There is one main skill in beach volleyball that is noticed before almost any other: The spike. There has not been a single player in the history of beach volleyball who has looked at the other side of the net in fear because someone on the other team bump set well. Nor has anyone, as far as I can tell, been trembling because of a crisp line shot.
We notice spikes. Whether we want to or not, whether we care to spike hard or not, we just notice them, no different than how we notice dunks before we would a mid-range jumper. They’re spectacular, and everyone wants to spike a volleyball harder because of this (and because it’s the most effective way to score).
However, we have some news for you: Before you can spike a volleyball, you must make your approach. Your approach is 99 percent of spiking anyway.
You may as well learn where to start.
There are many different schools of thought on where to begin your approach, and there is no particular school of thought that you should absolutely adhere to, because here’s the thing: Where you begin your approach is different for everybody. April Ross will begin her approach at a different spot than Alix Klineman. Sarah Sponcil will start a little closer than Kelly Claes. Tri Bourne begins his at a wider point than Trevor Crabb.
You will have a different point of hesitation – or batter’s box, if that’s your preferred terminology – than your partner.
Why? Why isn’t there a definitive answer?
Because this is beach volleyball, and there are almost no definitive answers with anything. Beach volleyball players come in all different sizes and shapes and athletic abilities. We possess varying levels of explosiveness. As such, we must begin making our approach at different points.
Our Better at Beach coach, Brandon Joyner, has a good system for you to determine where you should begin your approach, one that’s personalized exactly to you.
“Go to the net, and place your arm so you can’t touch the net when you swing your arm,” Joyner said. “This is your distance from the net where you should be hitting. Then turn around facing the court, do your normal four-step approach. When you land, turn around. That’s the distance you should be approaching from.”
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What this will do is allow you to make your full, explosive approach without hitting the net. It will give you a relatively exact spot from which you should begin your approach. And, best yet, it will make your approach consistent, which will improve your timing, which will keep you from getting under the ball when you’re spiking, instead making it easier to keep the ball in front, where you can make better contact and spike the volleyball harder.
“One of the big issues we always see in beach volleyball: People are early to the net approaching to hit a volleyball,” Joyner said. “Their starting position is too close to the net.”
Now that you have your approach system dialed in, you can begin waiting back on the ball, getting your full power into the spike, becoming one of those players everyone notices.
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