2015-06-03 16:07:00 CET
There’s more to beach volleyball than meets the eye. As the first Swatch Beach Volleyball Major Series tournament heats up in Poreč, Croatia, here’s info to make you feel like an insider.
That question raises passions almost as much as the matches on the court!
Folks in the USA believe that Americans developed beach volleyball: when conditions weren’t good for surfing, rather than getting bummed out, dude, surfers invented the sport.
Meanwhile, Brazilians are certain that beach volleyball was born on Copacabana Beach. Which would mean that when 2016 Olympic matches are played on Center Court in Rio, the sport will be going back to its birthplace!
One thing is certain: Brazil and the USA have been beach volleyball powerhouses ever since international competition began, and even though the rest of the world has risen up to meet them, the two countries are still fierce rivals. Whenever a U.S.-Brazil game is in the lineup, it’s definitely one to watch.
Two teams, of two players each, play on a sand court divided by a net. One team starts play by hitting the ball over the net (the serve), and the receiving team has a maximum of three hits to get the ball back to the other side.
Play continues back and forth (a rally) with a maximum of three hits allowed on each side. When a team allows the ball to touch the ground or sends it out of bounds, the opposing team scores one point. When the serving team wins a rally, they score a point and continue serving. When the receiving team scores, they get a point and it’s their turn to serve.
Every match has a maximum of three sets. Each of the first two sets is won by the team that first scores 21 points – with a minimum two-point lead. If the same team wins both sets, the match is over. If each team wins one set, a third deciding set is played, this time to 15 points (with a minimum two-point lead).
The highest-scoring first set in men’s FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour history was in 2010, when Marcio Araujo and Ricardo Santos of Brazil beat Americans Phil Dalhausser and Todd Rogers by a tally of 41 to 39 – a total of 80 points in one set!
During top-level match play, coaching of any kind, even a wink or a hand signal, is against the rules. That’s why you’ll see coaches looking stone-faced in the grandstands – it’s not that they don’t care, but they need to stay neutral.
The two players of a beach volleyball team have to work together perfectly, because there’s no one to step in and take up the slack. You’ll always see players pumping each other up after a point. If you hear them shouting at their partners while the ball is in play, they’re giving “calls” – for example, if one player is watching the ball, the other will call out how the opposing team is setting up their positions.
One of the fun parts of beach volleyball is getting to know the various calls and celebrations – different teams have very different styles, and the personalities really shine through.
To avoid confusion, those signals indicate how the two players will cover the court.