Golden Eagles utilize beach volleyball to sharpen skills in offseason
December 8, 2019 by Marcos Aragon, Arizona State University
Marcos Aragon is a student journalist at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University student assigned to cover Bourgade Catholic High School volleyball.
While some high school students go to the beach for vacation during their summer break, Bourgade Catholic High School’s volleyball senior captain Andrea Garcia went to the beach to train for the past season. The outside hitter had a goal: to improve her passing, hitting, and overall court awareness by playing beach volleyball.
“I want to work on my hits. I feel like when I’m in sand, it’s hard for me to jump,” Garcia explained. “When I do play in sand, I’m really trying to get a lift off the ground, and I want that to translate into on the court so I can really jump and really try to hit the ball down.”
Garcia said that she and her friends would play on weekends or whenever they could find an opportunity. Having spent so much time on the sand, Garcia was ready to take her improved game to the indoor court.
She was quick to feel some of the results of her offseason training during an earlier match against Coolidge.
“Since it’s harder to move in sand volleyball, you really can’t pick up your feet as much or jump,” Garcia said. “But I’ve noticed that when I’m playing on the court, I’m able to move my feet a lot more, and when I jump, I can tell I’m jumping higher now, because I’m putting more effort into my jumps.
“I remember having gone to play volleyball that same weekend, and so when we played [Coolidge] my passes were almost perfect most of the time. I’m pretty sure I was able to move on the court and get places, and I could tell it was because of sand volleyball.”
Alexandra Hayes, coach of the freshmen team, explained that beach volleyball has a challenge to it that is often overlooked: the outdoor elements.
“One of my finals games for college, it was raining and windy and we played next to the beach,” Hayes said. “So you have really large gusts of wind coming through. You have to make sure that you are on point with every pass. You can’t be passing it too high or else it gets taken by the wind, so you have to make sure your passes are low enough but still able to get to where you want them to.”
Hayes is a former college indoor and beach volleyball player. The 21 year old played previously at Orange Coast College in California, before joining the Bourgade Catholic staff. She said that her team at OCC spent almost as much time playing beach as playing indoors.
Both Hayes and Garcia also noted two other benefits to training on sand: the work it puts on your legs will help translate to being more explosive on the court, and the fact that it’s much easier to dive on sand and not get hurt.
“It helps to build your confidence with your play, especially when you’re constantly having to dive and constantly doing that motion,” Hayes said. “When you come indoors you can become more like a dolphin essentially. You just slide right into it.”
“It makes me more comfortable diving on the court, too. So if I need to get somewhere like I feel like I’m going to fall on sand but then I realize I’m not falling on sand,” Garcia said. “It hurts, but like it makes me want to do it more and push myself to really try for balls and do what I can.”
Varsity assistant coach Carissa Allen noted that Garcia has made improvements this season to how she moves on the court.
“There are times in practice where it comes out of nowhere and I’m like ‘Oh wow, she got that ball’,” Allen said. “There are times when she’ll get a touch on a ball that I didn’t even expect her to get a touch on.”
Allen is also a former college volleyball player at Northwest Christian College, where she said that her teams spent a lot of time practicing outside as well. Allen said it was hard, but the positive effect on their performance was noticeable.
Beyond just the physical and skill benefits to the beach volleyball, there is also a mental boost that comes from the game. One of the largest differences between beach volleyball and indoor is the amount of players you have on the court, going from the standard six to just two players outside. Hayes explained that it’s a simple change but it can make a world of difference navigating the court, and she notices playerse “become smarter with how they’re placing the balls.”
“It helps you become a lot more meticulous in being able to read everything because it is just two people on the court, you don’t have everyone else on the court to fall back on,” she said.
With the season well past its conclusion, the Golden Eagles hope their time on the beach has made them as smart as they can be and as gritty as the sand beneath their feet for next season.