Playing in Big Winds

January 4, 2021

4 min read

Advice for Training and Competing on Windy Days.

Steven Ijams
Owner -South Bay Volleyball - Beach Volleyball Academy

Here in Southern California, it's not often we have extreme wind conditions where the winds are in the 20+ mph range. Training in Chicago where 20+ mph winds are just a normal day, I've had the opportunity to really hone my craft on days that are less than desirable.

Over the last couple decades of coaching beach volleyball in the South Bay, late spring/early summer seems to be the "windy season", so I wanted to take this opportunity to share what I've learned about wind play so our athletes and followers can prepare for this part of the season.

GOLDEN RULE #1 - Embrace the elements!!  You only need to hate it less than your opponent.
GOLDEN RULE #2 - Be tenacious!  Scrap for the extra/misc. points.


SERVING - I like to mix it up but often find myself trying to serve deep and stand the opponent up.  This often causes passes off the net which provides a little more time to defend and a bit more predictability from the opponent.  Also, it's common in these situations that hitters overrun their sets which causes the opponent to hit with less pace/accuracy.

PASSING - When wind is at your back, passing is often the most difficult and the most important.

  • PRE-PROCESS!  BEFORE the serve, process the effects/movement of the ball on BOTH ends (on its way to you and how you need to adjust your pass to your setter).
  • Also during your "pre-processing", recognize how you'll need to adjust your set if they serve your partner.  (Note: you'll have a bit more time to recognize and adjust your set once they've served your partner).
  • Visual pursuit! Once my pre-processing is done, I like to stay focused on visually tracking the ball the ENTIRE flight.  That means all the way into the arms or at least eye level.
  • Try to get closer to the ball to have a more upright posture to take distance off the ball so it doesn't blow into it over the net.
  • Keep a wide base. If you get into a lunge position or if you get crossed over with your feet, your pass is nearly guaranteed to be off target.

ATTACKING - Take a little pace off the ball and spin the ball more but hit your shots with conviction.  Fear of mistakes cause errors. In broken plays, back your opponent up by going deeper into the court.  This often has the same effect as serving deep and forces a much longer pass and approach into the wind.

BLOCKING  - I like to have defaults with blocking and then react to situations that change those default.  In this wind situation by default, I'm usually thinking "pull" unless the ball is close enough to smother or if attacker is comfortably behind their set. Examine the situation for the hitter.  Just because the ball is set off the net doesn't always mean "pull".  If the hitter has the ball in front of them and has a strong approach, it could warrant a committed block.

SETTING - Proper positioning and quick feet are important on non windy days but on windy days, it's critical.  If passes are controlled, try and use small touches on the ball but at the same time, provide enough time for the hitter so they have the opportunity to hit a hard ball.  Under-setting partners usually forces them to hit shots or causes hitting errors.

In general, be more conscience on playing cooperative with your partner. Use touches that "better" the bad plays by splitting distances with your partner.


SERVING - Mix up your serves!  Jump serves, jump floats, side spins, locations, speeds etc. don't let them get acclimated to one type of serve from the bad side of the court.

PASSING  - Usually a bit easier on the good side but stay committed and finish your passes.  Getting behind the ball is HUGE for consistent/straight attacking lines.  Make sure to push your passes to the net.  Balls passed off the net are likely to be set towards the net and into the wind.  When this happens the flight of the ball becomes a bit more unpredictable to the hitter and more difficult to get under the ball and make solid contact.

When passing free balls, finish your passes!  It's easy and common to get excited and switch your focus beyond the pass before its complete.  This often causes unforced passing errors.  I've seen it happen thousands of times.

ATTACKING - The simple version - stay behind your ball and be aggressive!  You'll have more court to work with as long as you jump hard and work the top half of the ball.

BLOCKING - Anticipate more over passes and over sets. Wouldn't hurt to start a few feet off the net to keep these over passes-sets in front of you and make your attack easier. (If you stay at the net, keep a mental note to prepare to shot block more often).

Because passing on the other side is more difficult, be ready to pull with conviction if opponents offense falls apart.

Last, don't be afraid to take calculated risks and fake the block on really tight sets if you see the attacker struggling to get to the set.  This has two functions. First, it should keep you safer if, and when your opponent comes under the net on their follow through.  Second, since they are racing to get to the ball first, they are likely trying to go just over your block which means you should be positioned on the ground right where the ball ends up.

SETTING - Always set with good tempo but don't be afraid to set just slightly farther in front of your hitter than you're used to. You want them chasing your set a bit and not over running/waiting for the ball on the ground.  This will also help your hitter stay behind the ball.  Make it a priority to get all the way around the ball to where your almost facing into wind for better distance control off/on the net.  This makes a big difference.  Set aggressive!

DEFENSE - Short shots and cut shots are often obvious (harder to disguise) coming from the bad side.  Make sure to study the hitter instead of staring at the entire flight of the set.  When studying your hitter, pay close attention to where the set or situation leads their attack.   Protect the seam without occupying it.

Last, get your mind in the right place.  If you are on the bad side, fight and grind for every point you can but recognize that mistakes will happen and that it's the "bad side" for a reason.  Also, keep your composure!  If you're at the level that you can process many of the things on the list without thought, remind yourself to maintain control of your touch on the ball as well as your emotions.  If you're on the good side, play aggressive but not irresponsibly.  Don't be afraid of trying to score in "yellow light" situations.

Now, go get your wind game on!!