Beach Volleyball Training: Setting Your Feet on Defense

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The most important aspect of defense in beach volleyball isn't the crazy layout dig. It isn't the amazing scoop on the huge swing from the opposing team. It isn't the wild run down or how soon to put out your platform. These are all vital aspects of being an excellent defender in beach volleyball, yes, but the most critical element of defense to focus on is your feet. 

It isn't sexy, but most of the critical elements of sport aren't. In golf, there is a saying "Drive for show, putt for dough." Bombing drives 300-plus yards is sexy and cool -- but the strokes are made up with the putter. Not super flashy. In basketball, dunks are fantastic and highlight-worthy, but the corner 3-pointer is proving to be the deadliest shot in the game. In baseball, teams who put runners on base are better off than teams who strike out a lot but also hit a lot of home runs. 

Defense in beach volleyball is no different: It's all about the fundamentals. In this specific case, it's all about the feet. You can have the quickest feet in the world, but if you're unbalanced, or aren't sure how to control the energy of those feet in the most efficient manner, it's no use. 

In the video below, AVP beach volleyball pro Mark Burik sits down with a junior athlete to discuss the importance of setting your feet on defense.
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Transcript of the above beach volleyball video

 When you go to practice, it's going to be up to you. Just say, I have to do my stomp before this person hit. This looks like Hermosa all right, so where are you?


This one here blocker


Yeah. Okay. So you're the net protector right now. Okay. I see this.

Oh, I have to, I always move my feet right when they're hitting.

How do you think you can, you can stop that.

I have to like think about it in my head. I don't know.

Yeah, no, I agree with that. And you know, it's funny, I had practiced today. I did a two and a half hour practice today and I was yelling at myself for the exact same thing because I looked at film last night of myself. Mmm. Where was I playing? Uh Oh. I was playing in Chicago, ABP and I saw a bunch of times that my feet were not getting stopped before the hitter and I wasn't even able to pursue it because like my feet were just doing nothing while the person was hitting. So I settled on only [inaudible]. Mmm. What I did today is I just took the two hours and I said, when I'm on defense, I'm going to make sure that both feet hit the ground for contact. You know, [inaudible] do that. And I did and I thought about it for a whole practice. But that's the thing about practice. You got to think about one thing and you gotta chase one rabbit, you like rabbits. [inaudible]

you got to chase one rabbit. Um, because if you try to think about like three different skills during the one point [inaudible] I don't think you'll get much better at, at any of them. But if you say like, Hey man, this is the one thing that always bothers me. Oh, and it always like kicks my butt and I always [inaudible] I always miss them digs because my feet aren't set. Then you got to say, okay, this week, every time at practice I'm going to walk into practice. This my one focus, I'm one focus. And like every 15 minutes, every time you go to get water, you ask yourself, did I focus on the feet? And then before you go back onto the court, you say focus on your feet. So keep reminding yourself just like that. All right. But I am seeing that too, that you're here. Right.

And then I do like a back in the neck to go forward.

Okay. That's a nice up though. All right, so let's see it right here. We're going to go through slow motion. Okay. Yeah.

Yeah. I went forward and then she did a line, I think. Yeah.

Well it looks to me like you're seeing stuff. Yeah, right. Like you're like kind of trying to read her. You see, you look at you, you're looking for what she's trying to do and then you realize a little bit late like Oh, Oh, nice bestie almost. Okay. So you just realize a little bit late that she was going deep. Yeah, I'd like to see eventually, um, maybe next time if you could video from the side of the court, like far off from the side of the court to see how you are, because I really want to see how deep you're standing. [inaudible] do you think you're faster moving forward or moving back?

No. Before forward flourish. If you raced yourself and you were okay. So that means that if you're faster moving forward, you should be further back in the court. Right. It's like it's easier for me to get like deeper passes, right? If you're back, they don't really move. You don't really move your feet backwards though. That's great. It's good to have those weapons. I think that what happens is the ball drops short on her a lot for sure. I think that it was a little bit, if you just start yourself at three quarters death, Yana right and you make sure that your feet are in the sand right. And both of them are just planted and like you feel your legs really strong in the sand and then if it's short, go ahead and dive forward. But um, just for these couple of points right now, it looks like you're really trying hard to read, which is awesome. I think that's such a, such an important thing. Um, because I think I see a lot of, a lot of young ladies just kind of let something happen, you know, without moving their feet to it. But you don't have that, you have this ability right now where I see you like, ah, she's trying to do this or you're moving forward and back. So you're already, you're already a long way. But um, if you start in three quarters and you sit your feet, you'll be able to run forward super fast. Okay. [inaudible]

Okay. So yeah, so you see that, right? You're coming forward again, which is actually this time. It's a good read. So you're reading, you're seeing the right thing. Your eyes are awesome, but I'm going to say, or I'm going to say and, and your feet aren't set. Yeah. So I'm going to, I'll, can you see me? This is, this is my living room. Welcome to my home. Okay. Okay. Can you see me? Yeah. So what have you read? Right? A lot of people we'll read like this and they'll just start going to where they think the ball is going to go. That's what you're doing right here in this video. But if you see ABP players, do you know who like Taylor gravis? Yeah. Okay. Do you know who Sarah sponsor is?

April Ross. You know April Ross? Do you know Sarah Hughes? Yeah. Okay. So these girls, when they read, this is how they do it. They see that evolve might be short. Can you see my feet? Yeah. And they do this. So they jumped forward, but then they get still [inaudible] and then they can move. So I think when you're learning volleyball, you read by running to where you think the ball is going to go, but then you're running. So if that doesn't happen, you're stuck. Yeah. Right. And you can't change. But the best players in the world, like all those girls that I just mentioned, every time they read, they do it like this. Oh, I think it's going deep. So that girl is about to get deep. So they do this, I think the girls about to get short. So they do this right. And, but they, then they get still. If you, uh, run. So where do you think it is then? You only have one chance of digging it and that's if you can tell the future and you guessed exactly where the girl was going to hit. Okay. So, um, I want you to practice next time you go to the beach doing this, moving like this. [inaudible] [inaudible]

hello? Okay. Moving almost like a, just like a two legged monster that doesn't have separate legs. Huh? Ah ha ha ha ha. So that you're always, your feet are always set and then you can chase anything because then you'll be closer to where you think the ball is going to go. But then you can still chase it if you guess wrong. Okay. Okay. Does this record for her to watch again later if she wants to? Yeah, I send it to you, yes. Oh good. Okay. Perfect. Thank you. Ooh, good. Double arm lift. Look at this. Yeah, I see it. I hit it like right to hear them. Yeah, I mean, and you know the problem with that, right? So, um, I think you know the solution, it's look where the person is. Make sure you don't hit to them. Mmm. It's easy to say when we're sitting here on a computer, uh, it's much more difficult when the wind is blowing and the sun is setting and everybody's watching. And then it's like, I need to keep my head. I need to look where are they? Where are they? Where are they hit the other way? Yeah. So, um, w you can work on that in practice as well. If you ever hit a ball that somebody doesn't have to dive for [inaudible] shoot, I did it wrong. Right. Um, your first goal for every practice is to make any opponent dive constantly. Okay. Okay. Don't even worry about getting a kill. Just make sure that they get dirty and their shower is longer than yours. After practice.

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Let's see how we did here. So a little bit wiggly with the legs. Yeah. [inaudible] such a good early platform. Ah. Can you teach my adult players how to do this? Nice hands are together really early. That's awesome. You held through contact. That's awesome. Yeah. [inaudible] good. Double arm lift. Look at this. Cool. Hmm. Money. Money. Good. [inaudible] okay. Mmm. There. There can be some focus here on your, on your takeoff with your arms because check this out. Okay. Right. You get these arms way back. They swing through, but then they get to your knees and then you just put them up like this. Can you see me? Yeah. And then you just put them up. They should be swinging you up. Okay. You see how they just like right now, now it looks like you're doing a shoulder press. Yeah. Right. You would, um, you can spend some time really just like squat jumping, roll your arms back and then swing your arms up and almost like, uh, have you ever done gymnastics?

Okay, cool. Well, maybe when you were four, they taught you how to do a backflip, but you need to get you high, right? So right now, just a little bit of technical stuff where they're not actually helping you anymore. So now they're just raising. So I think that if like we work together for a long time, um, or you can find a, another jump coach, you could probably add maybe an inch and a half, two inches to your vertical jump, like really quickly just by fixing your arms. Okay. You wouldn't even have to get stronger or anything. You would just have to like use the arms in a different way.

She almost got dirty. Oh, no. Mm. Okay. What was that? Was that you guys? Yeah. Oh yeah. Somehow my texts are coming in on this computer. Sorry. Next time I'll fix it. Buddy's popular. [inaudible] Mmm. One way to do this without you. Yeah. So you want that reminder. Next time you're practicing like, yep. My feet in the sand. Yeah. And I want you to know to try to do it in a big, like a big way. Okay. I want you to actually like don't yeah. Before anybody hits or before any third contact. Right. Right. Way before. Just, Oh, but the sand with your feet and like sit your butt back down. Okay. Um, and, um, because like I'm, I'm coaching now so I can't like yell at you for two hours and say like [inaudible] so when you go to practice, it's going to be up to you. Just say, I have to do my Dom before this person hits. Okay. Okay. So maybe, right. Um, do you have practice tomorrow? No. Perfect. There you go. Okay. So can you, uh, do you have a pen with you? All right. Have you ever written on your hand? Yes. Like in the paper for now, but stomp.

Okay. She's actually a lefty. So in every other sports she plays left handed or right handed to hit. Did she cause right handed? All right. So I, um, during my training, Tiana, I always, the thing that's most important to me during my training, I write it on my hand and I just take a look at it. And I'm like, that's the only important thing for today. This is, this is what I'm chasing, this is the rabbit that I'm chasing. Because if it's like, if it's costing me the most points, then I know that this is what I have to fix. So even if you have that written on your hand for a week and it takes you like a week to learn, stop, stop, stop. You're always going to look at that and you're going to think about it probably at least for the next day and a half. And then you're going to be able to do it pretty quick. Okay? Okay. Okay. Let's see here. All right. So you're good with it on serving. Yeah. Right. That's a perfect move. Do you want to look up? You want to look at hitting when hitting at me? Yeah, that's, that's, that's, we want to be as good as you are here in service.

Like that same level on defense.


Because this is perfect. Like you're held, you're solid, clean, move to the ball, like perfect. Move to the ball.


so I think over time you want to get to that same point in the middle of these crazy rallies that happened.


good. Deep metal. Yes, eat little is your friend. All right. So it was a rough set. You dealt with it really nicely. He made the safe choice and you got the point. You're lefty and you can serve like that.

Missing. Like I said,

well it's probably because all these birds are flying everywhere. It's pretty distracting.

[inaudible] I think it was the boys that were distracting, not the bird.

Mmm. You were trying to go after this person

and that's what, um, my partner shut. Did you

cool? That was the game plan. What were you trying to serve her? Short, deep sideline or middle?

She said deep, like coroner,

deep corner suite. That's a great game plan. Good. Yeah. See, this is perfect, right?


Both solid. Both glean moves to the ball. Good spacing, good early platform. Oh, you're doing so much so well. Yes. Little lefty set. [inaudible] yeah, if you could like, so here's her right shoulder. This the perfect set is probably going to be right here.


Okay. Because that's just on the right side of her. Right shoulder. Yeah. Missed that one by like three, four feet. Um, but just make sure that you keep trying to find her right shoulder.


All right. Let's see your feet the whole time. Ah, there it is. So you see something, but you try it. You're trying to run to it. Yeah. For you before you're certain that it's happening.


so, um, it looks to me like you move well, like you're agile and you're fast. So I think you need to trust how fast you are.


[inaudible] set your feet and say when they make contact, I'm going to be fast enough to get it no matter what. But if I'm moving, I'm actually gonna cut off my own speed. Okay. And that happens to a lot of players. You can have some of the fastest people in the world, but they look really slow because their feet don't have the right start.


Right, right. [inaudible] Ooh, dropped. Yeah, you switched after one. Whoa. Huh? Why did you switch here? I don't know. She asked me to switch. Said, yeah. All right, good. I usually like to wait three or four points before I'm going to like make a huge change. I think that was just a nasty serve. Um, it dropped and heavy wind so you don't have to switch daddy immediately, but after like three or four points, if something's not working, yeah, definitely find something to change. [inaudible] let's check out your feet. Still kind of in motion, right? Yeah. Okay. So it will be like a little bit more statuary. [inaudible]

nice. Okay. So she missed you quite a bit inside as well because to me the perfect set here, if you're looking at like world tour players and people who are going to the Olympics this summer, like she would set you right here cause that's on your right shoulder. You'll wait to make her work. Good work. [inaudible] no, stop moving. Stop moving. Okay, cool. Oh yay. Two really good defenders. Okay. All right. [inaudible] okay, so this is when they were just graduating college, right? I think they hadn't graduated college yet. Sarah and Kelly. Yeah. [inaudible] let me get into the thick of it. All right. Okay. So check it out.

Okay. See right here. Yeah, that is that stomp position. Yeah, right. Where she's like, my butt's down both theater in the sand. Let's rock and roll. [inaudible] this is a great shot by Sarah. Yeah. [inaudible] Mmm. Let me see that. Yeah, she's held her butts low. Her thighs are almost equal with her, with her knees. That doesn't make sense. Her butt's almost equal with her knees. Right. And she's like, I'm going to get this, I'm going to grind, I'm going to be ready to dive and move through it. And uh, she just got tricked up a little bit. Okay. [inaudible]

Dara here. She got set just a little bit late, but you can see the position that she got to eventually. Yeah. All right. Good jump serve. Yeah, Pat. Right. So she jumped into the stomp position, their feet wide and set at this level. What these girls are doing is they don't want to give away too early where they are because they're sometimes reading, but sometimes trying to hide where they are. You don't need to worry about that yet. Need to worry about like hiding where you are. You need to worry about getting in the stomp position. All right, let's see if April can do it here again. Hmm.

Again, right? You see her in the low squad again, Sarah, nice up. Woo. [inaudible] Ooh, Sarah has got caught moving. So kind of lost that point there. Doesn't like to say that. [inaudible] [inaudible] [inaudible] this is a big move, so I want you to pay attention to what she's doing. So you see how Sarah, he was moved here. Yeah. This is again, her hiding long and then she's not really running to where she think it's going because look, she doesn't look like she's pursuing a ball. It looks like she's getting to a position. So even though it's her feet aren't set, it's just a rebalance. So, Mmm. Again, a little bit of reading, but a lot, a bit of just holding April wealth does a little bit better here. There we go. A little bit of a late settle, but you can see that position. So that's what we want more out of you. Oh, okay. Yeah. Say like, feel. See how low she is. Yeah. You liked her knees are bent and a butts back and down, but that's where we want to get frequently there. Just little like athletics. Well, just look at it like one more play. Maybe it was after that. Bye. Oh wow. We went a little bit over time.

This is a running play. Okay. Maybe we can set up okay. Yeah, Sarah's pretty movie back there. Okay. You can see that she might be moving, but she's not going to where she thinks the ball is going to be until the ball is going there. Yeah, she's repositioning. Then she can get to the ball and uh, Sarah is actually a specially movie. I like that movie. Say that one more time. See how low this is? Yeah. Okay. Now we're going to get out of here and we're going to look on contact. How deep you are when somebody hit.

Right. So she's hitting after she hits theaters still kind of like a little bit close together. Then you eventually get down there, but you never get quite to that. Like that little squat position. The low squat with the feet outside your shoulders. Yeah. You want to get really comfortable there and that'd be nice than an ACE. Yeah, he sir. Mmm. So your legs never got to the same position. Well, no, I hit the wrong button. Your legs never got to the same position that we saw out of Sarah and April. Yeah. Done butt down. Knees are bent and you're like in the sand. Ready to get there. So we want to fight for that position just more frequently. Okay. Mm. Well you to take a look at two more points and then that will be this first meeting, right?

The end falls apart a little. Oh, let's see that one. Right. Serve nice scorpion kick [inaudible] good mobility. And you switched right away. Interesting. You guys switch after one serve and he likes the ocean side when it's windy. Her partner likes prefers that side when it's windy. Okay. Okay. So when the winds coming off the Pacific ocean, um, she likes to receive on the wind side. Yeah. Okay. Great platform. Oh, just missed floating a little bit. Okay. Okay. I swung at it. Yeah, I mean afterwards you did. Yeah. Right. It's just, it came up high and your left shoulder wasn't high compared to your right shoulder. Like if your right shoulder would just down more, if this is a perfect pass, it hits the exact right place on your platform, but the platform isn't facing forward.


There's not necessarily a swing, it's just you didn't drop your shoulder enough.


What are you thinking about the point before we, you ready?

Sometimes what will happen is it, it happens once, it'll happen two or three times and then she'll kind of regroup.

Hmm. Mmm. That could be a mental thing. And it could also, sometimes it's like the other teams saying, ah, we found maybe a chink in the armor. So they'll

step on the gaps and server faster for sure.

So I, I think, I think that's smart, um, by the other team. Um, and I think it's, it's nice that you guys are switching so that they can really discover that that chink too. Well, never got to the buttock down position. Okay, great. Nice. Still wiggling around and see like you and this lady, whoever this is, you guys are doing the same thing. Yeah. Hazardous. Walking around, walking around. She's walking around the tournaments. Are you [inaudible] Ooh. Slappy okay. So, um, I want you to just back up far away from the camera, so, so that we can like see it, I guess you're in your living room there. And then show me like that deep knee position are there beat outside your shoulders? Not too wide. That's fine. I see you. Yup. But down. That's good. I think your feet can be a tiny bit wider. Just barely outside your shoulders. Yeah. Okay. So that's your stomp position. Come on back. And that's it. Right? That's the position that you want to live in. Cause we saw April Ross in it. Right. And we saw how like low she got. We saw that Sarah got really low. Yeah, he's been butt down. That's a report to me.


Alrighty. Any last questions?

Mmm, when I'm doing my cut shot


or a blind shot. Sorry, I just don't, I just finished my finger there. Right. Cause I, I like hit my line shots out like a lot, like not a lot, but

okay. So you see, you see this, uh, this is like my fist could be the ball [inaudible] however your hand hits the ball, like whatever angle your hand has on the ball, that's going to determine how high or how far right or how far left it goes. Right? So if you're missing high, like it's too high, you might be hitting the ball there. So you need to practice just tilting your hand a little bit flatter and hitting it more on the side. Yeah. If you're hitting it too far, it just means that when you hit, you're hitting it like this instead of like this, because when you hit a shot, something that's not a power shot, you need to stop the energy. Mmm. A little bit sooner. So you need to stop the energy like on the face. Because if I did this, that's a power shot because my hand went totally through the ball. Right. But if I did this and my hand stop right there, then I hit the face and the ball doesn't go as far. Yeah. So your hand can follow. That's okay. What matters is what angle your hand has when it contacts the ball. And then what matters is how, how much through the ball are you contacting? Okay. Right. You can move your hand fast, but not move the ball like that. So that'll be like a shock, but this would be a hit. Okay. Makes sense. Yeah. Cool. Okay. You are most welcome.


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