You have to be tall to be good.
Yes, it helps. But it’s not the end all be all.
Of course, being way above the net makes offense easier. But smaller players typically have better ball control (like how point guards have better handles than centers and forwards better dribbling skills than goalies). Ball control is crucial for a defender as they need to control the ball often… obviously. They also need to put it away after receiving a serve or digging an attack, but that’s where the craftiness of smaller players come in.
Successful defenders often have many “tools” – offensive options that vary from shots to hits, pokeys to jumbos. Tall players can rely on a high, powerful attack. Smaller players need to place the ball where the sand is empty, so their shots are crisp and accurate. Shorter players go for lines and cutties with precision while big blockers like me try to hit over the block hard enough that even if it’s touched, it’ll ricochet. We have our shots, too. But our big hits should serve us well.
Blockers maintain the advantage when they’re tall, but some really talented blockers are what some consider undersized. Karissa Cook and Jace Pardon are both sub 6 feet, and in my experience, are some of the most effective blockers on Tour. Because they’re shorter than the average blocker (which would probably be around 6’2″), they have to be smarter and more disciplined. I’m 6’3″ and definitely trust my height too much.
Also – height doesn’t necessarily mean someone will be more effective on offense. Taylor Crabb is barely six feet, and his hits often warrant a thunderous sound effect from DJ Roueche. Katie Spieler is 5’5″ and her small pokes, loopy jumbos, and occasional hard angle swings keep her opponents on their toes.
Female athletes have to wear bikinis.
We are not forced or coerced into wearing a bikini. It’s hot and sandy out there; wearing clothes can feel cumbersome and stifling. Or it’s cold and rainy, and you better believe I’m playing in full leggings, long sleeves, and my trusty, puffy vest. The only rule we have is matching your partner. Even then – if it’s cold and you’re layering up, the AVP understands you may not coordinate your parkas and sweatpants.
Every lady is different. When the weather is nice, I prefer a bikini while Delaney Knudson and Crissy Jones rock one-pieces. Others wear shirts, or leggings, or shorts, or a combination. It really doesn’t matter. We do what we want.
When you see a woman playing on Tour, she’s wearing what she wants because she can. It’s feminism at its finest, and I’m proud to be a part of an organization that lets us represent ourselves in whatever way feels true to each individual.
You need a ton of practice time to be Main Draw material.
Reps are key, but gym time, mental prep, and rehab are nearly as important.
Take Johnny Hyden. He’s been playing volleyball for three decades – beach for two – and he starts training in the sand only six weeks before the year’s first tournament. It works for him: he’s the oldest AVP Champ and still going strong.
Or Kelly Reeves. She spends more time in the gym than on the sand, prepping her body for the grind of multiple matches a day. This isn’t to say they don’t get their practice reps in; they just don’t overwork themselves drilling on the sand.
But here’s the kicker: most AVP athletes have put in thousands of hours to get where they are. Malcolm Gladwell suggests putting 10,000 hours into your craft leads to mastery of a skill. In an article with the New Yorker, Gladwell said, “No one succeeds at a high level without innate talent… but the ten-thousand-hour research reminds us that ‘the closer psychologists look at the careers of the gifted, the smaller the role innate talent seems to play and the bigger the role preparation seems to play.’
It took me years to realize this didn’t mean I needed 10,000 hours on the sand. Preparation includes all the things I mentioned: practice, gym, recovery, sleep, film, visualization, all of it. The athletes that know this and don’t harp on practice open themselves up to greater success. They make the most of the time they do spend on the court, watch film to revisit the day and work on specific issues, and make sure their workouts enable better play rather than inhibit it. It’s a balance.
Every body type is the same: tall, ripped, skinny.
Yes – there is a perceived norm. But there are plenty of exceptions.
I thought about going into it, listing athletes I imagined as “outside the norm” and celebrating them for still killing it on Tour. But who am I to establish a norm or label someone as outside of that? Say I call out Jane Doe for her big, strong legs, and then she reads that and is embarrassed or takes offense. I’m not in the business of judging people on their size, body type, or weight.
So all that’s left is me. I’m tall but not ripped. In some circles, I’m not even skinny. But that’s not stopping me from working my butt off, eating the way that makes me perform and feel best, and cheering in your face when I stuff block you with my big, strong, volleyball arms.
Screw the norm. It’s 2020; there is no normal.
Playing in the sun every day will create wrinkles… or worse.
You have to be careful, but there are ways to stay safe.
Most athletes are religious about applying and reapplying to prevent burns and sun damage – especially pale blondies like me.
We also have our preferred hats or visors. I wrote before how April Ross told me early on to get used to playing in visor. It wasn’t easy to learn, but now I can’t play without it. April probably saved me from severe sun damage and premature wrinkles.
Jake Gibb is a skin cancer survivor and Klenskin sponsored athlete. He’s proof that the sun doesn’t have to be a menacing foe with proper application and caution. The AVP’s partnership with Kleinskin means we have sunscreen in the med tent for tourneys and in all our goodie bags for practices throughout the year.
You need to be insanely athletic to play.
At the professional level – yes, this is pretty much a requirement, like it is for all professional sports. But to play the game? Definitely not.
All you need is a ball, a net, and some friends. You don’t even need the ocean – beach courts are popping up like wildflowers all over the country. Lines help, but they’re really not necessary. I’ve set plenty of foot-drawn lines that sufficed for a few fun games. At its core, beach volleyball is “keep the balloon off the ground.” We’ve all played that. Anyone can play that.
Like Chef Gusteau relays in Ratatouille about cooking – anyone can play volleyball.