within its own court (with the exception of the server), but there are no determined positions on the court, such that no positional faults can be committed. The two players can switch at any point of the game; there is no set position that you must stay in like indoor.
The first to win two sets wins the match. A set is won by the first team to reach 21 points (15 points in the deciding final set) with a two-point advantage. Thus, if the score is 21–20 (or 15–14 in a final set) the set continues.
Whenever a team fails to execute a legal service or to return the ball, or commits any other fault, the opposing team wins the rally, scores a point, and serves to start the following rally.
Teams switch ends of the court after every 7 points (set 1 and 2) and 5 points (set 3) played. When the total points are 21 (adding the score of both teams) there is a technical time out.
Characteristics of the hit
The ball may touch any part of the body, but must be hit, not caught or thrown. In particular, in defensive action of a hard driven ball, the ball can be held momentarily overhand with the fingers.
When receiving a ball from a hit that is not hard driven, the ball must be contacted "cleanly"—if a player receives the ball open-handed, the contact of each hand with the ball must be exactly simultaneous. In practice, this means that serves are never received open-handed. When receiving an opponent's hard-driven attack, a double contact (provided both contacts occur in a single action) and/or a slight lift of the ball is allowed.
When employing an overhead pass as the second of three team touches (usually with the intent of "setting" the ball, so that the other player may make a more effective attack-hit), the standard for a double contact fault is lower than when receiving or attacking, though still much stricter than in indoor volleyball. The standard for a lift fault during an overhand pass is less strict than in indoor games—it is legal to allow the ball to come to rest for a small period of time.
Attack-hits using an "open-handed tip or dink" directing the ball with the fingers are illegal, as are attack-hits using an overhand pass to direct the ball on a trajectory not perpendicular to the line of the shoulders (overhand passes which accidentally cross over the net are an exception). These differences between the rules of indoor volleyball and beach volleyball strongly affect tactics and techniques.
Beach volleyball players use hand signals to indicate the type of block they intend to make. Block signals are made behind the back to hide them from the opposing team. They are usually given with both hands by the serving player's partner prior to the serve, with each hand referring to the type of block that should be put up against an attack from the corresponding opponent. A player may also "wiggle" or "flash" one block signal to indicate which opponent to serve to.
If the server is the designated blocker, he or she may run up to the net to block after serving. Otherwise, the signaling player will perform the block.
Block signals may also be given during a rally while the opposing team is preparing their attack.
Common block signals
- Closed fist
- No block should be attempted for the opponent on that side of the court, also known as "pull-off"
- One finger
- The blocker should block an opponent's "line" attack, or a ball hit toward the nearest sideline
- Two fingers
- The blocker should block an opponent's "angle" attack, or a ball hit diagonally from the net and across the court
- Open hand
- The blocker should block "ball", deciding how to block based upon the opposing team's set, and the hitter's approach and arm-swing technique.
Note: In Europe closed fist and open hand signals have the opposite meaning of blocking. If the partner is showing the closed fist the blocker should block "ball" and open hand means that the blocker should "pull-off" the net.
The primary international governing body for beach volleyball is the Fédération Internationale de Volleyball (FIVB). The regional governing bodies are:
- Asia – Asian Volleyball Confederation (AVC)
- Africa – Confédération Africaine de Volleyball (CAV)
- Europe – European Volleyball Confederation (CEV)
- North and Central America – North, Central America and Caribbean Volleyball Confederation (NORCECA)
- South America – Confederación Sudamericana de Voleibol (CSV)
In the United States, USA Volleyball is the governing body for beach volleyball, as well as indoor volleyball. In the 2010–11 academic year, the NCAA began sponsoring beach volleyball, which it calls "sand volleyball", as an "emerging" women's sport. Initially, it was sponsored only for Division II, with Division I added the following academic year. NCAA competition follows standard beach volleyball rules, with competitions involving five doubles teams from each participating school.
In 1999, the FIVB standardized beach volleyball uniforms, with the swimsuit becoming the required uniform both for men and women. This drew the ire of some athletes.
According to FIVB rules, female beach volleyball players have the option of playing in shorts or a one-piece swimsuit. Most players, however, prefer the two-piece bikini.
Competitors such as Natalie Cook and Holly McPeak have confirmed the FIVB's claims that the uniforms are practical for a sport played on sand during the heat of summer, but British Olympian Denise Johns claimed that the regulation uniform is intended to be "sexy" and to draw attention.
During the 2004 Summer Olympic Games, a study was conducted on the camera angles during the beach volleyball games. Twenty percent of the camera angles were focused on the chest area and seventeen percent of the angles were focused on the buttock area. The study concludes that this implies the look of the players is having a greater impact on fans than their actual athleticism.
Some conservative cultures have expressed moral objections to the swimsuit as a uniform. At the 2007 South Pacific Games, rules were adjusted to require less revealing shorts and cropped sports tops. At the 2006 Asian Games, only one Muslim country fielded a team in the beach volleyball series, amid concerns the uniform was inappropriate.
In early 2012, the International Volleyball Federation announced it will allow shorts (maximum length 3 cm (1.2 in) above the knee) and sleeved tops at the London 2012 Olympics. Richard Baker, the federation spokesperson, said that "many of these countries have religious and cultural requirements so the uniform needed to be more flexible". And in fact the weather was so cold for the evening games at London 2012 that the players sometimes had to wear shirts and leggings.
Lifestyle and culture
Beach volleyball culture includes the people, language, fashion and life surrounding the sport of modern beach volleyball. With its origins in Hawaii and California, beach volleyball is strongly associated with a casual, beach-centric lifestyle. As it developed nearly in parallel with modern surfing, beach volleyball culture shares some similarities with surf culture. The beach bum archetype is one such example.
Fashion often extends from the clothing worn during play, like the bikini or boardshorts. And much like surfers, beach volleyball players are at the mercy of the weather; patterns of play often develop based on weather conditions like sun and wind.
Beach volleyball is considered an important part of the local culture in many Southern California beach towns. Cities like Encinitas, Moonlight Beach, Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach, Santa Barbara, Huntington Beach maintain permanent poles and nets year-round.
Studies were conducted at the 2001 Beach Volleyball Championships on injuries among beach volleyball players. The studies were also conducted during the seven and a half week period before the championship. Over this time period, fifty-four total injuries occurred. Twenty-three of the injuries caused players to sit out of practice and/or the game for one or more days. The most common injuries were knee, ankle and finger injuries. Knee injuries accounted for thirty percent, ankle for seventeen percent and fingers for seventeen percent. Other medical attention seeking injuries were overusage injuries. These included the lower back, knee pain and shoulder pain. Although these injuries occurred, the time lost not practicing or playing is lower than any other sport. However, there are still several injuries and overusage issues that alter how women play and keep them from playing for an allotted amount of time. Another common injury in volleyball is anterior cruciate ligament injuries because of the jumping and pivoting. Shoulder injuries are also common because of the overuse in hitting. Many players use kinesiology tape that has been around for about 30 years and is essentially a strip of adhesive plaster placed on the area that needs support or relief. Interest in this tape has surged after American beach volleyball player and gold medallist Kerri Walsh wore it at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
- List of American beach volleyball players