AVP DASHBOARD

The Seasons of Volley: Preseason

As there are seasons of the year, seasons of love, and seasons of shows, there are three distinct beach volleyball seasons. 

 

Preseason

January – February for international athletes

January – April for domestic athletes

Season

March – September for international athletes

May – September for domestic athletes

Offseason: 

October – December 

 

These dates are a little arbitrary – some athletes play in tournaments in the middle of the offseason or push their season through October. But generally speaking, this is the rhythm. 

Conveniently for beach players, our seasons correspond with the calendar year quite nicely. As we’re now at the beginning of preseason and the beginning of a new year (hooray!), we’ll move through the Seasons of Volley chronologically. I’ll start with preseason because we just so happen to be in the thick of it. 

Preseason 

When January rolls around, we’ve all just celebrated the holidays and had a lovely break during the offseason. The new year means it’s time to jump back in the sand. Most athletes Tiers 1-4 start the first full week of January.

For international/Tier 1 athletes, Preseason spans only January and February. The FIVB runs some tournaments all year, but the big ones start rolling around consistently in March. That means Tier 1 athletes have to whip themselves into competition shape in half the time, but that’s why they’re at the top. Plus, even though offseason is a time for rest, we’re still athletes. We love a good sweat and like to stay fit. So preseason isn’t starting from ground zero. 

But it is excruciatingly hard. The first item on the to-do list is: get your sand legs back. There’s absolutely no way to do that apart from actually being in the sand. The first two weeks at practice are exhausting. Your legs are sore; your cardio is not where you left it. You’re pairing practice with lifting, which may sound like a lot, but the muscle-building and agility you do in the gym speeds up recovery and builds strength faster. It’s an overload, but jumping in with both feet is the generally accepted best method of getting back into it. 

The first two weeks are elating to be back doing what you love, but they also suck because you’re so tired. Then there’s this magical day when you wake up and feel okay again. When everything falls back into place, when your body readjusts to the rigor of the season, and it feels doable. I’d say that comes about the start of your third week of preseason. 

A hypothetical preseason schedule for a team that’s already formed may look as follows: 

Monday: 

Practice 8:30-10:30 am 

Lift: 1-2:30 pm 

Film/Team Meeting: 3-4 pm 

Tuesday: 

Practice: 9-11 am 

Conditioning/Agility: 1-2 pm 

Rehab/Chiro/Physical Therapy: 3-4 pm 

Wednesday: 

Off 

Thursday: 

Practice 8:30-10:30 am 

Lift: 1-2:30 pm 

Film/Team Meeting: 3-4 pm 

Friday: 

Practice: 9-11 am

Lift/Conditioning: 11:30-12:30 

Saturday and Sunday: 

Off and/or Rehab/Chiro/Physical Therapy 

This is an imagined schedule. Some may have the same practice time every day; others may lift or condition less. Those with injuries need more rehab. Top athletes have sports psychologist meetings, sponsorship obligations, and nutritionists added to the list. That’s the beauty of beach volleyball – we make our own schedules, and everyone does it a little differently. Beach athletes are empowered to maintain individualism and see to their needs at their own pace. 

This schedule will look different if you don’t have a set partner. And that’s where the First Tier/international athletes really have it made. We athletes who aren’t set with any one player treat Preseason like a Tinder-binge. You’re texting, practicing, and schmoozing your way to a partner for the season. 

January and February are for testing the waters. Your Monday and Friday practices may be with Suzy, while your Tuesday and Thursdays are with Kate. If chemistry with Suzy isn’t there, it’s time to work Hannah into the schedule. The rumor mill is churning away during January and February – who picked up whom and who’s available. People are making pro/con lists and calculating points. It’s full marriage market time. 

March and April are when most players make their final selection. Sometimes the relationship forms via text. I like a phone call; it feels mature and professional with relatively low stakes (though putting yourself out on a limb and risking rejection always involves stakes). Others are more formal and solidify partnerships via coffee and a chat. 

So basically, it’s exactly like dating. 

Once teams solidify, the two months leading to the first AVP are then about stoking team chemistry. Maybe you work with a coach or start going to the same gym together. You watch film, work on plays, and do some non-volleyball activities. It’s an amicable honeymoon phase before tournaments, AVP points, and money are introduced. 

Preseason naturally rolls into season, of course. But we’ll get to that next time.