Category Archives: Outdoor volleyball

The Future of Jr. Beach Volleyball – bright… very bright!

This is the final installment of a three-part series by guest blogger, Mark Nalevanko, Director of the Carolina Region/USA Beach Volleyball. 

In my series, I ‘ve talked about where beach volleyball in NC began and its current state.  Now, I would like everyone to open their minds and consider the possibilities that lie ahead. Let’s start by looking ahead just one year…. 2014. What can one expect?

High School TrophyAt the collegiate level, sand volleyball will be contested by nearly 40 schools. With that achievement, one can expect by 2016, after two successive years where at least 40 schools participate, the sport will officially be recognized as an NCAA championship sport just like football, basketball, etc.. By that time,  many more schools will feel comfortable about jumping on board. I would not be surprised to see many, if not most, of the ACC schools participating.

What about at the junior level? Participation will continue to skyrocket in large part spurred by the new scholarship opportunities in college, not to mention that more facilities are being built every year to support!  USA Volleyball will continue to develop its national junior beach tour and High Performance program with more events across the country. Carolina Region/USA Volleyball will continue to hold a tour of events across the state.

While plans for 2014 are still in the works for the region tour, it’s a good possibility we’ll see the establishment of a handful of majors as part of the tour, along with several sub-series that are geographically focused. Beach-focused clubs and indoor clubs with beach components will continue to pop up in NC, such as the newly formed Southern Sand Volleyball which will be based at a projected 10 sand court facility in Apex, just outside of Raleigh. The North Carolina High School Sand Volleyball Association is projecting 20-30 schools involved with club sport activities at their schools.

2013 High School Team Finals Action - Small

Let’s now look out 5 years… we will likely see over a 100+ colleges with established sand volleyball programs. Many players will decide by the time they are entering high school that they want to play sand, following a development course focused on that game instead of indoor volleyball. The high school sand league in NC may also be approaching 100 participating schools, and the North Carolina High School Athletic Association will consider sanctioning the sport, as happened recently with Lacrosse.

What about 10 years out? A network of sand volleyball facilities on high school and college campuses? A much more diverse geographical representation of sand players?  “May Madness” for sand volleyball playoffs?  With as bright a future as beach volleyball has, anything is possible!

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Where Has Junior Beach Volleyball Come From in NC?

This is the first installment of a three-part series by guest blogger, Mark Nalevanko, Director of the Carolina Region/USA Beach Volleyball. 

As we just concluded another record-breaking year of junior beach volleyball in 2013, I took a few moments to reflect on where things started, where they are now and where they’re going. I grew up in the Triad and  was able to participate for three years on a co-ed volleyball team, which got me hooked on the sport. Even though there were no formal opportunities to play boys’ volleyball during high school, I continued to play occasionally in the backyard and recreationally in college either on the sand courts by the dorms or through intramurals. While I didn’t consider myself a serious player, I was completely enamored by the sport.

After participating in an occasional tournament, traveling to places like Captain Bills in Wilmington or even down to Florida, I got to thinking “Why aren’t there some sand volleyball tournaments around the Raleigh area?” I saw so many people playing in grass events, and with multiple parks in the area with 4-6 courts each, it just made sense to me.

First junior beach clinic, 2006

First junior beach clinic, 2006

As I was doing my research on this idea, I happened to stumble across a site called AAU Beach. I read on the website about how junior beach tournaments got started in California in the 1990s. I said to myself “Wow, I wish I had this opportunity when I was growing up!” And this led to starting BOTH junior and adult sand tournaments under the Vh1vball organization in 2006.

I quickly found myself focusing on the junior side of things with the help of well-established volleyball people in NC, Mike Marks and Vaughn Hastings. The first year saw three tournaments and a clinic event. From what I could tell, it was the first large-scale effort in NC to involve juniors in the sport of beach volleyball. The very first tournament that year at Jaycee Park had 24 teams competing across the 14U-18U divisions. It was a modest but successful start.

First junior beach tournament in Raleigh, 2006

First junior beach tournament in Raleigh, 2006

Junior tournaments would continue to grow in leaps and bounds in subsequent years. Participation numbers would seemingly double almost every year. Events with 40-50 teams became common, then 70-80 – finally 100+ became the reality! In 2013, the four Vh1vball hosted events brought in  419 teams with the Carolina Grand Slam in May having 143, the most ever for a juniors beach event in NC. Other organizations across the state have joined in recent years to help establish the Carolina Region Jr Beach Volleyball Tour. In seven years, the sport of junior beach volleyball in NC has become a nationally recognized hotspot for junior beach volleyball participation.

NC teams at AAU junior beach olympics

NC teams at AAU Junior Olympics, VA Beach 2006

Outdoor Volleyball: What You Need to Know

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As we are approaching the end of March, your player may be sad that her indoor JO seasons are about to wrap up.  Tell her to cheer up – because the outdoor season is just getting started!  Even if your child has never played outdoor, she can still take part in this version of volleyball that is growing in popularity.

What’s Different

  • Unlike indoor, outdoor volleyball is played with two players, although sometimes  there is an occasional 3-player tournament (such as our local Bash Before the Clash).  
  • Games are played on either a grass or sand court.  
  • There are also a few rule differences with regards to setting and handling the serve.   
  • Most teams are self-coached, unless one of the players’ parents happens to be a coach or player.   Since they are self-coached, players call their own time-outs during a game (I believe they get two per game.)

Where to play

RenaissanceCharlotte061212 (38 of 86)There is a tournament “circuit” for outdoor, and teams may choose the events they prefer to compete in.  Tournaments begin in April and the season officially wraps up in late July.  The Carolina Region website has an entire area dedicated to outdoor volleyball and posts the scheduled events.  However, there are additional tournaments outside of what the Region lists.  Players typically hear about them through other players.

Most tournaments offer an online sign up, with fees typically in the $20 range per player.  As well, players can almost always just show up at a tournament and pay to play on the spot.

Why kids love it

What’s not to love???  You get to play outdoors in the sunshine and fresh air.  It is much more laid back than indoor…no one gets bent out of shape if a match doesn’t start on time.  Many players like the reliance of just themselves and their partner to make all the plays.  If one gets the first hit, the other one gets the next hit – no wondering whose ball it is.  They also enjoy getting to choose their partner and play with a good friend.  Players get many more touches on the ball than with indoor – so it’s a great way to improve both their passing game and serving.

Parents love it too.  Most bring along a pop-up tent, camping chairs, coolers and hang out for the day.  We even brought along our hibachi grill and cooked lunch!  It is definitely a family event.

how To train

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Ideally, players train for outdoor play much like they would for indoor.  With sand in particular, there is a definite learning curve and movement is very different than on an indoor court.  There are several outdoor training programs in the works (we will post these to our blog).  Finding outdoor nets is tough in our area, but we’ll try to get a list going of public nets.  Let us know if you are aware of any!

future of outdoor

As the parent of a player who just started outdoor last year as a 13 year old, I can’t say enough good things about outdoor volleyball.  My daughter probably enjoys it even more than indoor and plans to continue outdoor even though she’ll be busy this summer with open gym at her high school.  More and more colleges are adding outdoor programs, with projections that by 2014, it will become an officially sanctioned NCAA sport.  The future looks bright for outdoor volleyball – I highly encourage indoor players to give it a try, as you never know where it could take you!

Angela Levine

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