What to Expect in the Sand Game

By Amanda Youell - NVL Pro & NVL Club Med Academy Coach 

Junior players are fortunate to have the opportunity today to play both indoor and outdoor volleyball. Competitive sand volleyball wasn’t an option when I was growing up so I transitioned into it a lot later in my sports career than many young players today. As a coach, it’s great to see the passion the juniors are bringing to the game.

While it’s technically the same sport whether you’re playing indoor or outdoor volleyball, there are some differences to consider when you’re toes hit the sand.

Partner vs. Team

Indoor players are used to playing with a team and understanding the role each position plays. Playing outdoor, you’re typically relying on just your partner to help get the win. This is a much different dynamic and learning that one person’s style of play and tendencies is critical.

Defense becomes a big part of your strategy in the sand. Who will block? Who can play defense behind the block? This year I played back-to-back tournaments with different partners and this was always our starting point. Most players tend to have a favorite side they are more comfortable with and hopefully, you can agree on which suits each of you best.

Learn what type of energy your partner has. For example, I like to be loud, so playing with someone who doesn’t reveal much emotion on the court can be tough. Cheering, high-fiving and giving encouragement vocally, I’m always positive. I need to know from the outset if this will help my partner play better or if they will shut down if I’m in their face. Each player has his/her own way of getting focused and energized for each point, and there’s no right or wrong way. If you’re frustrated with each other, it will show in how you play and in the doubles game, you don’t have other teammates to change the energy. Knowing the best way to support each other throughout the match can go a long way in having a successful partnership.

The Outdoor Game

The obvious difference between indoor and outdoor is the surface you’re playing on. Don’t underestimate the impact sand has on the game. Most people find it hard to walk in the sand let alone run and jump in it!

It’s always helpful to be tall in volleyball but athletic ability in the sand can easily give you the edge over another player. Your height is out of your control but your movement and training in the sand are not! I encourage juniors to focus on speed and agility to make them better players. Sand sprints and plyometrics - exercise involving repeated rapid stretching and contracting of muscles (as by jumping and rebounding) to increase muscle power - can go a long way in helping your vertical jump and explosiveness.

You should also take into account how weather will impact your play. Be prepared for sun, wind and rain. People often ask how I play in the hot sand with bare feet. I think players just become used to it over time but I highly recommend that first-timers wear sand socks.  I always have comfortable sunglasses, a hat or visor, warm clothes and sunscreen – lots of sunscreen! – on hand. I remember playing A-level in Fort Lauderdale, FL and I was certain my partner’s eyes got burnt! She was uncomfortable playing, her face was fried and her eyes were a strange yellow. Make sure you’re prepared for whatever the outdoors may bring your way because there’s nowhere to hide when you’re playing in sand.

As simple as it sounds, it’s important to stay hydrated and know when to eat throughout your match. You don’t want to find yourself at a disadvantage just because your energy is zapped from the sun and as most athletes know, cramping up from dehydration is the worst!

Indoor and outdoor volleyball will always present expected and unexpected elements that impact your play. The best players will be the ones that are able to make quick adjustments. Learning how to adjust to your situation will allow you to play with any partner and against any teams, and this comes with practice!

NVL Club Med Academy Indoor/Outdoor Team

NVL’s Club Med Academy will be training the first-ever indoor/outdoor team. This 14U team will be training on the sand 2/3 days a week and on the hard court 2 days a week. They will compete in 10 indoor tournaments and 10 outdoor tournaments during the indoor season. This team will focus on conditioning and ball control as they will be trained not only by AL-B Hannemann and myself, but also by Club Med Academy trainers, sports nutritionists, and sports psychologists.

Read more about NVL’s Club Med Academy here. Photos courtesy of
Josh Churbz.

Scholarships: Is It Too Late For Seniors?

By Matt Sonnichsen, Director of Volleyball Relations for NCSA
On my collegevolleyballcoach.com website, I receive many questions this time of the year from panicked parents about the college volleyball recruiting process.  The parents are panicked because they have heard or been told or believe that all the college volleyball scholarships and opportunities, especially for Seniors in high school, are gone.

With technology and the assertive nature of college volleyball coaches, the recruiting process starts earlier than ever before.  This early start results in more Prospective Student Athletes (PSAs) making their verbal commitment to a college/university sooner than before – It is not uncommon for Freshman to commit to a school, and quite common for Sophomores to have made their collegiate choice.

This early start and early commitment cycle can give the impression that by the time some uncommitted PSAs reach their Senior year, they won’t find a college volleyball opportunity (or scholarship). 

Fortunately, this is not the case and I know this because of my 20 years of being a NCAA Division I coach, and my current role as the Director of Volleyball Relations for NCSA Athletic Recruiting.  Either through NCSA or because of my volleyball coaching friendships, I receive constant inquiries about available Senior age athletes – NCAA DI through Junior Colleges are asking.

It is important to know that there are still many, many opportunities available for current high school seniors looking to play volleyball at the college level.

Some helpful notes:

  • Now is one of the “slowest” times of the college volleyball recruiting process, because college coaches are in their prime playing season – They are concerned more about winning matches than recruiting. 
  • The recruiting tempo will increase come later November and into the new year.
  • Most Important – Roster changes occur during the late November to January time frame because of coaching changes, injuries, players quitting or getting cut.  This results in many, many opportunities that were not present in October! 
  • All levels of college volleyball will be actively scholarship recruiting current Seniors for next fall’s collegiate season.  Sure, the NCAA DI top 25 teams may be done, but there are over 1,200 college volleyball programs! 
  • Critical Point – Volleyball families must reach out to the college programs consistently to promote their PSA.  The Senior level recruiting process is fluid with opportunities opening/closing quickly.  PSA’s cannot wait to be “found”, but have to put themselves digitally in front of college coaches.

    For more junior volleyball recruiting education visit www.jvaonline.org

Club Tryout Tips for Athletes and Parents

The anticipation of tryouts is filled with a lot of questions and concerns for players and players. Deciding where to tryout and how many clubs to tryout for is just the start. Below are some tryout tips to act as a guide or check list in hopes of making the process easier so you feel good about your decision.
 How Do We Choose a Club? 
1. Easy Thing First – What are your Choices?
  • Identify your age division
    There are two major club affiliations: USAV and AAU. Both have the same September 1 Birthday Cut-off 
  • What Clubs are in my area? Check your USAV region and AAU District web pages for clubs in your area.  Search for clubs on Google. 
  • Determine how far you are willing to travel. 
2. Do Your Research   
  • Visit the club website, contact the club director, attend a parent meeting, and talk to other parents who have played for the club.
  • What is it going to cost me?  Club volleyball can be very expensive.  There are ways to minimize the expense.  How much travel is expected? Does the club have an in-house program that provides training and limits travel?  Does the club have a fund raising program or fees based on income? Does the team travel as a group to out-of-town tournaments or does a parent need to travel with the athlete?
  • Club Dues and Add On Fees: Find out what is included in your dues and what the payment schedule is.  The typical club expenses: administration, court rental, equipment, coaches’ stipends, uniforms, tournament fees, tournament travel, and coaches’ travel expenses.  If there are costs outside of club dues, find out what they are and how they are assessed.  
  • Practice Schedule:  How often and where do the teams train?  What if I miss practice?
  • Tournament Schedule:What is the typical tournament schedule? What if I am unavailable for a tournament?
  • Coaching Staff: Who are the coaches at my age level and what is their experience?  Does the club have someone who oversees the training plan or does each coach prepare their own training plan?
  • Club Philosophy:  This is probably the hardest nut to crack.  Many clubs promote themselves as “elite” or “premier”, but are they really?  What does that mean to them? Do you need a premier club? What are your athlete’s goals after grade school/after high school?  Find out how long the club has been in existence.  If they truly are premier, they will have a track record in the business. While every club wants to win, how does the club make sure that every athlete is valued?  Look for affiliations like Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA) or Junior Volleyball Association (JVA).  These are groups that offer resources and education to clubs who prioritize the health and welfare of the athletes.  
  • How Do I Join?  Most clubs select their member through a tryout process.  Ask how the tryout process is managed.
3.  Common Myths
  • Bigger is better 
  • A #1 team in any club is better than a #2 team in any club
  • More expensive is better
  • A paid coach is better than a volunteer coach
  • A coach who played DI is better than a coach who never played at a high level
  • If I play club volleyball, I will get a scholarship

4.  Questions to Discuss as a Family  

  • What do I want out of my club experience: enjoy the game with friends and/or train to have an opportunity to play in college? 
  • How much time do I have to dedicate to club volleyball: will it interfere with a part-time job, with school, with other club sports or time with friends?
  • How much can we afford: dues, travel, family travel?
  • How important is it that I am on the same team as my friend(s)?

How do We Manage Tryouts?

Once you've done your research on the club(s) in your area, and discussed your options as a family, you are ready for the next step.

Identify the clubs that you have decided fit your needs and match your goals.  Follow the registration process required by the club.  Know what the tryout rules are for your area.

Tryout Day
  • Know before going into a tryout where that club fits into your choice list.  
  • Arrive early properly attired.  If a tryout shirt is not provided, wear something noticeable that will stand out. 
  • Check yourself in (do not let your mom or dad do it for you) 
  • Speak for yourself 
  • Follow directions 
  • Hustle at all times: from station to station, shagging balls, huddle-up. 
  • Have fun – smile, be loud, encourage your teammates 
  • It takes no athletic ability to hustle, work hard and have a great attitude! 

It is a tryout, not a clinic.  It is your job to show the coaches what you can do.  Kids will be moving from court to court.  No matter what, keep working hard and keep having fun.
Before you leave, make sure you know how and when selections are made.  If the club is #1 on your choice list and you get an offer, take it – don’t make the club wait.
If you don’t get an offer from your 1st choice and you haven’t been given an indication of your status, call the club director and ask if there is a depth chart and where you are on that chart.

Junior club volleyball can be the best experience of your life but it is your responsibility to do the research and find the right fit.

Good luck this season!

For more junior volleyball education visit