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Beach Volleyball vs. Indoor Volleyball - What “Sets” Them Apart?

08.28.2023 | By: Valerie Spears

Beach volleyball is bumping up in popularity thanks to legends like Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings, Olympic gold medalists in beach volleyball, who left their mark on the sport — and Texas Wesleyan University has taken notice. Starting this spring, new players are taking to the sand under coach Jorge Rodriguez to serve up the first-ever TXWES women’s beach volleyball team. Wondering what makes beach volleyball different from indoor volleyball? Here are some key differences:  

Infographic stating the differences in beach volleyball and indoor volleyball

Battlegrounds: Sand vs. Hard Court Glory  

Picture this — the soaring Texas sun, slight breeze in the air and soft sand between your toes. This is the domain of Texas collegiate beach volleyball, where players battle the unpredictable outdoor elements. But inside? Floors of wood or synthetic material tremble as players deliver thunderous spikes and lightning-fast dives. Each requires different techniques in footwork and ball control due to the unique surfaces. 

Indoor volleyball also has a slightly bigger court with an attack line that the back row players must stay behind. In beach volleyball, players can hit the ball from anywhere. 

Teams: Dynamic Duos vs. Power-Packed Squads 

With indoor courts, more players make up the team as six players spread across the court, each with a unique position to help keep the ball from hitting the ground. From setters and spikers to middle blockers and defensive specialists, indoor volleyball uses each player's talents to perform specialized tasks. But it’s a completely different story than beach volleyball, where two players team up to work strategically. The smaller team size means the two players on the sandy court need to perform with a wider range of skills that can assume multiple responsibilities.  

Gameplay: Sets, Subs and Scoring 

Both collegiate beach volleyball and indoor volleyball follow similar basic rules, such as rally scoring and rotating positions. But there are variations in gameplay and rules. In indoor volleyball, matches are typically played in sets of five, with each set played to25 points. Collegiate beach volleyball, on the other hand, generally follows a best-of-three sets format, with each set played to 21. Indoor volleyball also allows for player substitutions whereas the dynamic duo of beach volleyball play until the end of the game.  

Strategies: Fierce Fakes and Crafty Serves 

Strategic warfare unfolds in both arenas, with coaches and players working to outsmart their opponents— but each sport has different tactics. In indoor volleyball, it’s a dance of precision and finesse, as teams navigate the court, being deceptive with fakes and launching attacks. The emphasis lies in ball control, quick decision-making and coordinated teams playing with a faster-paced and smaller court setting. On the sand, the game transforms into a power-packed showcase, where serves slice through the air and the unpredictable sand adds a little edge to the game. Players have to master ball placement, agility and efficient communication to get that win.  

Although both beach volleyball and indoor volleyball share common roots, they have evolved into distinct variations of the sport. Whether it's the fast-paced, strategic nature of indoor volleyball or the dynamic, power-focused style of beach volleyball, both versions provide exciting opportunities for athletes and spectators alike — and you can now participate in both sports at Texas Wesleyan.