Defense

INTRODUCTION

Defense – Part I of VIII

The goal of each player in defense is the same goal that the offence has - Earn Points.

Before points are earned on defense, there is a great deal of strategy, focus, discipline and effort that is required.

Great defense begins with not giving up points on offence.

GOOD TO KNOW

If you don't make mistakes on offence, it allows you more mental and physical energy to adjust to the tendencies of your opponents.

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Putting the offence into situations where mistakes can be made starts with the location of the serve.

Barbosa (BRA) blocks the ball

If the serve is difficult to pass and the pass is difficult to set, then playing defense becomes less complicated.

After the serve, defense is all about getting to the correct court position, being in the correct body position and then understanding and reacting to the tendencies of the setter and the attacker.

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Understanding and reacting to all of these seven variables is called reading the play and it's a critical component of playing great defense.

Menegatti (ITA) dives for to keep the ball in play

Consistent point scoring opportunities are created when the blocker or back court player touches every ball that the offence contacts.

Capitalizing on the mistakes that the offence makes puts more and more pressure on the attacker to place the ball perfectly.

This mental pressure usual results in the setter and the attacker making even more mistakes.

Another very important aspect of defense is maximizing the abilities of both defensive players.

This means knowing what the blocker does well and what the back court player does well, then putting the offence into the situations that best suits the strengths of the defense.

Defense is not at all about guessing what you think the offence will do – instead, defense is all about putting the offence into difficult situations and then, understanding and adapting to what the offence actually does.

BACKCOURT DEFENSE – COURT POSITION

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The starting body position when playing backcourt defense is:

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Body position - back court player

To be able to run down a shot or dig a spike your balance and weight must always be on the balls of your feet.

GOOD TO KNOW

It is impossible to play consistent backcourt defense if your weight is on your heels and/or you are 'flat-footed' in the sand.

The starting court position is to be in line for a cross court spike and about two steps and a dive from where a well placed line or cut shot will land.

This means the back-court player will be about 2 m / 7' from the back line of the court.

How far away from the side lines the back-court player will need to be will depend on what the blocker is doing and what the tendencies of the attacker are.

Digging Techniques

Defense – Part II of VIII

There are three major techniques used to dig the ball:

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Underhand Dig

Schmidt (BRA) digs the ball using the open hand technique

1 - UNDER-HAND DIG: arms are flat, straight and still, hands are loose but together.

2 - OPEN-HAND DIG: hands are open, close together and at chest level or higher.

GOOD TO KNOW

The open hand technique can only be used when digging a hard, driven or fast moving ball that has a downward trajectory.

The hands are in the similar shape as when hand setting but the hands are facing forward and the elbows are in closer to the body.

3 – OVERHEAD DIG: there are 3 main types of overhead digging:

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Two-handed over head, passing or digging is when the ball is contacted slightly above and in front of the forehead with the outside edge of both hands and little fingers.

Two- Hand over-head dig

This technique is also called the TOMAHAWK

One-handed overhead passing is when the ball is contacted with one hand above the head on the area between the second and third knuckles of the index, middle and ring fingers.

This technique is also called the POKEY

The critical key to all of the digging techniques is body balance and controlled arms. Any excessive movement or tightness of the hands or arms will at best result in a poorly controlled and very difficult dig to set.
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ARM SWING READ:

This drill is to help learn how to be patient on defense
while reading the attacker's arm swing - rather than
guessing where the ball will go.

STEP 1: Have a player stand on a bench that is about 1 m from the net. On the other side of the net a player gets into position to defend against the cross-court spike and a line or cut shot.
STEP 2: The player on the bench will be attacking the ball and will act as if there is a blocker blocking the line spike.
STEP 3: The player on the bench must make sure to toss the ball the height of a normal set and also make contact with the ball as high above their head as possible.
STEP 4: The player on the bench will make a cut shot, a line shot or spike the ball cross-court.
STEP 5: The backcourt digger will do everything possible to dig every ball that is attacked, if they can't dig the ball they must at least touch the ball.

This drill can be done with a setter and/or blocker to help further simulate game situations.

Not only is this drill great practice for the defensive player but it is also great practice for the attacker.

If the attacker's arm swing is consistent, it will be very difficult for the defensive player to read where the ball is being hit to.

If the attacker's arm swing significantly changes with the target location, the defensive player will be able to easily read and dig the majority of the attacks made.

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DIG, APPROACH AND ATTACK - DRILL

To practice the dig approach and attack of the ball, also called transition defense,

STEP 1: Start with the backcourt defensive player lined up to dig a cross-court spike.
STEP 2: The other player stands
  • on the same side of the net as the digger
  • in the same spot as if they are blocking a line spike, but
  • with the ball, and facing the defender.
STEP 3:

The player at the net, the attacker: -does NOT jump – and either -spikes the ball directly at the back court player, or -makes a cut or line shot

The back court player: -digs the ball up into the air, -up to the net and -keeps the ball on their side of the court and in front of them. DO NOT dig the ball back to the hitter

The attacker (now setter): -Gets behind the ball -Sets the ball up to the net -Moves their entire body in the direction of the set -The digger approaches and attacks

It is very important that the attacker tosses the ball high in the air, goes through the entire arm swing motion and makes contact with the ball as high as possible above their head so that they give the defensive player the opportunity to read their arm swing.

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BLOCKING

INTRODUCTION

Defense – Part III of VIII

The blocker is the pivotal part of the defense.

What the blocker does or doesn't do, impacts the success or failure of the defense more than any other aspect of the defense.

An out of position or undisciplined blocker makes it almost impossible for the back court defender to be able to read the play.

Only when the back court player can trust that the blocker will perform their responsibilities correctly, can they in turn also perform their responsibilities correctly.

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The blocker must also be an excellent setter because whenever the back court player digs a spike or shot, the blocker must be able to consistently set the ball to the optimum attack location - no matter where the dig goes.

TYPES OF BLOCKS

There are two main types of blocking, spike blocking and shot blocking.

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SPIKE BLOCKING

Fuerbringer (USA) reaches across the net

A major factor in spike blocking is that the blocker reaches across the net as far as possible with both hands before the ball crosses the net.

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SHOT BLOCKING

Salgado (BRA) reaches high to block a shot.

A major factor in shot blocking is that the blocker is reaching as high and or as wide as possible as the ball crosses the net.

HAND POSITION

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GOOD TO KNOW

when spike blocking, angle the palms of both hands back toward the attackers side of the court to help keep the ball from being hit off the hands, going sideways and out of bounds.

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SPIKE BLOCKING
HAND POSITION

Depending on how high the blocker jumps, there are quite a few different variations that they can do regarding how they move their hands and arms.

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GOOD TO KNOW

The hand and arm motion used when shot blocking is very much like the hand and arm motion used when trying to block a shot in basketball.

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SHOT BLOCKING
Sidorenko (KAZ) blocking a shot

BLOCK JUMP

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BLOCKING DRILLS

The following drills are to help learn how to have your body and hands in the correct position when blocking.Defense – Part IV of VIII

HAND AND ARM POSITION - DRILL

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Hand and Arm position - Drill

One player stands on a bench and holds a ball a minimum of 15 mm /6” above the net and a minimum of 15 mm /6” away from the net. (adjust to the jumping ability of the blocker)

On the opposite side of the net, the blocker gets into a chair squat position about 30 mm / 12” away from the net, shoulders square to the net, elbows close to the body and hands open and below chest level.

While jumping upwards as explosively as possible also shoot both hands and arms up and over onto the other side of the net as quickly as possible.

The hands should be onto the other side of the net before the rest of the body has stopped moving upwards.

As the body is reaching the peak of the jump, the blockers hands should be ‘wrapped around” the ball

Also practice hand and arm position for shot blocking and sets that turn into joust situations by having the player on the bench move the ball to different locations

Remember to keep the thumbs up, fingers open, outstretched to the side and the hands angled back into the court.

CONTROLLED BLOCKING DRILL

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Controlled Blocking Drill

The blocker starts in the same position - chair squat position about 30 mm / 12” away from the net, shoulders square to the net, elbows close to the body and hands open and below chest level.

The player on the bench tells the blocker where the specific area that they are going to hit the ball – for example the attacker will tell the blocker they will 1) either spike the ball toward the line or make a line shot; or they will 2) either spike the ball cross court or make a cut shot.

The blockers responsibility is to block the spike or shot and will learn to adjust their arms and hands to either spike block or shot block positioning based on the shoulder movement and arm swing of the attacker.

BLOCKER COURT POSITION

GOOD TO KNOW

If a blocker is not within an arm length of the net before the setter makes contact with the ball, they are out of position.

When the blocker is NOT serving, the blocker lines up within an arm length away from the net.

When the server is also the blocker, the blocker must get to the net before the setter makes contact with the ball.

When the server is also the blocker they must be very accurate as to where they serve the ball so that they can give themselves enough time to get to the net before the setter makes contact with the ball.

The blocker will adjust their court position along the net to:

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SHOULDER POSITION

It is VERY important for the blocker to keep their shoulders square / parallel to the net when they are jumping up to block.

If one shoulder is back off the net back and the other one is forward both hands will not get across the net, resulting in many missed blocking opportunities.

Incorrect: One shoulder turned back off the net

Correct: Both shoulders parallel to the net

BLOCKING HAND SIGNALS

Before each play, hand signals are used to designate the responsibilities of both of the defensive players.Defense – Part V of VIII

If the back court player is serving, the blocker will be up at the net and will show the hand signals before the ball is served.

If the blocker is serving, the back court player will show the hand signals to the server / blocker before they serve the ball

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1 FINGER POINTING DOWNWARD

Although there are other hand signals used, the most common signals are: one finger pointing downward and two fingers pointing downward.

1 FINGER POINTING DOWNWARD designates that:

  • the blocker will block spikes that go to the line side of the attackers approach, or
  • force the attacker to spike the ball cross court of their approach.
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2 FINGERS POINTING DOWNWARD

2 FINGER POINTING DOWNWARD designates that:

  • the blocker will block spikes that go to the cross court side of the attackers approach, or
  • force the attacker to spike the ball to the line side of their approach

When a second hand signal with fingers pointing downwards is shown, it designates what direction the blocker will pull off the net if needed.

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When 1 finger is pointing sideways, this designates the side of the court and the player that the defense wants the ball to be served to!

DEFENSIVE RESPONSIBILITIES

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The Czech team is blocking line and lined up to dig the cross-court spike.

BLOCK LINE

When the defensive strategy is to block the line, this means that the blocker’s first responsibility is to block all spikes that go to the line side of the attacker’s approach.

The blockers next responsibility is to force the attacker to spike the ball to the cross-court side of their approach, or, make a cut or a line shot.

The backcourt player’s responsibilities are to dig the cross court spike, cut shot and deep-line shot. Therefore the backcourt player will be on a cross court angle from the attacker.

BLOCK CROSS-COURT / ANGLE

When the defensive strategy is to block cross court (angle), this means that the blocker’s first responsibility is to block all spikes that go to the cross court side of the attacker’s approach.

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The Austrian team is blocking angle and moving over to dig the line spike

The blockers next responsibility is to force the attacker to spike the ball to the line side of their approach, or, make a cut or a line shot.

But for this strategy the backcourt player must stay in the middle of the court until they ‘read’ what the attacker is doing.

The backcourt player’s responsibilities are to dig the line spike, cut shot and deep-line shot.

If the digger sees the attacker approaching quickly and jumping explosively then the digger needs to quickly move from the middle of the court and dig the line spike.

If the digger sees the attacker approaching slowly or not jumping aggressively, the digger needs to stay in the middle of the court and wait for a cross-court or line shot.

If the digger moves too soon they will leave too much of the court available for the attacker to hit the ball into.

TRANSITION SETTING

Defense – Part VI of VIIIWhen the blocker does not block the ball, before both of their feet land from the jump, they must turn their head back in the direction that the ball went. Now, the blockers #1 responsibility is to set any ball that their partner digs.

When the head turns it also will turn the shoulders and hips - when done correctly one of the blockers feet will now be facing away from the net as they land.

Landing with one foot turned back into the court gives the blocker a better chance to get to ball and set it when their partner digs it.

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Urata (JPN) turns her head to follow the ball

blocker transition setting drill

Practice a block jump, turning your head, finding and getting to the ball and setting your partner.

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The blocker does a block jump and as the blocker is coming down from the jump the backcourt player (already with the ball) tosses the ball up in the air to different locations that a dig would commonly go.

The blocker turns their head, locates and gets to the ball, then sets the ball up to the net. The blocker must make sure that they move their entire body and balance in the exact direction they what the set to go in.

The blocker (now setter) must also call out the shot call for their partner as well as get into position to cover their partner if they were to get blocked.

GOOD TO KNOW

The blockers ability to consistently set a ball dug by their partner is one of the most underrated but highly valuable skills in Beach Volleyball.

BLOCKER READING THE PLAY

There are many different variables that influence where the blocker should position them self to make their block jump.

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A major factor that impacts the defense is that the blocker gets to the net and waits for the setter to contact the ball before they decide if they will stay at the net and block or pull off the net to be a backcourt digger.

Regardless of the location of the pass or setter, the blocker must be at the net when the setter is making contact with the ball!

If the blocker pulls off the net before they should or stays at the net when they should have pulled off they make it very easy on the offence and very difficult on the backcourt digger.

drill - watch the set - block or pull

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The attacker passes or tosses the ball toward the setter; the setter either will push the set up to the net (1 m/3’ or closer) or will set the ball off the net (more than 1.25 m / 4’)

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Blocker watching the setter and set location

Blocker pulling off the net while watching the attacker

and then digging the ball

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BLOCKER PULLING OFF THE NET

Defense – Part VII of VIIIDepending on how long partners have been playing together, there are 2 ways for the blocker to tell their partner what direction they will be pulling off the net.

  • Hand Signals before the serve – the hands signals will include a second signal showing 1 or 2 fingers – this method is the most common.
  • hand-Signals-before-the-serve-500-235
  • During the play adjustment – the blocker pulls off the net in the direction that they feel will allow their team the best opportunity to dig the attacker. The direction is based on what the attacker’s tendencies are considering the specific circumstances.
  • The backcourt player adjusts their court position to any direction that the blocker pulls back in.

PULLING LINE

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PULLING ANGLE

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The exact area that the blocker pulls when pulling line or angle depends on what the blocker believes the attacker’s tendencies will be for that specific attack.

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GOOD TO KNOW

When pulling off the net, the blocker will usually only be able to take 2 or 3 large steps before they have to be ready to dig the ball.

As always, the backcourt player must be patient as the blocker is pulling off the net and not guess where the attacker will hit the ball.

Depending on the exact direction that the blocker is pulling the digger must stay in the middle of the court as long as possible before they move because the middle of the court is the easiest place for the attacker to hit the ball when a set is off the net.

drill – pull off the net and dig

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The attacker on the bench tosses the ball up as high as a standard set.

As the attacker tosses the ball up the blocker pulls off the net to the line side of the attacker.

The attacker spikes the ball or makes a shot anywhere toward the blocker.

Do the same for pulling cross-court

DRILL – PULL OFF THE NET AND SET

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The back court player starts with the ball. The blocker pulls off the net for 3 steps, down the line.

as the blockers feet are stopping the player with the ball tosses the ball up in the air, on their half of the court and toward the net

The blocker sprints to the ball and gives the back-court player a well placed set to attack.

Do the same for pulling cross-court

OFFENCE TO DEFENSE TRANSITION

Defense – Part VIII of VIIIWhen the offences attack is not successful and the defense digs the ball, the offence needs to immediately transition to the exact defensive positioning that they would be in if they had just served the ball.

This requires one of the players to become the blocker and without delay get within an arms length of the net before the setter makes contact with the ball.

The blocker will also give the back-court player a hand signal to show what the blocking and back-court responsibilities are.

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Combine these basic strategies (and more) to create more scoring opportunities.

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Mercer (AUS) blocking with open hands

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van Gestel of the Netherlands playing great defense

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Prokopiev (RUS) dives to keep the ball in play

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Cicolari (ITA) and Candelas (MEX) attack the ball

GOOD TO KNOW

Playing consistent, effective and efficient defense in beach volleyball could be the most physically and mentally demanding skill performed in any team sport.

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