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Beach Volleyball: 15 Fun and Interesting Facts (History, Stats,…)

Beach volleyball is similar to standard volleyball but is played on a sand court. Many people do not know anything else about beach volleyball, and it can be a very underrated sport. As most beach volleyball players would agree, it is time to learn more about this unique sport.

Beach volleyball is a surprisingly fascinating sport. Some of the most interesting bits of info include the fact that athletes use secret signals to communicate, the rulebook is over 70 pages long, and the best players in the sport are millionaires. 

To learn more about beach volleyball and its history, read on!

These are 15 facts about beach volleyball:

1. Beach Volleyball Is an Olympic Sport.

Beach Volleyball’s Olympic introduction came during the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, where it was a demonstration sport. This means it was not officially an Olympic sport but was played for spectators, to increase its popularity. During this display, it gained popularity, and officials decided to make it a true Olympic sport.

At the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, athletes played the first Olympic-level game of beach volleyball. Both men’s and women’s beach volleyball was added to the program, and both have been played at Olympic games every year since its debut. Of course, it is a summer Olympic sport. 

2. Athletes Use Secret Signals During Their Games.

Beach volleyball is usually played in teams of two. This means the players need to work together and communicate while on the court. To avoid revealing their next move to the opposing team, players develop secret signals to show their partner what their desired block is. Each team has pre-determined and memorized their hand signals for ultimate effectiveness.

Signals are communicated as hand signals held behind the player’s back, so their partner, who is standing behind them, can see it without accidentally showing the opposing team. 

3. Brazil Has Won the Most Medals in Beach Volleyball.

Throughout all of the Olympic games that have included beach volleyball, Brazil has won the most medals. Their closest competitor is the United States.

4. Many People Think Beach Volleyball Originated in California.

The first known beach volleyball games were believed to be played in Santa Monica, California, in the 1920s. This view is expressed across beach volleyball sources, including the Olympics’ website. However, this is a misconception.

5. Beach Volleyball Actually Originated in Hawaii.

In 1915 in Hawaii, the Outrigger Beach and Canoe Club set up the first known beach volleyball court, several years before most people believed the first games to have been played in California. Despite this knowledge, California is still widely credited with the creation of beach volleyball.

6. The Great Depression Spurred Its Popularity.

Surprisingly, beach volleyball gained popularity as a sport during the time of the Great Depression. Perhaps because it was such a cheap sport to play, Americans spent time playing volleyball at the beach to save money on entertainment. After the Great Depression, its momentum continued, and it went on to spread across America.

7. A Team Can Hit the Ball 3 Times on Their Side.

When the ball crosses to one team’s side, they have three hits to send it back over the net. However, one player cannot hit the ball twice in a row- it must go back and forth between teammates. Even if the ball is hit by a player and accidentally bounces off another part of their body, this is not allowed.

8. The Rules Account for Weather Conditions.

Beaches tend to be windy, and you might be wondering how beach volleyball can be fairly played in these conditions. After all, the players hitting against the wind are at a disadvantage because they will have to hit harder and risk the ball being blown back in their direction, causing them to lose points.

The makers of beach volleyball took this potential issue into account when creating the rules- during the first two sets of the game, teams swap sides of the net every 7 points. During the last set, they swap every 5 points, ensuring each team plays about the same amount in each wind direction.

9. There Are Over 70 Pages of Rules.

Online, the official 2017-2020 beach volleyball rules are over 70 pages. These rules contain the philosophy behind the game’s rules and refereeing, the facilities and equipment, intervals, and playing actions. It extensively delves into the player’s contact, conduct, actions, and team rules. Another section covers referees, and the final section is completely devoted to diagrams outlining game situations.

10. Each Game Is Required to Use 3 Balls.

According to the FIVB rules, three balls must be used for each beach volleyball game in any official and world competitions. Six ball retrievers are stationed around the court to rotate the balls and retrieve any balls that go out of bounds.

11. Minimal Clothing Is Required.

Beach volleyball is one of the only sports in which less clothing is better. In most cases, players are required to play in either shorts or a swimsuit, which is not surprising given its beach origins. Surprisingly, no shoes are allowed in this game- players are required to be barefoot.

12. Players Can Enter Their Opponent’s Side.

Around the net, there is a “crossing zone” where the ball switches sides. This extends around the net to the imaginary extensions of antennae that sit on the edges of the nets and expand outward. If the ball is still in a designated “crossing zone” above the net, a player can reach into their opponent’s side to hit the ball. 

13. Kerri & Treanor Won 3 Consecutive Olympic Gold Medals.

Kerri Walsh-Jennings and Misty-May Treanor are the most successful beach volleyball pairing in history, with over 112 consecutive wins. Together, they won the 2005 and 2007 world championships in beach volleyball. Ultimately, they won the gold medal in the 2004, 2008, and 2012 Olympics, earning three consecutive Olympic gold medals for the United States. 

After she stopped playing with Treanor, Walsh-Jennings returned to the Olympics in 2016. Although she and her new partner, April Ross, did not take home the gold, they won the bronze medal, decorating Walsh-Jennings with her fourth medal.

14. The Best Players Have Made Millions.

Kerri Walsh-Jennings is one of the highest earners among female beach volleyball players, which makes sense given her Olympic-level status. From tournament winnings and matches, as well as sponsorships, Walsh-Jennings has accumulated a net worth of about 10 million U.S. dollars.

15. The United States Has the Most Gold Medals for Beach Volleyball.

Although Brazil has the most Olympic medals overall, the United States teams have brought home the most gold. In part, this lead can be attributed to Kerri Walsh-Jennings and Misty-May Treanor, who earned almost half of the United States’ Gold medals, bumping them ahead of Brazil.

Last Word

In conclusion, there is probably a lot you have not explored about beach volleyball! Despite its seemingly simple structure, beach volleyball has many complex rules and strategies. Moreover, its popularity has increased since it became an Olympic sport, allowing players to gain fame and fortune from this sandy game. If you like volleyball, but want a change of scenery or a few new twists, consider playing beach volleyball.