[vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”414″ img_size=”medium”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Brenden Pence is an indoor and beach club director and coach in Columbus, Ohio. He has been coaching national level indoor and beach for 8 years and has had multiple athletes compete collegiately in both indoor and beach volleyball. Brenden continues to compete in adult tournaments across the Midwest, as well as in professional qualifiers across the country.

About eight years ago, I started to develop a love and passion for coaching volleyball. It started at a local middle school, continued as a local club coach, and grew into multiple years as a Varsity coach and club director. Almost immediately, I hoped and pushed for cross training of beach volleyball for indoor volleyball athletes. As someone who was trained in indoor but fell more in love with the beach game, I knew what a benefit it could be to have athletes train in the Spring and Summer in the sand. Although there was a LOT of pushback originally from many local high school and club coaches, the Ohio Valley Region (OVR) has grown to be one of the largest and most talent-rich hotbeds of beach volleyball. Truly, the benefits of beach volleyball are immeasurable. Some of them include:

  1. Reduce Overtraining- One of the biggest epidemics in youth sports is overtraining. Most of the local volleyball athletes never get a break from the hard court. Starting in the Fall, they are in the gym every day for their High School Program. After their team is done with their tournaments, most get maybe a 2 week break before Club tryouts start (if they’re in the final four teams, they don’t even get a single day off). Clubs start earlier and earlier with their seasons, believing in quantity- that every practice and touch is essential towards their goal of nationals and beyond. Most clubs go well into April/ May, and if the team qualifies for nationals, most club kids will have multiple practices a week through June. That leaves the month of July, which by now is likely managed by their High School coach for open gyms, camps, clinics, weight lifting and individuals. Many of these programs start these expectations in April and May. As you can imagine, a young athlete (especially female athletes) can be burned out mentally and physically, not to mention completely over trained. The more over trained an athlete is, the more likely they are to be injured. Beach provides an amazing opportunity for players to still play volleyball, but to alleviate the mental and physical burn out of a year-long indoor schedule.
  2. Mental Growth- Arguably the most important benefit for young athletes, beach volleyball trains mental growth and strength. Players get a chance to coach themselves more in tournaments and adapt, learn a new game with new challenges, learn new rules, deal with uncontrollable variables (wind, depth of sand, sun, etc.) They are able to find a partner who supplements their own game, deal with chemistry and teamwork, and work through many of the obstacles and challenges that come when playing with only one teammate. Even though they are still working on volleyball skills, they are doing it with new rules, strategies and a much needed break from the constant grind of indoor on their bodies. It is amazing to count how many touches a beach player gets in a 2 hour practice compared to a 2 hour indoor practice. Beach players often are better at communicating, efficiency in their movements on the court, and able to adapt and correct situations better on the fly. Generally, beach volleyball players become better decision makers, as every play there are a multitude of scenarios they have to deal with. Players can appreciate having control of their own schedule (more to come on that later).
  3. Physical Growth- Speaking of that indoor grind, another major benefit is how much more comprehensively trained a beach athlete is. To be just standing or walking in the sand, an athlete has to use a multitude of stabilizers, supporting muscles and ligaments. An athlete must figure out very quickly how to move efficiently or they will be getting a lot sandier than they’d like! Not to mention, the beach game relies a lot on ball control (power has its place too of course!), so many hitters are able to give their shoulders a break from constantly swinging hard. The landing in beach is much softer and better on an athlete’s knees and backs, and requires efficient techniques to “stick the landing”.
  4. FUN IN THE SUN!- Everyone can get on board with this one! Parents and players alike love to participate at these tournaments- out in the sun, fun ambience, no screaming coaches (usually), just you and your partner, enjoying this phenomenal game. Let your players play beach if for no other reason than this!!
  5. Collegiate Opportunities- From 8 years ago, the collegiate opportunities have become much more prominent. Although not nearly as large or accessible as indoor opportunities, the game has grown across the country in D1 and D2 environments. It is doable for high school athletes and collegiate transfer students alike! I have had a few players get the opportunity to choose their school and play for them for 4 years, and others have been able to to transfer over after their indoor careers are finished. Although no athlete should solely play for the expectation for a full scholarship only, it does sweeten the deal that this is the fastest growing sport in the nation collegiately!  It is awesome to see former collegiate players now succeed on the pro circuit.

How to Get Involved

As an adult, if you want to coach beach, my best advice is to be able to verbalize the benefits of beach to high school and club coaches. It is important to make sure you explain you are not coming after their kids to take them away from indoor, but to supplement and enhance their training. Be a resource and an advocate for them. In the big picture, the volleyball community is better as more athletes play both sports. Earn their buy in! Even invite them in to a practice sometime to see how their athletes are benefiting. Obtain any training and credentials your region may need, and seek out local adult beach athletes who want to help expand the game. Even if you just start with one team of doubles, that one team can turn into 50. My first year, I trained about 12 kids in the summer as indoor athletes in the sand. The second year we grew to 60. The third we had more than 160 beach athletes training with us. Since then, I have scaled back and now work more with the athletes who want to primarily focus on beach, but every athlete can benefit from this training! If you’re lucky enough to have a local beach, you’re set! If you’re someone like me, in the landlocked Midwest, find a local court (parks or bar with courts) talk to the owners about filling their court during the day or before leagues start and creating a new previously nonexistent revenue stream for them. And finally, play! I never make my kids do something that I myself have not done. If you’re going to ask your kids to hit the sand, you yourself should too. Beach is a game that many older players still play, so even if it is in a recreational rec 6’s league, support the game locally and show your athletes you’re a fan of this game.

How to train your athletes and practice plan:

Beach and indoor volleyball are very different, so they need to be trained differently. I keep a coaching bible of all the games, drills, and techniques I teach. There are hundreds or thousands of them out there, and we do live in the Google age which makes it easy to research and find new ideas. If you even put in a little bit of research, you will find some amazing resources to help you best plan for your athletes’ success. We are also blessed with one of the best pools of professional athletes- many of them will lend you their ear, advice or services if you reach out to them. Beach volleyball is an incredibly inclusive and generous community- just ask! Beyond that, my other best advice for how to train your athletes is:

I sincerely hope this article illuminates the benefits of beach volleyball for juniors, as well as gave some insight into how to set up a program and get involved. I am always accessible by e-mail (brenden.pence@gmail.com) or by social media. See you on the sand!![/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]