Tom Black, head coach of the sand volleyball and indoor volleyball programs — and assistant coach with the U.S. women’s national team — says sand volleyball demands more from players than the indoor game, while simultaneously making them better indoor players. “Sand volleyball is harder than indoor in almost every way,” he says, “and that’s why we’re doing it.”
TWO VS. SIX
In sand, everything comes down to you and your partner, so you have to learn how to be alert and invested in every play and how to best help your teammate. The lessons are the same in the six-person game, but in indoor volleyball, there is more diffusion of responsibility. On the beach, if you don’t figure out your lessons quickly, you’re going to lose the point.
THE DEMANDS OF THE BEACH
In sand volleyball, the wind can be brutal, and it puts pressure on players. Our first home match this season was in a 30-mph wind. You have to find ways to deal with it. Our players were miserable for the first five practices in the wind. But then they took pride in being able to deal with it, and that gave me a lot of pride in them.
LEARN FROM WHAT’S HARD
On the beach, you have to be able to perform all the skills. You can’t “hide” on the court as you can indoors, because your teammate is reliant on you. But what’s hard about sand volleyball helps our indoor team: A sand player takes the lessons learned on the beach through hundreds of repetitions and brings them to the indoor game. All our sand players are part of the indoor program.
THE RECRUITING PITCH
We tell recruits: “If you love volleyball and want to become your best, then we’ll help you. In the fall, you’ll play in one of the nation’s best conferences, and in the spring, you’ll play against the best sand teams in the country over and over. We’ve played the No. 1 team in the country four times this spring.”
THE U.S. NATIONAL WOMEN’S TEAM
Whenever you’re working with people who are at the highest level in their field, you want to elevate your game to the same level. The way we train at LMU is exactly the way we train with the USA program. Whenever I learn something there, I bring it back to LMU.
THE VALUE OF EXAMPLES
Heather Hughes ’08 and Emily Day ’09 are among the best pro sand volleyball players in the world and big supporters of the program. An LMU player looks at their success and thinks, “Maybe I can do that, too.”