Beach volleyball is as successful as it gets for spin off sports. From being a poor offspring of volleyball it has gone on to become an Olympic sport with widespread reach and popularity.
The game was invented on the beaches of Hawaii in 1915. It spread to mainland America and subsequently to rest of the world rather quickly. It is easy to see why. In terms of equipment, the sport only requires a volleyball and a net with two poles which can be dug into the ground and taken out at will. In terms of a ground, you only need a beach with enough parallel area. You can even draw the court boundaries in sand, simply by using a stick. Add to it the happy beach going spectators and the fit and athletic players and you have the recipe for instant success.
Beach volleyball started with the same rules as volleyball but has evolved to be quite different from the parent. The sport is played between teams of two players each as opposed to 6 in volleyball. It is played on a smaller court with no substitutions allowed. The sets are for 21 points instead of 25 in indoor volleyball and there are 3 sets instead of 5.
In terms of skills and team play, it would be fair to say that most of the skills required in indoor volleyball and beach volleyball are almost the same. The famous American player Karch Kiraly has won Olympic golds in both indoor and beach volleyball disciplines. However, because there are only 2 players per team, digging becomes very important and blocking is more difficult as there is only one blocker. It also means that more areas of the court are left uncovered and players use different skills, which require more finesse than power to drop the ball into empty spaces in the opponents’ court.
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Beach volleyball has been a part of summer Olympics since the 1996 games in Atlanta. The Americans Misty May and Kerry Walsh are the most celebrated beach volleyball Olympians of all time. They won three consecutive gold medals in the women’s discipline from 2004 to 2012 with Kerry Walsh adding a bronze to her tally of medals in 2016. The sport has been largely dominated by United States and Brazil who have won 23 out of the 36 medals on offer in the all-time table. Germany and Australia are the only two team apart from United States and Brazil to win a gold medal in either the men’s or women’s disciplines.