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Q What is Collegiate Beach Volleyball?
The NCAA took on the new sport after the AVCA nurtured it from infancy. Many schools have programs with developing budgets and have very limited scholarship opportunities, but some schools are pulling away from the competition by getting top recruits who have been able to specialize in beach volleyball. The AVCA ranks the top 10 schools during the Spring season. Schools have limited practice during the Fall, and have full schedules in March and May, with duals, tournaments, and perhaps Conference Championships and National Championships in early May.
Q How can I play beach volleyball in college?
There are athletics scholarships being awarded to athletes at schools across the country, and most of those players on scholarship took the initiative and contacted the coach of that school, usually with video footage to get their attention. Many athletes played beach volleyball through USAV and it's prestigious High Performance (HP) program. It is becoming more common for athletes on scholarship to specialize in beach volleyball at some point in high school, rather than playing both indoor and beach (however, a large amount play both). The majority of collegiate beach volleyball athletes are not on scholarship, and it is important to be realistic when pursuing your dreams.
Q How do tournaments work with teams and individual pairs?
Most tournaments consist of a Dual-Play tournament (Pairs playing head-to-head match and a program wins based on overall match scores of 5). The second day of a tournament is usually a Pairs Tournament, where teams are seeded from the Dual Play results into single elimination brackets of 8.
Q How do championships work?
In 2016, the NCAA got rid of the pairs championships in May- leaving just the Team Championships for programs to compete. Eight schools are invited (3 from the West, 3 from the East, and 2 wild cards). The team championships were a single-elimination bracket with the 8 participating schools.
In 2012, 4 programs were invited to play in the national team championships in Gulf Shores, AL. The top two teams from each of those program were also automatically entered into the pairs championship. On top of those automatically entered, 8 additional pairs are selected by an assigned committee from across the country and they play in a 16-team pairs championship. Over three days, the teams compete in the following: Day 1: Pairs Pool Play; Day 2: Flighted Dual Tournament; Day 3: Pairs Single Elimination Bracket.
Q How likely is it that someone will get a beach volleyball scholarship?
It is difficult to say in this developmental stage of the sport, but ultimately the more experience they have and the more they get their name out there, the more likely they are to receive a scholarship.
If a school is fully funding the sport, they may reach the limit of 6 scholarships or 8 if they don't have an indoor team. Beach Volleyball is an "Equivalency Sport" as opposed to a "Head-Count Sport". This means the scholarship limits are equivalent to full-ride scholarships, but they can be divided among multiple players as partial scholarships. For example, if a college costs $50,000 to attend, a beach volleyball program can give out up to $300,000 in 2018 (equal to 6 full-ride scholarships). This $300,000 can be split among 6 or more players equally or unequally. A school does not have an indoor volleyball team, it can award up to 8 beach volleyball scholarships. Throughout all sports, only about 2% of high school athletes receive athletic scholarships, and most receive partial scholarships, not full-ride scholarships.
As a reference, Men's NCAA Division 1 Indoor Volleyball programs can award 4.5 Scholarships and Women's D1 Indoor volleyball programs can award up to 12 scholarships. Many sports have more (football is over 60) some have fewer.
Q Can an athlete play on the indoor volleyball team and the beach volleyball team in the same year?
Yes, but scholarships are tricky in this situation. At present, players on an indoor scholarship can play indoor and beach volleyball at the same time, but players that receive beach scholarships CANNOT play on the indoor team due to . Many schools are using their indoor squads to fill out their emerging beach teams, so players are transferring their indoor experience to the beach game. If you want to play both, you need an indoor scholarship. (If there is no scholarship involved, players can play on both teams without conflict).
OK: INDOOR PLAYER -> BEACH
NOT OK: BEACH PLAYER -> INDOOR
Q Who would play just beach volleyball in college?
There are many athletes who prefer beach volleyball over indoor volleyball. There are advantages to both sports, but beach volleyball does less damage to knees since the beach is forgiving, and most players enjoy being outdoors and playing in the elements. The game calls for much more ball contacts per person and most athletes enjoy touching the ball. Also, after playing competitive doubles beach volleyball, the vast majority of players see a dramatic improvement in indoor skills.
Q How is beach volleyball different from indoor volleyball?
There are just 2 people per team and no substitutions, this makes stamina much more important, add on top of that the challenge of moving in the deep sand and integrating the wind and glare of the sun into your strategy. Sets (games) are played to 21, and a match is best of 3. Teams switch sides every 7 points in sets to 21 and every 5 points in games to 15 (such as the tie-breaker set). A Technical Time Out is called by the ref when the score adds to 21 points. Handsets are called much more, as the ball cannot rotate sideways after coming off the fingertips and can rotate very little forward or backward, convincing many beach players to bumpset and not use their hands, risking a point. Players cannot set the ball over the net unless the shoulders are square to the direction the ball, forward or backward (it is very rare to set the ball over).
Open hand tips are not allowed, and either tip with the knuckels (a "dink"). A ball cannot be taken with open hands (like a handset) unless it is hard driven and downward, so beach players often practice multiple ways to take a ball overhead without setting. The block counts as one of the three hits, but the blocker can contact the ball a second consecutive time after the block, giving the defender just one hit to play the ball over the net. Given these huge differences, the strategic differences are infinite and the game is changed drastically.
Q Why are there "defender" and "blocker" positions?
Although beach volleyball players must be well-rounded, there is still some specialization. One partner will usually be the designated blocker because they are more imposing at the net, while the defender is quick and agile, ready to dig anything that comes past the blocker. Many times, the shorter player is the defender and is served the majority of the balls, since a taller player will more likely be the better attacker.
That said, the chemistry between every team is different and some teams choose to "split-block", which means they switch defensive roles depending upon the situation. This usually requires two players of medium height, and can be successful in the right scenario professionally. Recreational players usually split block so the server never has to run up to block at the net, which uses a ton of energy.
Q What can I do to further my chances of earning a college scholarship?
Hit the beach and find a coach! The more experience you have, the better you'll be. Get in contact with collegiate coaches, but have something to give them, like a video of you playing against a good team. Play as much as possible and record it. If you introduce yourself in the video, make sure the sound quality is good- there's nothing worse than the wind blowing in the microphone at the beach! Make it fun, simple, and direct.
Q Is men's collegiate beach volleyball being considered by the NCAA?
No. Much like men's indoor volleyball, it's an uphill battle due to budget and scholarship constraints. Many believe it would make since to field men's teams and share the same facilities and equipment, especially at schools that have built their own beach courts, but there are more than a few hurdles.
Q What are "Old-School" rules?
The rules changed in 2000 to be more TV-friendly. The court used to be larger and there were no antennas. Serves could not hit the net and trickle over (called a "let serve"), and they used side-out scoring to 15 points. Side-out scoring makes the game completely different, as only the serving team can score a point. Games could easily take over an hour and comebacks were far more common. For this reason, it is commonly believed that the superior team won more often than in our rally scoring games. A larger court (30'x60') meant players were less specialized and the extremely tall blockers were not as successful since they would have to move farther to chase down balls. NOTE: In the 1990s, the AVP tried to make the sport more TV-friendly by experimenting with a play clock. The clock counted down whenever the ball was in play, so a winner could be declared even if the score didn't reach 15. The play clock added drama to a side-out game that lasted too long for the average fan. Every major tournament now plays by Rally Scoring, with the short court and games to 21.
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