Collegiate Sand Volleyball 101
Shawn Garus, Boise State Head Coach

April 2, 2014

Questions you might be asking about Boise State’s new program and collegiate sand volleyball...

General questions about the Bronco sand volleyball program
Q: Will Boise State’s current student-athletes on the volleyball (indoor) team be eligible to compete on the sand volleyball team?
A: Yes, that is why the addition of the sport makes so much sense with a pool of players already on campus. They become two-sport athletes and must abide by the rules governing all two-sport athletes in terms of training hours, i.e. no more than 20 hours per week.

Q: Will Shawn Garus remain the head coach of the volleyball (indoor) team?
A: Yes, Shawn Garus will be the head coach for both teams.

Q: Does the sand volleyball team get any additional scholarships?
A: The NCAA does allow additional scholarships for sand volleyball specific student-athletes which is five for the 2014 season and six in 2015.

Q: Is sand volleyball an equivalency sport or a head count sport?
A: Sand volleyball is an “Equivalency Sport,” NOT a “Head-Count Sport.” Equivalency means that the scholarship limits are equivalent to full-ride scholarships, but they can be divided amongst multiple players as partial scholarships.

Q: Can the players on sand volleyball scholarships play on the volleyball (indoor) team?
A: No, they can only compete for the sand volleyball program. The volleyball (indoor) team is allowed only 12 scholarship members.

Q: Where will the Broncos play home matches?
A: Though Boise State will not host any matches in 2014, there will be a permanent facility ready in 2015.


General questions about the sport
Q: When did sand volleyball become an NCAA sport?
A: The NCAA started the sport in 2012 as an “emerging sport.”

Q: What does “emerging sport” mean?
A: An emerging sport is a sport recognized by the NCAA that is intended to provide additional athletic opportunities to female student-athletes, but the NCAA does not hold a championship tournament. Each emerging sport is given 10 years to become sponsored and funded by at least 40 institutions at the varsity level. The 10 year time period is given to allow the progress of each sport to steadily increase across various colleges and universities. In the years since the emerging-sports list was created four have earned full-fledged championship status (women’s rowing, women’s ice hockey, women’s water polo, women’s bowling).

Q: Is there a national championship tournament if the NCAA does not sponsor it?
A: Yes, there is currently a national championship tournament for sand volleyball that is sponsored by the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) which is held in early May at Gulf Shores, Ala. Pepperdine won the first championship in 2012 while Long Beach State won in 2013.

Q: Will the NCAA ever sponsor a championship tournament?
A: The NCAA requires 40 participating teams for a sport to move from the Emerging Sports List to full NCAA sponsorship, which includes a championship. With the popularity of sand volleyball already at an all-time high, many believe this will not take much time. Should funds be approved for a championship in the next budget cycle, the NCAA would host its first national championship in the spring of 2016.

Q: How many schools currently sponsor teams nationwide?
A: Sand volleyball is entering its third season in 2014 and will have 43 NCAA Division I teams nationwide. There were 30 teams in 2013 the second season as a collegiate sport. It began with 16 teams in 2012.

Q: How many schools have added sand volleyball for 2014?
A: Boise State was the seventh of 13 schools to add the sport for 2014.

Q: Since Boise State announced its was adding sand volleyball last August have any other schools in the region or Mountain West Conference added it?
A: Yes, two other Pacific Northwest schools have added the sport for 2014 in the University of Oregon and University of Washington. In addition, San Jose State has added it making two current members of the Mountain West with the sport.

Q: When is the sand volleyball season?
A: Sand volleyball is a spring team sport. The Division I playing season starts the first Thursday in March and ends with the conclusion of the recognized national intercollegiate sand volleyball championship events in early May.

Q: How many matches will the team play?
A: Sand volleyball teams are allowed 16 days in which to compete on, a team can play as many matches on each day as they want. Each team is required to play a minimum of eight dates with three of the competitions being dual matches.


Questions about the specifics of the game
Q: What is the format of play?
A: Each school will field five doubles teams ranked by ability. Each doubles team plays against the corresponding team or teams from other schools, much like tennis. In a dual meet, the winning team is the school winning three of the five matches. Individual matches are two sets to 21, with a tiebreaker set to 15, if needed. All sets are rally scoring and must be won by two points.

Q: Is sand volleyball like other sports where they play head-to-head against another team?
A: Sand volleyball has three basic types of competition: head-to-head or dual format, team tournament and the other being flight play.

  • DUAL PLAY: Dual play format consists of two schools facing off with five doubles teams each. Teams are paired up head-to-head (1v1, 2v2, 3v3 etc). 
  • TOURNAMENT PLAY: Tournament play includes multiple schools playing in consecutive dual matches. 
  • FLIGHT PLAY: Some events will feature a pair’s tournament to allow doubles teams to play across flights. It is basically a format with a point system, where respective doubles teams from each school face off in five flights in order of skill level (all the ones in one flight, all the twos together, etc.). A first place finish in each flight earns four points, second place earns three points, third place earns two points, and fourth place earns one point. Points are totaled for each program, so if a school placed first in all five flights, they would get 20 cumulative points. If a team got last in every flight, they would finish with just five cumulative points.


Q: How is the sport of sand volleyball different from court (indoor) volleyball?
A: Beyond the differences in number of players on a side and surface for competition, sand volleyball is officiated much differently than court volleyball. No open handed tipping is allowed and setting is called so tightly in sand volleyball that the bump set is more popular than the overhead set. Also, the block counts as one of the three hits, but the blocker can contact the ball a second consecutive time after the block, giving the defender just one hit to play the ball over the net. There are just two players per team and no substitutions, this makes stamina much more important. Another difference is that coaches may only speak to players or give them any kind of input or feedback during timeouts and between sets. Also, to mitigate the impact of wind and sun, the players switch sides of the court every seven points in a 21-point set and every five points in a 15-point set.

Q: Why are there “defender” and “blocker” positions?
A: Although beach volleyball players must be very well-rounded, there is still specialization. One partner will usually be the designated blocker because they are more imposing at the net, while the defender is quick and agile, ready to dig anything that comes past the blocker. Many times, the shorter player is the defender and is served the majority of the balls, since a taller player will more likely be the better attacker. That said, the chemistry between every team is different and some teams choose to “split-block”, which means they switch defensive roles depending upon the situation.


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