The Emergence of Girls' Junior Beach Volleyball Girls' beach volleyball has exploded since the sport was added at the college level and it's raising the level of play indoors and out
Jaden Ravnsborg and Kamryn Farris, two preteen beach volleyball stars, say they'd like to play both indoor and beach volleyball in college.When Jaden Ravnsborg and Kamryn Farris started to play beach volleyball two years ago, they never imagined the leap their games would take by competing on sand.
But this dynamic duo from Kansas—preteens who’ve already left huge footprints in the beach volleyball community—say digging in the sand has made them better athletes and catapulted their indoor play to new heights.
Just how high?
Earlier this year, these Midwestern girls reached the pinnacle of success in the highly competitive world of junior volleyball. Their 12s Black team at Dynasty Volleyball in Kansas City, Kansas, captured the 2015 USA Volleyball Girls’ Junior National Championship title.
The feisty crossover players—who took third in this year’s Junior Beach Tour Championships in Virginia Beach—credit their time in the sand for their achievements indoor.
“Playing beach has made me an all-around better player,” said Ravnsborg, 12, a setter and outside hitter. “Moving in the sand is hard, but it helps me move better indoors.”
Her partner agrees.
“I’m a libero and [playing beach] helps me read the ball better,” Farris, 11, said. “It also helps me with talking, and I get more touches on the ball.”
Coaches, retired beach players, and club directors across the country aren’t surprised by the success of these young sand sensations.
“We tell our indoor players if they want to do great indoors, the best thing they can do is come outdoors for the summer,” said Chris Mahi, co-director of Club Iowa (CIA) in Cedar Falls.
Mahi and her husband, Kalani, are among the growing number of club directors nationwide who’ve added beach programs to improve their players’ skills and chances to compete at a higher level.
“The growth we see in players who train in the sand is tremendous,” said Mahi, who started CIA Beach Volleyball in 2013. “The kids’ ball control is markedly better, their movement is better, and we’ve seen kids increase their verticals by four inches.”
Perhaps the biggest area of improvement, she said, is in players’ mental games.
“In beach, our involvement as coaches is in practice,” Mahi said. “We can’t talk to the kids when they play.”
Beach players must learn to communicate with each other and work out strategies on their own. That’s often a daunting task, especially when teams face tough opponents or lose several points in a row.
“You and your partner have to learn to help each other in those situations,” Mahi said. “Beach players have to talk and figure out quickly what to do. You can’t just hit the ball hard in sand—it’s about placement. You have to see the court.
“When players have been in these stressful situations in the sand and found ways to get through them, their mental games rise,” she added. “It’s fun to see that happen.”
Dream of Playing Beach Volleyball in College?
Junior players who want to compete only in beach volleyball in college shouldn't give up their indoor game.
Not now, and maybe not ever.
"I have seen more and more players specialize in beach, but I still see a lot of benefits from continuing to play indoor," said Brooke Niles, new head beach volleyball coach at Florida State University. "Our crossover players at Florida State are used to playing in pressure situations that I think can translate very well to the beach game, and the players that play all summer on the beach circuit come back in better shape for the fall indoor season and usually develop a better sense of the game."
Beach volleyball legend Nina Matthies agrees.
"I encourage [young players] to play both sports," said Matthies, head beach volleyball coach at Pepperdine University. "Players need touches on the ball all the way around. I tell our kids at our camps to just play. Play and learn the game."