Reading more important in beach than indoor?

On occasion I hear the opinion expressed that reading on the beach is more important than indoor. Or perhaps that it’s done more. The idea seems to be that because as a defender (assuming your partner is blocking) you have every ball. As a result, you need to read to be in the right position. This is as opposed to indoor where the ball could be someone else’s. Also, you have a much more limited area of responsibility.

I certainly agree from a defensive coverage perspective. A good read on the beach is really important. Being even a little wrong puts you well out of position given how much area you have to cover.

I don’t agree, however, that beach players have to read more than indoor players. I think all players have to read the same amount. It’s just that for an indoor player the read comes with different potential implications.

For example, if you read that the ball will not be attacked in your direction, you shift to your next responsibility. If you’re a hitter, that’s transitioning to attack. For a setter, that is moving toward target to take the second ball.

All players read all the time.

Let me restate that.

All players should read all the time. Doesn’t matter if you’re talking beach or indoor. It always matters what the opponent is doing, and how they set up for the next contact.

To my mind, this is one of the areas of coaching that doesn’t get enough attention. And yes, good reading skills are something players can learn.

John Forman
About the Author: John Forman
John currently coaches for an NCAA Division II women's team. This follows a stint as head coach for a women's professional team in Sweden. Prior to that he was the head coach for the University of Exeter Volleyball Club BUCS teams (roughly the UK version of the NCAA) while working toward a PhD. He previously coached in Division I of NCAA Women's Volleyball in the US, with additional experience at the Juniors club level, both coaching and managing, among numerous other volleyball adventures. Learn more on his bio page.


  1. Alexis says:

    Hi there John. Interesting discussion.

    As someone who has spent their entire coaching career coaching both beach and indoor volleyball, I would suggest that being able to read is important in both. Is it equally important? That depends more on the individual. For someone who is great at tooling the block – reading the defender may not be as important. For someone who relies on power, it may not be more important. For someone who relies on precision, it may be more important. But, as you may have noticed, these types of hitters are equally likely to play beach volleyball as indoor volleyball.

    In my experience, the particular abilities of the elite are variable. BUT the skills you need to teach the developing athlete are consistent regardless of whether they are playing indoor or beach. The only reason this would change is if you specialise in a particular indoor role (eg: “I’m a middle”) from a young age (and when I say ‘young’ I mean younger than 20). And all the scientific evidence I have seen suggests early specialisation is limiting. You don’t have to look much further than the USA men’s National team, who have a ‘Left-Side’ playing as a ‘Right-Side’.

  2. John Forman John Forman says:

    Hi Alexis,

    To the question about the hitter who tools the block, he may not be so much reading the defender, but he’s certainly reading the blocker. Arguably, whether it’s a tool hitter or a power hitter, both are probably reading the combination of block and defense.

    As for Anderson, his move to the right was 100% necessity at the time because they simply didn’t have anyone to play over there with Stanley out of commission (at lost not anyone strong enough).
    You may recall Matt got shifted back to OH a couple times when the USA was struggling. Now, they have a bunch of capable OHs and still not much depth in OPP so he stays on the right. Still plays OH for Zenit, though. 🙂


  3. M. says:

    Superficially it can seem like beach volleyball players need to read more because they individually have a greater area to cover.
    If you spend more than 30 seconds actually thinking about it, it is a dumb statement. The players read slightly different things and have slightly different responsibilities. Allowing for those differences they all have to be excellent at reading.

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