You will likely hear DaKine beach volleyball coaches talking a LOT about bettering the ball. Bettering the ball is one of the core goals of beach volleyball and by keeping this as one of your goals in making each ball contact with purpose you will increase your ball control and results.
What does bettering the ball mean?
Basically, bettering the ball means that with each contact you make, your goal is to improve the position, velocity, or height of the ball. The first contact will often not be a perfect pass. No matter how good or how bad that first contact was it is your job to better that pass. Putting a bad set from a shanked ball into a position that will allow your partner to play to the other side of the net, is a great example of bettering the ball. Most beach volleyball is played out of system. This simply means that with every contact your goal is to better that ball!
Examples of bettering the ball
1. If your partner shanks that first pass it is your job to get that ball up to a hittable location so that your partner can score a point on the play. Setting a shanked pass to a hittable location is an example of bettering the ball.
2. If your partner doesn’t get to your pass and splashes the set to a difficult position (behind you for example) it is up to you to ensure that you better that ball by keeping it in play and putting it in the best place possible to score. By keeping a tough to play set in play – you are bettering the ball.
Considerations in bettering the ball
If that ball is out of position it will be tough to get to. Your first responsibility is to move your feet and GET to that ball! You don’t have time to make a decision to go or not – you need to move your feet and get to that ball.
2. Assess & Make a Decision
On your way to get that ball you need to start to assess what you can do with that play to better the ball. Where are you in relation to the net? Where is your teammate? Did your teammate follow you to the area? Do you have to send the ball to where your teammate is? Should you simply send over a free ball and try to pick a tough spot?
Things to help you assess & make a decision
Is your partner with you? Call their name. Talk to them. Get them ready to receive the ball. They should also be talking to you. If you can tell that they can get to the ball – tell them where you are going to play the ball. For example, in front of your body, behind your body…or any other cues that work for you and your partner.
Once you assess if they are ready for the ball – see if you can figure out what their body position is. Are they facing the net? Can they hit? Can they bump it over? If you are going to play the ball to your partner try to place the ball between you. High enough for them to get to the ball and put it in a good position to the other side of the net.
Make sure you place the ball between you and your partner. Once you’ve played the ball – help your partner out. Look at the players on the other side. Are they ready? Is there an open spot? Deep? Short? Help out your partner.
Be realistic with what you personally can do with the ball to put it into the other court to ensure the ball goes inbounds. Ideally, you would be coming in to attack facing the other side of the net with time. But this is not always true! Sometimes simply being able to bump the ball over the net to an open location is the best option to better a ball. Keep the rally going and keep that ball in!
This is perhaps the toughest part of bettering a ball when you are out of system. Stay in control. Ball control, emotional control. Players chasing down a ball they are trying to save will often tighten up physically and start swinging at the ball. You don’t have to swing at that ball to send it to the net for a perfect set. Good ball control will help you calm your body. Find your partner by using your voice or your peripheral vision then relax and put the ball between you and them.
Think about some things that help you stay calm in a match. Concentrate on relaxing your body and your shoulders in particular. Talking to your partner will help keep you calm as you will know where they are. There are many different strategies that players use to help them keep calm, centered and focused. Think about some that work for you.
The name of the game is ball control. With good ball control you should always be able to better that ball and win more rallies!