Beach Volleyball During the Colder Months

By Jeanette Simenson, Former AVP Pro and Beach Club Coach

Well it’s that time of year again, fall festivals, pumpkins, and the changing of the leaves. It’s a bittersweet time for beach volleyball coaches and players. We may still get a few days in the sand but we know it is coming to an end and soon the snow will cover the sand. Well not for you in the south and west, and yes we are jealous! This doesn’t mean we need to end the beach training, we just need to figure out a way to stay in beach shape through these winter months.

When I played on the AVP Tour and lived in Chicago, it was always a trick to stay in “California shape” as I geared up for the Ft. Lauderdale event at the beginning of April. I had only three days where I could get outside into the elements, and they were a challenge. Windy and 45 degrees was the warmest of the days I was able to train outside. So what else can you do to stay in beach shape?
  1. Besides the obvious, buy warm clothes so you can train on any day warmer than 35 degrees.
  2. You will need to continue to build beach drills into your indoor workouts
  3. Find an uneven surface to continue to do lateral movements and jump training
  4. And watch videos of yourself and of other athletes playing.

All of these in combination with your indoor season will continue to give you that added edge of cross training.

The beach drills you did during the summer are a nice change of pace to any indoor practice, kind of like how a two person pit drill or queen of the court can add competition, ball control, and agility to any workout. Make sure to give the athletes goals. For instance, a simple triangle drill where one athlete passes to the center, the other passes the ball to the pin, and the passer waits to approach and hits high line after a solid call from their partner. This works on accuracy of passing, an out of system set/pass to the pin, calling the shot for the hitter, and then execution of the hit to the open area. All skills that need to be foundational to a great club or college team.

Sand or uneven surface training can be easy. Just bundle up and do star drills and 3 step movement drills with or without a ball. On a nice sunny day you can get used to the sun and wind with just movement to the ball and either full execution or just catch and toss.

Serving, the most key essential to any sand game, is an easy thing to do on a day over 35 degrees and preferably some wind so they can work on using it to their benefit.

In our club, Chicago Elite VBC, we are using video training for the indoor practices and putting them on a YouTube link for all the athletes to watch. This is a great idea for sand as well. Have athletes upload games from the summer and share them with teammates. Have conversations online or in person about strategies and how to correct errors. As the coach, you can find great matches of the pros and share those with your sand athletes as well. Watching those videos and then practicing can make a strong mind-body connection for those visual learners we have. 

Lastly, we all know that slump we have in the middle of a long club season. Switching it up, making it fun, and creating a different set of competitive drills can add energy and life to any team. Make a fun Saturday of it with team building and cohesive activities. We did this with my college team at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Our coach, Steve Lowe, liked to take us to the lake on a warmer day during the spring and do some team bonding. I am convinced this is what helped our team win the first ever Big Ten Championship for the University. To this day we still relish those team days, 23 years later.

Jeanette Simenson-Gurolnick, former UW-Madison Middle Blocker (1988-1992), WPVA/AVP Beach Volleyball Player (1994-2007), Assistant Coach at University of Illinois-Chicago (2002-2004). Current JVA Midwest Representative, Recruiting Coordinator and Beach Club coach for Chicago Elite Volleyball Club (formerly Powerhouse VBC) in Chicago, IL. Where it gets bitter cold and windy!

If you have additional questions on Chicago Elite VBC’s beach program email Jeanette at

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If the Shoe Fits: Finding the Right Pair

By Brad Gaither, Team Connection, Inc.

If you are like me, whether it's walking, running, working or playing volleyball, it is vital to have a shoe that is the perfect mix of comfort, style and size.  Without this, we might as well not spend the money.  Nothing is worse than toe slipping, blisters, or the miserable feeling of unstylish footwear.  In today’s world, the latter usually is not an issue, but the other issues can be areas of major concern; so how can you make sure you have the right fit?

In the past, when specific shoes for the sport were an afterthought, who would have thought we would be where we are now.  We have reached a point where many players are equally as concerned about their looks as they are their performance.    Up until the 1930s and 1940s, there was no such thing as a specific volleyball shoe.  Sneakers were sneakers and that is what was used.  Now we have reached a time where each garment of clothing must much, from the shoe laces, to the numbers on our uniforms, each piece is equally vital.  But let’s not forget the most important piece, comfort, which is especially important in finding the best pair of shoes.

For the most part, when selecting a pair of volleyball shoes, for either gender, your 3 primary brands will be Mizuno, Asics and Nike.  Mizuno is usually considered the leader in the clubhouse, with the highest selection, as well as being the official footwear provider of USA Volleyball.  All of this is great, but how do you make sure you have the best shoe fit for your body and game?  
Are you a 220 pound male who jumps high and needs a lot of support for the force of landing?  Surprisingly, many who fit this mold have used basketball shoes in the past.  They have extreme support, with a strong mix of comfort and durability that match what a volleyball player looks for just as much as a hoops star.  Is this standard? No, but with a slightly smaller market in men’s shoes, and especially if the heavy hitter Mizuno does not have a product that fits your needs, this is sometimes considered a viable alternative.  

Usually, for women, a Mizuno shoe is the popular choice.  Mizuno has put the most time into creating volleyball specific shoes and truly understanding the market and player needs.  They have shoes that fit necessary criteria, from desired looks, comfort and durability.  Lateral stability is without a doubt arguably the most important feature for a volleyball shoe, and this is what Mizuno understands with the market.  With a mix of selection, lateral stability and shock absorption, Mizuno is tough to beat.

This leaves two other primary brands, Asics and Adidas.  Adidas, like Nike, has yet to really put a huge market focus into the sport of volleyball, though they still have some selection.  One guarantee with Asics, like the Gel Flashpoint 2 pictured to the right, you will rarely miss out on a fashion statement.  Asics is the closest to matching Mizuno's feel for the market and desire for a complete volleyball shoe, and for the most part they get it, but there colors are often times a work of art in themselves, which can especially attract a young crowd.

Most importantly, regardless of the shoe; volleyball or otherwise, colorful or black, the most important thing to do is get out there and play.  We share a passion for a great sport, and the modern developments of our apparel make the game more enjoyable and more popular for all.  So the most important thing is to get out and play and spread the word, because unlike volleyball shoes, one thing will never change, volleyball is and always will be a great sport.   

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