Beach volleyball is played on a sand based court 8m x 16m separated across the middle by a net at a height of 2.24m for women and 2.43m for men.
A team has two players and play is similar to indoor volleyball – one team serves, the other tries to win the rally or ‘side-out’ using moves known as ‘dig’, ‘set’ and ‘spike’.
The ball can be played over the net on the first or second touch to surprise the opposition, but your team is not allowed more than three touches of the ball.
The team usually fields a ‘frontcourt’ player and a ‘backcourt’ player. The frontcourt player is responsible for ‘blocking’ and is usually the taller of the pair, while the backcourt player is the defender covering the rest of the court making ‘digs’.
The sun, wind and sand make beach volleyball a difficult game to play requiring a high level of fitness. Players need spatial awareness and excellent ball skills, and must be able to react and move fast in order to win. It can take years to acquire the ability to follow and place the ball, while knowing the exact position of your playing partner as well as the oppposition.
Games are played as rally point and best of three sets, the first two played to 21. If a tiebreaker is needed, it is played to 15. A team must win the set by a two-point advantage. Scoring systems may vary slightly depending on the competition.
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Beach volleyball was first introduced as an Olympic sport in Atlanta in 1996 and due to its success and popularity around the world, now has some of fastest ticket sales for the games.