Given beach volleyball's success at the Summer Olympics and the growing popularity of the AVP Tour, we've all had a chance to learn who's hot this year in volleyball nation. And after sitting down with April Ross, 2007 AVP Rookie of the Year, Holly McPeak, three-time Olympian and 2004 Olympic Bronze Medalist, and Misty May-Treanor, back-to-back Olympic Gold Medalist, we quickly realized that life on the AVP sand is no day at the beach.
STACK: What's it like going from volleyball on an indoor court to volleyball in the sand?
May-Treanor: Jumps are different, and you can't take the same approach to the ball. The soft sand makes approaches slower and jumps lower, so you have to change the timing of your jump and coordinate the set and placement to get to the ball in time. If you just go out there and play, you'll get frustrated. You see a lot of players quit, because they're at one level indoors but don't compete at that same level [when they're first in the sand]. They're like, "Oh, I'm going to suck," then just give it up.
Ross: Getting onto the beach for me took a little time. Growing up, my high school coach always made us train on the beach, and I always hated it and swore it off. But then I got sick of playing indoor and randomly found an ex-teammate from USC. She convinced me to try it out. It was frustrating the first year; you just feel 10 times slower, and everything is 10 times harder.
McPeak: Beach volleyball is not for everyone. If you're up for a challenge, then choose beach volleyball. We've had some of the best players in the world come out and try beach volleyball, [then] quit. They couldn't achieve the same levels they did indoor, because it's a new game. It's much more physically demanding, because only two people cover the court. You really can't have any weaknesses; if you do, they will be exposed. With six-on-six, your job is pretty specific. So with indoor, I was the setter--kind of like the quarterback. I didn't ever hit. Out here, I have to [be able to] do it all.
STACK: What kind of physical preparation is required to take on the beach?
May-Treanor: Get on the sand and do some exercises. You'll start to get what we call sand legs. Sand legs allow your movements to become natural and effortless on the beach.
Ross: In the off-season, [my partner and I] try to get in a good three-hour practice in the morning. After that, it's either weights or plyos, or a combination for a couple hours. With all the physical stuff, it's also a lot about resting. So when your friends call to do stuff, sometimes you just have to say no so you can stay home and get eight or nine hours of sleep.
McPeak: I'm probably in the gym twice a week in terms of lifting. I'm on the beach three days a week and take one day entirely off. There's weights; there's running; there's cardio; there's volleyball. If you have a passion for something, you need to do everything you can to be the best athlete in whatever sport it is.
Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock