Volleyball Academy: Indoor or Beach?

I recently had an exchange with a volleyball dad. He was looking for some advice regarding his daughter, who at 16 is an England international at the U19 level and has aspirations to play collegiately in the States. She’d been accepted to attend one of the academies next school year, but was then invited to become part of the England sand volleyball training program run by a former beach pro in a similar academy sort of situation. My advice was sought 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 is an outside hitter, though capable of hitting anywhere on the net. She’s approximately 5’10”, with a good jump and long reach (slender build). She both hits and blocks well and generally has good ball skills. This past season she had some back issues, but otherwise I’m not aware of any injuries. If she goes 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 making a choice 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, but in this case I think going the beach academy route makes a lot of sense. As a prospective college OH she’s going to be expected to have solid skills all around – not highly specialized ones as would be the case in other positions. Beach volleyball will help her continue developing those skills. I also think training in the sand will cut down on some of the pounding her body would take as a full-time indoor player, which could have long-term benefits.

From the recruiting perspective, the math is fairly simple. There are WAY more indoor programs and scholarship opportunities, and that won’t be changing 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 think going the beach academy route in this case makes a lot of sense. That’s what I told the father.

Agree? Disagree?

John Forman
About the Author: John Forman
John recently compelted 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.

4 comments

  1. Since volleyball and beach volleyball are two different sports (at least from my point of view) and the principle of specifity is one of the most important (again from my point of view) there are almost no synergies between the two sports. I don’t know many athletes who can compete on the highest level in two sports. If she is one of them, congratulations. But if not I say focus on one sport.

  2. John Forman John Forman says:

    Oliver – I’m sure we could have a lengthy discussion on the subject of specificity and beach vs. indoor volleyball, so I’ll leave that aside for the moment. What I would say, though, is that in the US it is the case that many of the top level beach players were once top level indoor athletes. This is very likely a function of the opportunities to use indoor volleyball to get a university education, with beach volleyball taking over as a primary focus later. With sand volleyball now becoming a collegiate option as well, it will be interesting to see the impact over time.

    The case I address in the blog post is a specific one, however. My approach was to think in terms of creating the best possible recruiting platform for the player in question. While she could probably get plenty of offers as strictly an indoor player, having meaningful beach playing and training increases her attractiveness to programs that combine sand and indoor, and by extension in places where she is inclined to go to school. And again, if she wasn’t an OH where all-around skills are required, I’d probably think differently on the academy subject.

    • Okay, I didn’t get your point at first. I can understand that. If the system’s like that I completely agree with your thought. Although the “detour” beach volleyball might cost her an important step during the summer indoors…

      • John Forman John Forman says:

        Actually, there seems to be relatively little indoor volleyball in England during the summer (same in the States, other than camps), so she doesn’t really miss out from that perspective. I think the national squads will have August training camp, but other than that, once the National league wraps up in April/May the focus seems to shift very much to beach. As I understand it, the player in question did a lot of beach training last summer.

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