Beach partner pairing can be a challenging part of playing beach volleyball. It is the #1 most intimidating task that new players must learn to do for themselves. “Can you help find a partner for my daughter?” is the most common ask directors and coaches get from young athlete’s parents. Ultimately, the goal is for two players to come together to form great team chemistry.

Here are some suggestions to make the process less challenging:

Doubles tournaments

For doubles tournaments athlete’s will typically find their own partners. Here are two ways coaches and beach directors can make it easier:

  • Help the athletes find their voice!
    We can help our athletes find their voice by letting them know how important is is to FIND THEIR VOICE in the sand. Asking another athlete to play in a tournament can seem like an impossible task to a shy 13 year old. There are times when a coach will need to bring two young players together, have them shake hands and ask each other if they want to play together to break the ice. COMMUNICATION is one of the biggest differences between beach and indoor. As important as this skill set is on the indoor court, it is multiplied exponentially on the sand both in actual play and before/during/after matches. In indoor, most of the strategic communication is done by the coaches. However, on the sand, unless there is a coach on the sidelines during play, the communication is done entirely by the players. Therefore help your athletes early with how to communicate with their teammates both on and off the court. It’s one of the most important life skills we can help young athletes develop!
  • Run Queen of the Court tournaments during practice
    This is the best way we can get players together for new partnerships because it is doubles competition, and the team that wins more is on the Queen side of the court more. Explain to the athletes that if they find someone especially easy and fun to play with, by all means ASK THEM TO PLAY!  For older players, try running a Bjerring tournament. Although the sets are usually timed and short, you’ll get everyone on the court together at some point.

Sometimes the relationship between parents along with their ability to coordinate schedules can become an obstacle, so coaches and directors may need to step in.  However, coaches and directors will typically allow the players to take the lead and register for tournaments on their own. It allows the athletes to develop their voice and their people skills, and control their playing schedule. For beach beginners and younger athletes, chemistry on and off the court is much more important than higher level partnerships, so it is common for players who are friends to try to play together in tournaments.

BVCA collegiate format events / Club Duals

For tournaments that consist of the club dual model that emulates the collegiate format, the coach or director will pick the partnerships. With the emergence and success of the National BVCA Club Challenge Series powered by the JVA, these collegiate format events are especially important for the development of the players’ attitudes toward playing with athletes they may not typically choose as their beach partner.

At the college level, partnerships are completely out of the athletes’ hands, so many clubs competing in the BVCA Club Challenge Series are following suit and creating the pairings for their athletes. Two players who may not be friends off the court can be paired together to represent their beach club in a collegiate format event. The athletes are put in a position to deal with adversity and overcome, which is another important life skill that they learn at the junior level, rather than waiting until college. Typically in collegiate events, the coach will assign the pairings, putting together the best top to bottom roster that gives them the best chance for success, the same way it is done in college.

Here’s some advice when pairing athletes together:

  • Ideally you run your top team as your #1, then down to your #5 or #3 depending on how big the squads are per
  • Typically, the strongest duo is a Blocker/Defender pair. Seeing as bigs are a rarity, as you run out of bigs you would then be using two split blockers, then you would put together a split and a defender, and lastly two defenders.
  • The beautiful thing about the BVCA Challenge Series events is the parity as you move down the list. Having two strong defenders at a #5 spot can still be a strong team for you.
  • Besides really wanting to win, think about what would showcase your athletes’ strengths, and explain to them the why behind each partnership to help with buy-in.
  • Creating your teams in order of strength will certainly be a challenge at times, with the typical push back from parents and players alike. As hard as it can be, remember that ranking of players is a very motivating piece for them, so it will be good for your club overall.

Strength-wise, in the Open division of junior collegiate format events, the top club’s #1-#3 teams are usually committed to play in College. Really deep clubs will have all players committed. Don’t be discouraged though, there are plenty of beach clubs competing on the tour with no committed players. The strength of clubs covers the full gamut. After pool play, the split to Gold and Silver bracket starts a very competitive bracket for all teams. So, get your club out there on the BVCA, and you will see
how well the parity works first hand.

The consensus is that the play on the BVCA tour is much more competitive at each level than a typical junior beach doubles event where you never know what you are going to get until the much later rounds.  As more college beach programs emerge, the format will only become more of the norm and the best format for competition for the top athletes looking to play at the next level.

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About the Author

Chris Hannemann is the Club Director of Dakine Volleyball Club, a JVA member club located in Tacoma, Washington. He has been coaching and playing beach volleyball for over 40 years both domestically and internationally. As a player, Chris won numerous international and domestic tours and events over a 15 year period. As a coach, Chris has led DaKine to being one of the most respected beach clubs in the country in only 5 years. He is a leader on a National level, working with multiple organizations as a driver for providing competition and leadership for the beach game. DaKine is currently ranked the #6 Beach Club in the country, by the BVCA, the gold standard in juniors’ beach volleyball competitions.