#23 Beach Volleyball

Are you the setter or the spiker? 

Know your role. Don’t be both positions at once.

Imagine the perfect doubles point. In an ideal world, you don’t hit the ball twice in a row in a doubles point. This is an extremely common problem with teams at all levels of the game that result in one player trying to do far too much and not complementing their teammate.

Great doubles is about harmony, teamwork and communication. One player trying to do too much is not in the best interests of the team. Beach volleyball provides the perfect example of teamwork and knowing the roles of the two players.

Baseline Player = Setter

It is not easy for the back player (baseline player) to hit winners against a doubles team. Every now and then you will be able to rip a ball down the line, but in general play, you have got to count on the ball coming back.

The role of the baseline player is to be a setter – to make their partner look good at the front of the court! The setter can use a variety of options to make the opponents uncomfortable on the other side of the court. Here’s a reminder of the 8 Ways To Force An Error from the 25 Golden Rules of Singles Strategy.

  1. Consistency
  2. Direction
  3. Depth
  4. Height
  5. Spin
  6. Power
  7. Court Position
  8. Time

This list is the primary focus for the Setter – to use a combination of these elements to make the opponent miss, or at the very least, make it easier for the net player to get involved.

The Main Problem – When things fall apart for a doubles team, it is typically when the baseline player wants to be both the Setter and the Spiker. That’s rarely going to work. Hitting winners from the back of the court is a tougher option than hitting winners from the front of the court, and the Setter gets overloaded trying to do too much, and starts missing all over the shop. The Setter must look to not overdo their role.

Net Player = Spiker

It’s the net player who should be looking like Hollywood on the court, being perfectly set up by the baseline player. When the two players know their roles, and how to correctly play them, then there is going to be great synergy on the court. When the Setter starts planning ways to get the Spiker involved, then it’s no longer just two singles players sharing a doubles court.

 Knowing What’s Coming

When both players are successfully following their roles, the Spiker should know exactly where the Setter is going to hit the ball, based on where they want the ball to come back. This kind of anticipation is key to doubles, as it allows for better movement based on superior anticipation.

Strategy Drills

1. Playing Drill

Objective – To clearly define the roles of the two players, especially the back player not trying to be both the setter and spiker.

  • Play eight games total – two service games each.
  • The focus is on the setter not trying to hit winners, but to hit shots that bring their net partner more into play.
  • Count how many times in eight games the Spiker wins the point from being successfully set up by the Setter.
  • The team at the end of the set with more “team points” wins.

Variations – You could also award two points to the team that combines to win a point from a successful 1-2 combo from the Setter and the Spiker.

2. Feeding Drill

Objective – To get the players working together, expecting where the ball is going to go that their partner will hit.

  • Have two players set up in a return position.
  • Feed to the back player (Setter).
  • The Setter has got to hit a quality groundstroke that would make the opposing team uncomfortable and bring the Spiker into play.
  • Once the good ball (e.g. high and deep with spin) has been hit, then a weaker ball is fed through the Center Window area for the Spiker to put away.

Variations – 1

Go Do This

Don’t be a Setter and a Spiker from the back of the court. Remember, you have a teammate!

The Setter needs to use the 8 ways to force an error to generate a weaker ball from their opponents.

The Setter needs to make the Spiker look great at the net. That’s their role.

The Setter needs to always be thinking about how to bring the Spiker into play.

The Spiker has got to take advantage of every opportunity to finish at the net. Get involved!