There’s a trait worth noting when taking inventory of some of the best offensive players in beach volleyball, namely Phil Dalhausser and Karch Kiraly: They’re goofy-footed.
Goofy-footed is a term not often associated with positive thoughts. Coaches immediately try to “fix” the condition, in fear that it might become permanent. Players are constantly taught that one approach, and one approach only, is the correct one. But to see that Dalhausser and Kiraly, perhaps the two best American players of all-time, are both goofy-footed, it would be impossible to argue that you cannot succeed with a goofy-footed approach.
Dalhausser and Kiraly, after all, have both notched more than 100 wins and are the owners of five Olympic gold medals.
Avery Drost does not have 100 wins, nor does he have a gold medal, but he is currently one of the best players in the game who is using a goofy-footed approach, alongside Troy Field and Russian blocker and 2021 Olympic silver medalist Oleg Stoyanovskiy.
“The big advantage of the goofy-foot approach and why I continue to use it is that it allows me to open up to the angle no matter where I am,” said Drost, who has four top-three finishes on the AVP to his name. “If I’m using a regular approach and I’ve got to chase the ball, I need to really open my body up when I lean off my left foot.”
The last phrase explains the essential difference between a goofy and regular approach in beach volleyball. When approaching regularly, a player will make his or her first step with his right foot, the second with the left, and then plant with a right-left step-close. When approaching goofily, the sequence is reversed: left, right, left-right.
As Drost mentioned, when a right-handed player is playing on the left side, the goofy-foot approach not only allows, but almost forces, his body to stay wide open to the court, opening up a sharp angle swing while still keeping a cross-body line available.
“The step-close on a set that’s outside can still get you open to the court,” Drost said. “Being able to stay open was worth giving up some of that power.”
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Yes, Drost feels a small reduction in power in approaching goofy vs. regular, but the trade-off has been worth it, just as it was for Kiraly and Dalhausser. It is no wonder that Kiraly’s signature shot was a baby cut: His body was open to it, making it easier to hit sharp and accurately.
The other drawback in approaching goofy-footed is if you’re a right handed player on the right side. When that’s the case, instead of opening your body into the court, now you’re opening your body slightly out of bounds, making a swing down the line relatively easy, but closing off a good chunk of the sharp angle. For this reason, Dalhausser actually switched his approach when he moved to the right side when he played with Sean Rosenthal.
“Every time he’d walk through a doorway, he’d practice his normal approach,” Drost said.
But even when Drost plays on the right, as he did with Ryan Doherty in the AVP Champions Cup, he maintains his goofy approach.
Well, it works.
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