Beach Volleyball – Training with a Pro

Last weekend I had the opportunity to train with a pro beach volleyball player. It was a fun experience and I learned a lot!

As most of you will know, I’m not built for volleyball at all – but I’ve been playing it for years and really love it. My college girlfriend was a volleyball player and got me into the sport. Tall and lithe, she played with a grace that was the antithesis to my brute force, “muscle through it” approach to most things in life. We didn’t play together much but it was enough to get me hooked.

Throughout my time in Houston I played with several different coed partners but I lucked out in that my favorite wingman turned out to be a terrific men’s partner. He had been playing much longer and taught me most of what I know about VB – although much of it was biased by his indoor background. We did pretty well together, placing in a few A tourneys in Houston and Galveston. Because he is also an international traveler, he and I have played together in five different countries.

Katie is also into beach volleyball so now she and I play together whenever we can. We’e been very pleased with the thriving beach scene in the Research Triangle. There are dozens of sand courts scattered throughout the area and multiple opportunities to play at different levels every day of the week.

While I was enjoying playing and improving last year, I tore the labrum in my right shoulder, making it painful to hit, serve, or dive on the right side. My mechanics are terrible between my poor range of motion / flexibility and the very indoor-y style of VB (big approaches, big windmill swings) I had been taught, both of which contributed, I’m sure, to my labral tear.

Fortunately my injury did not require surgery and I have been recovering through physical therapy and mobility work. After a layoff from volleyball, I’m back at it now and trying to work on playing smarter rather than harder: being in the right position rather than diving for a spectacular dig, hitting mechanics that save my shoulder rather than swinging away, etc. I just turned 37 and I’m sure that this will become even more important as I get older.

Enter Tarin Keith, a pro beach player in the US National Volleyball League. Tarin rented out one RTP area complex of four courts and “held court” (See what I did there?) last Friday through Sunday. Some of the time she gave private lessons while, at other times, it was open play but she watched, coached, offered advice, and sometimes joined in.
Katie and I (and some of the people with whom we routinely play) did a private lesson with her on Friday and then Sunday we joined for open play to practice our new skills. Katie picked up some hitting tips and for me there were several new learnings:
* passing with my outside foot forward to help control the pass from shanking outside, away from my partner
* getting my hips around to pass the ball forward, in line with my shoulders and hips, rather than shunting it sideways
* setting my platform and then passing with my legs rather than relying on a last-minute elbow “pop” to add height.
* passing in front of me and off the net (vs my previous passing middle and on the net) so that my setter can set me in line with her shoulders and see the court to give me hitting advice – this falls under the mantra of making the game “smaller” on our side of the net.
* “finishing” my bump sets to give my partner plenty of time to approach and time her hit
* setting up outside to approach the net at 45 degrees, increasing my [right-handed] hitting options
* JUMBO!!!!!! – a high looping angle shot that makes a path like a jumbo shrimp 🙂
Some of this was new to me and some of it wasn’t new per se, but having an experienced coach to demonstrate it and provide real-time feedback/guidance helped me internalize it. Sunday’s practice indicated that Katie and I still have a lot of work to do to elevate our game – but working on it is a lot of fun and great exercise.
Many thanks to Tarin (who also co-hosts a volleyball destination training camp in Turks and Caicos – check out her website for details!) for coming out to RTP, to the local VB enthusiasts who helped her organize the weekend, and to Katie for her patience with me as a partner. See you all out in the sand!

Published by Bryan Guido Hassin

These are the musings of a global cleantech entrepreneur. This blog began as a way to document my experience during the IMD MBA in Switzerland and now is the place where I publish eclectic thoughts on business, politics, fitness, entertainment, travel, wine, sports, and . . . whatever else is top of mind.

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