We're on the move in beach volleyball. A lot. And that's why we love it! There's only two players on the court, which leaves quite a bit of sand to cover. This is especially relevant for all of the beach volleyball defenders out there reading this, players who are constantly on the move but also constantly touching the ball.
It begs the question: How do we accurately make digs while on the move?
It's an excellent question. Many coaches will encourage you to be fully stopped, no matter what, whenever you're digging a volleyball. In a perfect world, this would be great. Alas, we do not live in a perfect world, and that idea is unrealistic at best, bad advice at worst. Because digging on the move isn't a bad thing. It's ok to be on the move.
Sometimes it's even recommended!
"You don’t have to get stopped," AVP professional beach volleyball player Mark Burik said. "It’s ok to be on the move and keep your momentum going to your point of hesitation. If you do get to a ball, don’t force yourself to stop. See if you can time it so you can be on the move and in rhythm."
So if we are allowed to be on the move, then, here are the three secrets for defense to making great digs on the move.
Pick your favorite action movie, where there are lots of shootouts, explosions, high-intensity scenes with guns. Think of the protagonist, the hero who is coming on the scene, a John McClane type from Die Hard. Imagine him entering a scene, prepared to shoot.
What's he doing? Are his arms pumping, gun flailing left and right, completely erratic?
Absolutely not! He's cool, calm, collected. His arms are poised, gun aimed. He's sacrificing speed for accuracy.
This is the image we want when you're digging on the move. We don't need you to win a 40-yard dash. We don't need your elbows pumping like pistons. We want you to be cool, calm, and collected, just like McClane. We want your platform to be out early, so when you make contact with the ball, you're not swinging wildly, but allowing the ball to come onto your perfectly solid platform, where it will bounce wherever you're aiming it.
"Passing is an accuracy skill," Burik said. "We want to minimize movement. We want things to be as simple as possible. One of the biggest mistakes we see when people are running to a ball and they have to make a play on it is we get these big elbow pumps for too long. If you don’t have your angle set up, it’s going to be harder to touch the ball with good, clean accuracy. We don’t want to have these big swooping motions."
When you're chasing down a volleyball, we don't want your eyes to be on the sand or ocean or bikini-clad women or shirtless men. We want them to be firmly on the bottom of the volleyball.
Why the bottom?
Because that's where your platform is going to go!
As long as you can see the bottom of the ball, there's still a chance for you to make the dig. It's as much mental as it is physical: Keep the bottom in sight, and you can keep that ball off the sand.
"You have this belief on defense that you can still get to it," Burik said. "You want to keep your eyes and head underneath the ball."
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We LOVE it when you chase down that high line. We LOVE it when you do the proper eye work, locating the bottom of the ball and getting your platform on it. We LOVE it when you get your platform out early.
There is one final key, though: Where are we aiming our platform?
Since we don't want to swing our arms, instead letting the ball do the work for us, it leaves one final bit of technical skill for us to do, which is angle our platform. Beach volleyball is, at its basics, just geometry. It's all angles. The ball will go precisely where your platform is telling it to go.
Generally, we want to angle our platform, using our shoulders as our steering wheel, so to speak, towards the center of the court. If you're on the left side, then, you want your right shoulder dipped just a touch, with your left shoulder higher, which will aim your platform to the center. Vice versa on the right: left shoulder will be dipped, right shoulder a touch higher.
So, in review:
- Stay calm like John McClane. Accuracy over speed.
- Keep your eyes on the bottom of the ball
- Aim your platform
Now go dig some volleyball!
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