Don’t Get Sand In Your Face

It doesn’t take much to catapult a sport like beach volleyball into people’s recreational agendas when the United States celebrates gold medals won by Phil Dalhausser and Todd Rogers in men’s and Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh in women’s competitions during the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, China. In fact, each time the United States has won a gold medal in a sport, the interest in that sport has increased. When America won the gold in ice hockey at the Squaw Valley Winter Olympics, there was a surge in interest which led to the construction of more ice rinks. Today there are 2,000 ice rinks in this country versus only about 100 prior to 1960.

The Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association reports that there are 6.9 million beach volleyball players in this country, with 900,000 playing 25 times or more per year. “We’ve seen an annual growth rate of 5 percent since 1984,” says John Kessel, director of membership development and Paralympics programs of USA Volleyball (USAV), which is the National Governing Body for the sport. USAV expects an increase in the interest in volleyball post-Olympics.

Easy Participation

Beach volleyball is one of the easiest, most affordable, non-contact co-ed sports to play. “It’s a cost-efficient sport from a parks point of view. Volleyball is also pretty injury-free. Another appeal of beach volleyball is that it’s outdoors,” says Kessel. “Parks and recreation departments can do a lot with a beach volleyball program, such as offer courses, host leagues, tournaments, and family-based tournaments, like parent-child team competitions.”

“Beach volleyball is a fun sport that adults and children can participate in together,” says Larry Robles, executive director of the North Pacific Beach Volleyball Association, which manages more than 20 tournaments a year. “It is a very easy sport to play, but is also very challenging and demanding,” says Carlos Jimenez, tour director for Extreme Volleyball Professionals (EVP) Tour, which conducts numerous events.

Digging Down

“Locate the court in a high-visibility site near other sports with lighting, such as softball fields,” says Jimenez. “Build a minimum of two courts, and align the length of the courts from north to south so players are able to play throughout the day without the sun in their eyes.”

There are various seasonal options. “In the northern part of the United States, seasonal outdoor ice-hockey rinks convert to become beach volleyball courts during the summer,” says Kessel.

“This provides recreational opportunities year-round, and works well because these areas often already have lighting and concession stands in place.”

Courts should be 9 meters x 9 meters per side with a 3-meter buffer around each court for triples, quad, and six-on-six events. The court lines can then be brought in to create the traditional 8-meter doubles court. “Considering drainage, if the court doesn’t drain properly, it creates a muddy pond,” says Kessel.

According to USAV, the sand needs to be at least 18 inches deep across the court, and can be as shallow as 12 inches on the side lines. The sand should be kept in the playing area by surrounding it with a railroad-tie barrier. If the area is windy, install fencing to prevent the sand from blowing away.

Double-washed masonry sand is the most preferred; however, if you are at the mercy of sand-for-free, take along an experienced beach volleyball player to help select the best sand for the courts.

One should be careful of fine sand because it tends to be muddy when wet, and be wary of coarse sand, which will be too abrasive. Use only wood poles to support the net, and place the winch on the outside edge of the pole away from the playing area. Generous padding is necessary to prevent player injuries. Poles need to be at least 8 feet above the level of the sand to hold the net at the proper playing height.Just about any net will do. Select a non-metal (no rust) cable, such as one made from Kevlar or Vectran. The ground lines are polypropylene rope that is 3/8 or 1/2 inch in diameter.

One tip from the pros is to keep a sand rake on the premises because players will keep the court in good condition by raking the sand back into the middle of the court after play. “The court should last a year without needing maintenance,” says Jimenez. “Spend the time and money to build the court properly, and you’ll minimize maintenance.”

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