I once had an exchange with a volleyball dad. He was looking for some advice on his daughter. At 16 she was an England international at the U19 level and had aspirations to play in college in the States. One of the academies accepted her for the next school year. Shortly after, the England sand volleyball training program invited her to join them in a similar academy type of situation. A former beach pro ran the program. The father sought my advice on the decision with regards to the impact on recruitment prospects. Below are the thoughts I shared with this father, but I’d be interested to hear other views.
So the question is to attend the indoor academy and train with other members of the England youth national team mix or go the beach route to train under a former professional and with other England beach internationals. The player in question was an outside hitter, though capable of hitting anywhere on the net. She was about 5’10”, with a good jump and long reach (slender build). She both hit and blocked well and generally had good ball skills. In the most recent season she had some back issues, but otherwise I was not aware of any injuries. If she went the beach academy route, part of the deal would be that she’d continue playing indoor ball in the National Volleyball League.
Now generally speaking I almost always encourage my indoor players to get out and play beach or grass doubles. It’s a great way for them to improve their abilities and have a different kind of volleyball experience. That’s not the same as choosing between training full-time as a beach player vs. as an indoor player, though.
If this girl played another position, like middle blocker or perhaps setter, I may feel differently. In this case, though, I thought going the beach academy route made a lot of sense. As an OH prospective college coaches would expect her to have solid skills all around – not highly specialized ones as would be the case in other positions. Beach volleyball would help her continue developing those skills. I also thought sand training would reduce the pounding her body would take as a full-time indoor player. That could have long-term benefits.
From the recruiting perspective, the math was fairly simple. There are WAY more indoor programs and scholarship opportunities, and that wouldn’t change any time soon (if ever). As such, focusing on the indoor side in the recruitment process offers more opportunities, especially given the way the NCAA counts volleyball scholarships (an indoor scholarship athlete can play sand without issue, but a sand scholarship athlete cannot play indoors unless being counted toward the indoor scholarship limits). That said, being a dual-surface player would make one quite attractive to schools where players are part of both the indoor and sand teams (rather than the teams being run separately).
All things taken together – working on her all-around game, the opportunity to train under a former beach pro, still getting to play indoor competitively – I thought going the beach academy route in this case mades a lot of sense. That’s what I told the father.