Anyone who plays volleyball or beach volleyball will agree how amazing a beach camp can be. If you don’t agree then I kindly redirect you to one of our past blogs „Why beach camps are the best“ and „Sunset on Indoor = Sunrise for Beach“. Both of these blogs are a wonderful reminder how exactly beach volleyball gets used excited as the spring days start growing longer and warmer.
However, the beach camp die-hards are well aware of the fun in the sun awaiting them on a TimeOut beach camp. So, I thought to take time and help those who are new to beach volleyball, maybe even completely new to volleyball but want to try something new this summer. Then a beach camp is a great way to combine a holiday with keeping fit, having wonderful fun filled social evenings and also satisfying that personal development itch by learning a new sport and new skills.
There are almost always the same questions asked by new players to the sport. Today we tackle the BIG 2, which are what are those hand-signals for block defence and the concept of service-receive. So you to can use todays blog almost like a pre-camp homework to help kickstart your beach volleyball adventures. In essence, the what you need to know, before you go to a beach camp.
Part 1: Hand-signals for block defence
Blocking signals may seem like a mystery to many people. On the court, however, they make the game much easier. You and your partner simply don’t have enough time to have tactical discussions during the game. With hand signals, it allows you always to know how to react in certain game situations. Above all, the signs are really easy to learn. In the following, I will explain the basic signs that you should definitely know.
The basic meaning of the hand signs
The left hand is for the blocking action you will perform for the opponent on your left side and the right hand for the action you will perform for the opponent on your right. The displayed signs each stand for the action that the blocking player at the net is performing. They are best shown behind the back so that only the own playing partner can see what the tatical plan is. It is then the responsibility of the defender to position themselves in the undefended area to dig the hard spikes or chase down any soft shot.
- One finger (line)
The blocker should block any opponent’s „line“ attack, or a ball hit toward the nearest side-line.
- Two fingers (cross)
The blocker should block any opponent’s „cross“ attack, or a ball hit diagonally from the net and to the opposing corner.
These are the two most important beach volleyball signs that I will discuss. That’s really all you need to be able to divide the court optimally with your partner. If you are new to playing with block/defence system I would recommend line blocking as a good way to start. This is due to line defence being more about the blocker and defensive player being stopped and stable, then reacting on what the ball has done. Whereas with cross blocking there is more reading of the game needed compared to with line block/defence. This is due to the small window when the defensive player is in movement and hiding in the shadow of the blocking player, combined with the issue that you preferably need a bigger block to take the bigger cross space
This signal means that the blocker is responsible for any balls that are played on their side along the baseline, i.e. the „line“. The goal is to prevent hard attacks on the line. If, however the opponent cannot hit the ball hard, the blocker should releases back towards the baseline and play defence. For the defender at the back of the field this means in any case that they take care of all diagonally hit balls that are not covered by the blocking player. One extra point of responsibility is given to the defender, as they should also try to recover any balls that are shot over the block player.
This signal is used, when the blocking player is responsible for any balls that are played diagonally into the field. The goal is to prevent hard attacks on attacked into the middle of the court. If, however the opponent cannot hit the ball hard, the blocker should release also in a diagonal direction (same as block) and play defence. For the defender at the back of the field this means in any case that he takes care of line hit balls that are not covered by the blocking player. One extra point of responsibility is given to the defender, as they should also try to recover any balls that are shot over the block player.
You can be more advanced or as creative as your like with hand signals. As the game becomes even more tatical at higher levels the need for faking is also very important. This can be often refereed to as a 3 (fake cross) or 4 (fake line). At levels where blocking is not as important, there could arise the need to call no block or just to block directly where the ball is. However, these two block signals, „Cross“ and „Line“, give almost all players at all levels a very good chance of sharing the space on the court well, thus giving them the best chance of getting a block of defensive touch.
- Three fingers (fake cross)
The blocker pretends to block an opponent’s „cross“ attack, but jumps outwards towards the „line“ at the last moment.
- Four fingers (fake line)
The blocker pretends to block an opponent’s „line“ attack, but jumps inwards into a „cross“ block at the last moment.
- Closed fist (no block)
The blocker should run away from the net and play defence after the ball has been set for the hitter.
- Open hand (ball blocker)
The blocker should try to be aggressive and „go on the ball“, deciding how to block is based upon the opposing team’s set, the hitter’s approach and their arm-swing technique.
Serve-receive: The close game concept
The biggest challenge faced by new players in beach volleyball is; you and your partner have to divide up an 8×8 metre court in the best possible. That is quite a lot! As a pair, you should try to focus on the probability of what could happen so that the amount of running around is kept to a minimum. Otherwise, it won’t be long before you are crawling across the court. The tactics (especially the right ones) help you to do this, with one of the most important tactics you should master being the close serve-receive concept.
The theory behind this tactic is simple. Keep the ball as close to you as possible when playing with your partner so that you have to move as little as possible. Because moving in the sand is exhausting! So what is an optimal set-up for you and your partner?
The following is a game situation from the picture above: The opposing team (top side) serves. The serve is on you (the left back player). As soon as your partner sees that the serve is going to you (purple line), they can orientate themselves to watch the ball being passed by you (black line). As we share the court with our partner, the court is split into 2 halves. For this tactic your perfect zone for passing the service is in your own half, about 2m away from the net, which creates a meeting point (green circle).
After the reception your partner meets the ball and sets it in the air for you to attack. If it is being set from the optimal meeting point, an ideal set would be with a up-and-down trajectory (blue line). This type of set allows the ball to stay between you and the net better, allowing you to find the flight of the ball better and as you approach to the ball in the direction of the opposition court you can generate more power from your approach to attack the ball.
Why is this zone the optimal meeting point? Your partner only has to run a short distance to set the ball. Also, since the ball is still close to you, the ball does not stay in the air very long meaning it can be played with less energy making it easier to control and be precise. Additional factors such as the wind, or perhaps an unclean technique, will have not a big an influence on the ball’s trajectory over the shorter distance.
Learning to play the game can be tough, there is a lot of new technical information to learn and combined with the frustration of errors, sometimes it helps to focus on something else. For example the close serve-receive concept is an excellent idea to work on. Personally, I feel like learning new things are always centred around the „what should I do“ (techniques), but knowing also the deeper „why I am doing it like this“ (tactics) can really help reinforce the learning process. Ultimately, our goal at camps is to build players up with the technical elements of the game, but it is not truly beach volleyball without tactics.