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The differences between beach and indoor volleyball players

The differences between beach and indoor volleyball players

How different are indoor volleyball and beach volleyball players? In this primer, we get explanations from two coaches who have been on both sides.

Rita Buck-Crockett, the former indoor and beach coach at FIU, was a two-time USA indoor Olympian. She’s been inducted into the International Volleyball Hall of Fame and was once dubbed “the world’s best athlete” by Sports Illustrated. The magazine also nicknamed her “The Rocket” because of her leaping and hitting skills.

Matt Ulmer has not only had great success indoors with the Oregon Ducks, but in 2013 he coached Long Beach State to the College Division 1 Beach Volleyball Championship, the youngest head coach to ever win the crown.

Are beach and indoor volleyball players different?

Beach and indoor volleyball tend to attract unique types of players. Crockett believes that, “The physical talent and the mindset have to be completely different.”

Indoor volleyball players are more specialized

Indoor volleyball uses six players with assigned positions and specialized skills. Beach volleyball uses only two players, who tend to be “jacks-of-all-trades” with solid all-around ability, although one player usually is considered a blocker and the other—usually the shorter one—a defender.

“Most of a [indoor volleyball] middle blocker’s job is really to just block an attack,” Ulmer said. “Beach players get multiple touches and rallies. You have to be able to do everything at a high level, and you play the whole game. That requires a broad skill set that is very different than most indoor players.” 

Height is more important in indoor volleyball

Over the past few years, Buck-Crockett has seen taller athletes playing college indoor volleyball, especially on the women’s side. She thinks other players are taking notice.

“There are more big girls playing the front row, even the back row,” Buck-Crockett said. “Even if you have really good basic skills, you’ve got good shots and you jump well, you [may not have the height that] indoor teams need.”

“But,” Buck-Crockett added, “You may have a good career on the beach.” 

Beach and indoor volleyball players have different mindset

Beach players only have one teammate and can only communicate with coaches during time outs. Ulmer believes those differences require a different mental approach.

“Beach players [need to know] how to read the game on their own, how to make adjustments on their own, how to really understand how to play…

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