I was at the USAV Beach Volleyball Coaching program and one of the instructors said something that resonated with me. I don’t think it was the first time I heard this comment but this time I HEARD it in a different way. The statement was simple.

“The greatness of Karch Kiraly was that he made his partners better players.”

Seems pretty simple right? But what does that MEAN? So I started searching articles online, inside myself and watching beach volleyball matches looking for what makes a player make their partner better. I stopped watching for that incredible kill, block or skill and started watching the game a little differently.

I came away with some basic things that great players do to better their teammates. Take a look at the following and think honestly about how you currently handle these issues and how you can do a better job in each area.

Remember there are two of you.

You alone cannot control the outcome of the game. I can’t think of a great beach volleyball team that won anything because of the actions of one person.

Think about how you can make your partner better by using your own power. By using your energy and focusing it on you and your partner you are not giving it to the other team.

Better the ball with every touch

Every time you touch the ball try to focus on making a play that will make the next play easier for your partner. Was that first pass good? Make the set great! Was the first pass a shank? Get the ball to a playable position for your partner. When you start to think of each touch as an opportunity to better the ball you will take a step towards making your partner a better player.

Positive Talk (Both to your partner and yourself!)

Using positive talk will only empower your teammate and in turn, yourself. There are only two of you in beach volleyball – as a result you become extremely in tune with the emotions of your partner. It’s so important to use words that are positive. This will give you the ability to influence and elevate your partner.

If you or your partner misses a ball, be it a pass, set or attack, it is important to put it behind you and move forward. It is up to you to use words that are positive – never use blaming words or negative words. Focus on language that will elevate your partner and make them better!

Body language

We have all seen bad body language on the court. A player misses a pass, set or attack and their partner turns their back on them, rolls their eyes or just looks down. Your partner likely feels embarrassment or shame when they miss a ball. It is up to you to turn towards them, go to them and use positive words and body language before the next ball is served. Never isolate your partner when they are having a hard time in a match…the two of you are a team and it is up to you to prop them up. In return they will do the same for you. Good body language is always a great investment in your teammate!

Touch! The body language of camaraderie

One thing you will notice about your teammates is that you stand closer together and touch more often than friends you have outside of athletics. Teammates touch one another with high 5s, pats on the back, the shoulder and sometimes with hugs of congratulations. Use this to your advantage in a match. Many teams will touch one another in a high five after every play. They use this as positive touch to “reset” after the last play and to focus on the next one. With that touch they are telling one another that they have their partner’s back. It a reminder that you are in this match together. This is a great tool to use in making your partner better.

Making our teammates better is one of the core values of DaKine Beach Volleyball Club. We, as beach coaches, are not able to coach you during your matches. Our goal is to teach you to self coach and to manage your on court relationship with your beach volleyball partner. One of the easiest ways to make yourself and your results on the court better is simply to make your partner better every chance you get.

See you on the beach!