Friday, February 22, 2013

Scoring by Offensive Zones in Men's and Women's Beach Volleyball

Born as a game of recreation, beach volleyball has evolved from a casual past-time to an international sport played by elite athletes with its own world tour and prominent place in the Olympic Games.  In the United States, beach volleyball is now supported by the national governing body for volleyball, is officially an emerging women's collegiate sport, and is currently experiencing unprecedented organized growth at the junior level.

As the sport evolves so grows our need to better understand the game and use that knowledge to develop efficient training programs responsive to the games' unique challenges.  One of the most reliable sources of information concerning the training demands of beach volleyball is in scientific investigations of its action sequences.  Action sequence studies have long been utilized to predict opponent behavior and develop sport-specific training programs across a variety of sports.  Only recently have researchers begun studying the game of beach volleyball in this way.  Future research holds promise to better inform our understanding of the game and raise both the level of play and effectiveness of coaching.

In the first published study of its kind, researchers from the University of Alicante in Spain studied differences by gender in the use of offensive scoring zones in beach volleyball.[1]  Studying gender-based differences in the indoor game of volleyball has previously lead to a better understanding of how to improve performance through efficient training emphases.  The contribution of the instant study seeks to extend the research-based approach to improvement into the discipline of beach (or "sand") volleyball.

Participants were 20 athletes (10 men and 10 women) who competed in the European Beach Volleyball Championship in 2005 and 2006.  Results were culled from 659 points scored in 18 sets over 8 matches.  The court was divided into 6 zones as shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1:


The researchers found that there were indeed differences by gender in the zones used to score points in beach volleyball.  Men used zones 2 and 4 most often to score while women athletes scored most often in zones 1 and 5.

Interestingly, both men and women rarely scored in the deep middle zone (zone 6).  Men scored in the deep middle at a rate of only 5.26% while women scored 5.67% of the time.

The zone least utilized to score by men was zone 3 where male athletes scored just 3.44% of the time.   By adjacent zones, areas 3 and 6 were the least utilized areas for scoring in both the men's and women's game with men utilizing those zones to score at a combined 8.70% and women scoring there at a combined rate of 13.40%.

Attack Error Rates & Types

Researchers also identified gender related differences in attack error rates and types.  In the men's game, out-of-bounds attack errors were committed at a rate of 15.53% compared to 27.38%  in the women's game.  The frequency numbers were reversed for attack errors into the net.  Men's net errors occurred at a rate of 7.73% while women committed net errors only 5.53% of the time.  Comparing attack error frequencies, it appears that there is a greater frequency of points scored without a rally in the women's game (32.73%) than in the men's game (23.26%).

Significance & Further Research

The significance of these findings for beach volleyball athletes and coaches remains to be seen.  Certainly, knowledge of zone use tendencies has coaching implications both for scouting and training athletes, but our "knowledge" of such tendencies must await further studies.  A question for future research will be whether these zone usage findings are consistent with the tactics employed in amateur levels of beach volleyball, for example, in the women's collegiate sand game.  As sports science research continues to expand into beach volleyball we all can be excited about its potential to improve our understanding of the game and, in turn, assist us to coach our athletes more effectively.


[1] Chinchilla Mira, J. J., Pérez Turpin, J. A., Martínez Carbonell, J. A., & Jove Tossi, M. (2012). Offensive zones in beach volleyball: differences by gender.  Journal Human Sport & Exercise, 7:3, 727-732.