2019-09-25 09:00:00 CEST

#Spiketember: Shot selection is key

Making a good decision on how to hit the ball is far more important than the execution itself

Mol delays his shot decision until the very last possible momentMol delays his shot decision until the very last possible moment

What would you say is the most important factor of a successful spike?

Power? No.

Precision? Try again.

The angle from which the ball is hit? Nope.

According to the best beach volleyball players in the world, what really makes of a spike a successful one is that little thing called shot selection – or, in simple words, the decision of what to do every time they are up in the air and ready to hit the ball.

“Making a good decision is by far the most important thing when you’re spiking,” Rio 2016 Olympic champion Bruno Schmidt of Brazil said. “Accuracy and power obviously help a lot, but if you made the right call for starters, it won’t really matter if the ball went exactly where you planed or a meter off. You want to place the ball in the open court and in most of the cases figuring out the right spot is what will determine if you’ll score the point or not.” 

Beach volleyball players make these decisions dozens of times a match and every time they matter. Most importantly, every play is a different one since passing, setting and the opponents’ reaction are unique in each of them.

It’s a like a chess match between the spiker and the defenders and the key to Anders Mol, elected the best hitter of the World Tour last season, is to make that decision in the very last moment, when you have a clear picture of what’s going on across the net.

“You want to wait as much as you can to make that decision,” the Norwegian star explained. “When you’re making your approach, that’s when you need to start scanning what your opponents are doing so when you jump you can make a better-informed decision. Sometimes you’re up there and the block is right at your face, so you’ll go with a roll shot or something different to avoid it. If you have your mind set on how you’re going to hit before jumping and the block is right there, then you have no way out.”

Duda constantly relies on Agatha's call to decide where she's going to hit the ballDuda constantly relies on Agatha's call to decide where she's going to hit the ball

Shot selection is such an important decision that’s one of just a few in beach volleyball that doesn’t need to be made by a player alone. Most teams competing in the World Tour use the shot-calling strategy, in which after setting the ball a player will look at the other side of the net and tell his/her partner which area of the court is open, usually saying either “line” or “angle”.

Studies (yes, there’s science to that!) show that the calling strategy is an effective one and Brazilian prodigy Duda Lisboa, the best spiker of the World Tour among the women last season, definitely agrees with that.

“My partner is very, very important, especially when I’m struggling to side out,” she commented. “Sometimes I get into a bad run of plays and kind of lose my confidence a little bit and then it’s a great time to trust Agatha and follow her calls.”

Bruno is very mindful of his body language when he approaches the net for a spikeBruno is very mindful of his body language when he approaches the net for a spike

Whenever the decision is made, keep it to yourself. Blockers and defenders will be looking for every single move of hitters and will use them to read their approach and guess where they are going with their spikes. So, the less they can figure out, the better for the spiker.

“Whatever you decide to do, really go for it,” Bruno reflected. “But at the same, you don’t’ want your body language to show your opponent about the way you’re going to hit the ball. So the best thing is to have as much of a neutral approach as possible and not show what your plans are. You always want to be one step ahead.”

After all, it’s just like chess, isn't it?

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