A for Athlete

Beach volleyball is an Olympic team sport played on sand. Two teams, positioned on either side of a net which divides a rectangular court, hit a volleyball, usually using the hands or arms. Players on each team attempt to hit the ball over the net in such a way that it touches the ground inside the court boundaries, and to prevent the ball from touching the ground on their own side of the court. Beach volleyball is a popular recreational activity on many beaches around the world, and is generally most popular in areas with wide sandy beaches; however, it is also frequently played on inland sand courts, and has become quite popular in some land-locked countries, notably Switzerland. Though the official rules call for two players per team, recreational (non-competitive) games often have more players.


Beach volleyball evolved from indoor volleyball, and the two sports remain very similar: a team scores points by grounding the ball on the opponents' court, or when the opposing team commits a fault (error or illegal action); teams can contact the ball no more than three times before the ball crosses the net; and consecutive contacts must be made by different players. The most important differences between beach and indoor volleyball are the playing surface (deep sand rather than a hard floor), and the team size (two players per team rather than six). There are many minor differences as well, including:[1]

  • Each half of the court measures 8 by 8 meters (indoor courts are slightly larger).
  • If a blocking player touches the ball, but it continues onto his side of the net, the block counts as the first contact.
  • Open-hand dinks, where a player uses the fingertips to redirect the ball into the opponent's court, are illegal.
  • It is legal to cross under the net as long as doing so does not interfere with the opponents' attempt to play the ball.
  • Players alternate service, but are not required to rotate positions;
  • There are no 'rotation errors'.
  • There is no ten-foot line (3-meter line).
  • There are no substitutions (and no libero).
  • The first team to win two sets wins the match. The first two sets are won by the first team to reach 21 points with a 2-point advantage, and the third set, if necessary, is won by the first team to reach 15 points with a 2-point advantage.
  • Most players, either by choice or by requirement of the rules, play the game barefoot.
Beach volleyball ball

A beach volleyball.

  • The ball is softer (lower internal pressure) and very slightly bigger than an indoor volleyball.
  • Overhand finger passes are refereed more strictly:
  • When receiving (unless an opposing player has hit the ball downward) or attacking, overhand passes must be executed very cleanly and square to the shoulders. In practice, this means that serves are never received open-handed.
  • When setting with an overhand motion, the standard for a double hit (a fault) is lower than when receiving or attacking, though still much stricter than in indoor volleyball. The standard for a lift (another fault) is less strict than in the indoor game (it is legal to hold the ball a little longer).

Complete rules for both games can be downloaded from the FIVB pages.


Beach Volleyball in Vancouver

Beach volleyball in Vancouver.

Beach volleyball started in Santa Monica, California in the 1920s. A decade later, beach volleyball began to appear in Europe. By the 1940s, doubles tournaments were being played on the beaches of Santa Monica for trophies. In the 1960s, an attempt to start a professional volleyball league was made in Santa Monica. It failed, but a professional tournament was held in France for 30,000 French Francs. The first Manhattan Beach Open (Southern California) was held in 1960. It is considered the "Wimbledon of Beach Volleyball" -- the most prestigious tournament in the world. Karch Kiraly—arguably the greatest beach volleyball player of all time—said, "You talk to any player and if they were told they could only win one tournament in their whole career, everybody would choose it to be here in Manhattan. There's an extra fire among all the players." In the 1970s, a few professional tournaments in Santa Monica were sponsored by beer and cigarette companies.

While the history of beach volleyball is relatively lengthy, the sport (at the professional level) remained fairly obscure until the 1980s when beach volleyball experienced a surge in popularity. This resulted in the development of stars such as Karch Kiraly, Sinjin Smith, Randy Stoklos, Kerri Walsh, and Misty May-Treanor, who are now well known throughout the world.

For decades, the two nations which have dominated international beach volleyball are Brazil and the United States. Recently, Australia has emerged as a distant third superpower, and all three of these nations have reasonably well developed national touring systems which typically hold tournaments during the summer months. Several western European countries have developed a large and competitive following, as has China and a number of other countries around the world.

Beach volleyball at the Olympics[]

Main article: Volleyball at the Summer Olympics

Beach volleyball was an exhibition sport at the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona, where Sinjin Smith and Randy Stoklos won the men's tournament, and Karolyn Kirby and Nancy Reno won the women's. The sport became an official Olympic event in 1996. Brazil, the US, and Australia are the only countries to have won gold medals to date. In the women's event, each country has won once.

Men's Beach Volleyball Olympic Tournament
Games Gold Silver Bronze
1996 Atlanta Charles "Karch" Kiraly
and Kent Steffes|USA|1996 Summer}}
Mike Whitmarsh
and Mike Dodd|USA|1996 Summer}}
Mark Heese
and John Child|CAN|1996 Summer}}
2000 Sydney Template:FlagIOCteam
Dain Blanton
Eric Fonoimoana
Zé Marco de Melo
Ricardo Santos
Axel Hager
Jörg Ahmann
[[Volleyball at the 2004 Summer Olympics - Men's beach volleyball|2004 Athens Ricardo Santos
and Emanuel Rego|BRA|2004 Summer
Javier Bosma
and Pablo Herrera|ESP|2004 Summer}}
Stefan Kobel
and Patrick Heuscher|SUI|2004 Summer
Women's Beach Volleyball Olympic Tournament
Games Gold Silver Bronze
1996 Atlanta Jackie Silva
and Sandra Pires|BRA|1996 Summer
Monica Rodrigues
and Adriana Samuel|BRA|1996 Summer
Natalie Cook
and Kerri Pottharst|AUS|1996 Summer
2000 Sydney Natalie Cook
and Kerri Pottharst|AUS|2000 Summer
Adriana Behar
and Shelda Bede|BRA|2000 Summer
Adriana Samuel
and Sandra Pires|BRA|2000 Summer
2004 Athens Kerri Walsh
and Misty May|USA|2004 Summer
Shelda Bede
and Adriana Behar|BRA|2004 Summer
Holly McPeak
and Elaine Youngs|USA|2004 Summer

Famous players[]

Today Brazil is the ruling country in FIVB men's beach volleyball, filling many of the top positions of the FIVB ranking. Top-rated players include 2004 Olympic gold medalists Emanuel Rego and Ricardo Santos, Marcio Araujo, and others. In the FIVB women's rankings, China and Brazil are the leading countries.

US players typically don't compete in the FIVB, but rather play in the AVP, which holds tournaments only in the US. Karch Kiraly remains perhaps the world's best-known male volleyball player, and is the only person to have won Olympic gold medals in both the indoor and beach versions of the sport. Rivalling Karch throughout the 1980s was the former all-time wins leader, Sinjin Smith. Currently, the top-ranked players on the 2007 AVP tour are Phil Dalhausser/Todd Rogers on the men's side, and the well-known 2004 Olympic gold medalists Misty May-Treanor/Kerri Walsh-Jennings on the women's side.

International female stars include Brazilians Ana Paula Connelly, Sandra Pires, Shelda Bede, and Adriana Behar, and Australians Kerri Pottharst and Natalie Cook. The young Brazilian Carolina Solberg Salgado has won a gold medal in Under-18 and Under-21 FIVB tournaments two years in a row. Overall, female beach volleyball players are generally more famous than their male counterparts and have equal or sometimes larger prize money pools. Why? One word: Bikinis.

See also List of famous US beach volleyball players

Hand signals[]

One of the facets of beach volleyball is the use of hand signals by players to indicate to their partners what sort of play they intend to make. These signals are made behind the back, to avoid the opposition seeing the signals. Most commonly, the signals are given with both hands by the serving player's partner before the serve, with each hand referring to the type of block that should be put up against an attack from the corresponding side of the court. If the server is a stronger blocker, he or she may run up to the net to block after serving. Otherwise, the signaller will perform the block.

Signals may also be given during a rally, while the opposing team is preparing their attack. This is less common, however, and it is routine for players to just block "ball" after the first sequence or maintain the call throughout an entire rally.

Additionally, the signaller may wiggle or "flash" the fingers on one of the signalling hands indicates that they want the server to serve the player on that side of the court.

Common hand signals[]

Closed fist
No block should be attempted for the opponent on that side of the court
One finger
The blocker should attempt to block an opponent's spike down the line, or straight ahead of the hitter
Two fingers
The blocker should attempt to block an opponent's spike into the angle, or diagonally across the court
Open hand
The blocker should block "ball," deciding where to set the block based upon the set and on the opponent's approach and arm-swing

Note: It is somewhat common, especially at less competitive levels of play, for a signaller to show one finger on one side and two fingers on the other, in order to allow the non-blocking player to be able to focus their defensive attention on one half of the court.


  • Beach volleyball star Juliana injures knee, might miss Olympics 07/07/08 - One of the world's best beach volleyball players, Juliana, Brazil (also known as BRA) Flag of Brazil, is in danger of missing the Olympics because of a knee injury.





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