Fundamentals of Sand Volleyball Part 3: Blocking
By Shaun Catlin - Director 692 South, JVA Beach Committee Member
In the previous articles we reviewed hitting, setting, passing but in this edition we are covering blocking in beach volleyball. But we shouldn't cover blocking without out the defensive movement required to help assist your partner during a block.
You may believe that because you don't have many blocks, or you make blocking errors that you're not a particularly great blocker, however, the presence of taking away an area is very essential and important in beach. Don't get frustrated because you're not touching the ball with every single block, just understand that you are doing your job as a blocker by directing the ball to your partner. What this effectively does is remove up to 30% of playing surface for the hitter to attack to. Most hitters will opt for a better-shot selection if there is a block up at the net. Your secondary job is to funnel the ball to your partner while posting a great blocking wall with the intention to block the ball.
The first fundamental concept we want to cover is taking away a particular area of the court by deciding whether to block line or angle. The next key step is your ready stance at the net and how to position yourself to accept the block opportunity. Lastly, we need to learn how to peel away from the net to provide a better defense when the attack doesn't seem terminal.
Know the Signal
On the beach we have two blocking opportunities: line or angle. You can show line by holding one finger down stating that you will block line for the side in which you're holding, or two fingers down signify that you are blocking angle. Look at the image to the right: What is our player below blocking for her opponents? If you guessed angle on the left side player and line on the right side player then you are correct.
Footwork is King (or Queen)!
When at the net as a blocker you always want to be prepared and ready for an opportunity to block the ball. Simple queues such as facing the hitter and positioning yourself in front of the hitter at all times creates the largest opportunities for a successful block. Your footwork should be staggered as shown in my handy drawing below. Just reverse the foot location if you are a right side player.We teach a split stance approach on a block with the hand of the outside line slightly bent with palms facing forward. This allows you to peel off the net using the proper peel technique.
Peeling isn't all Bananas If you are able to successfully track the hitter and the set provides the hitter with no opportunity to aggressively attack the ball then a block should be posted. However, if the set is off the net and a terminal kill will be less likely to happen, you should peel by opening your body to the court crossing your outer leg over your inner leg, taking an aggressive step away from the net and a large swinging hop facing the attacker. In short we call this a Cross, Step, Hop. It's one of the fastest ways to drive your body away from the net and make a defensive dig. As you scale up to the higher levels of gameplay, your judgment of which sets need to be blocked will be easier and this basic technique will also be used.
Remember that blocking on the beach is the strongest defensive skill since it is your first line of defense. If you can put up an aggressive block at the net, your opponents with have no other option but to avoid that block at all costs. Click on the image below to watch match point of the 2012 London Olympic games when Kerri Walsh blocks the cross court shot for the gold. Throughout the entire match Kerri's block set up the defense and affected the shot selection for the Chinese attackers.