Go Spike

Beach coaching clinic heads to Brentwood

1st June 2017

Beach coaching clinic heads to Brentwood

Anyone heading down to Brentwood in a couple of weeks for the next beach coaching clinic will not be left short-changed when it comes to coaching advice.

The wannabe Level 1 coaches will have Pete Guernari as their tutor; a decorated 30 year veteran of the coaching scene, with a CV which spans all three disciplines of the game – beach, sitting and indoor.

“The first thing I’ll be asking these new coaches is to keep an open mind,” says Pete. “I remember doing my FIVB qualification years ago in what was then Czechoslovakia and seeing at least four different ways in which my fellow students, drawn from four different continents, were setting. Every one of them was legal, so who’s to say what’s right or wrong?”

“I’ll also be reminding them not to be too concerned about seeing other people do stuff on court that they can’t do, as either coaches or players. We all started as complete novices at some point so there really is nothing to be nervous or embarrassed about. For example, from my time playing indoors, I always thought of myself as a decent athlete with a high standing jump. This simply didn’t translate into beach volleyball though. Apparently, I was jumping wrong for the beach! I was digging my toes into the sand as opposed to jumping from more of a flat-footed stance so I had to go back and remodel my jumping technique. Faced with something like that, you really do need to put your ego to one side.”

“I learned a lot about beach volleyball from (former England star) Denise Austin and I remember her saying that it takes two years for an indoor player to gain their ‘sand legs’. I think that’s absolutely right; it takes time for players to become comfortable with how the sand requires them to move differently. Appreciating this is therefore a critical part of learning to coach beach volleyball.”

Pete also suggests that coaches shouldn’t lose sight of quite how disconcerting it can be for indoor players (and coaches) taking to the beach for the first time, finding themselves stripped of all their usual visual frames of reference. “Never underestimate quite how challenging it can be to no longer have sports hall equipment, the walls or even the roof providing you with visual clues as to where you are on court.”

Talking about why players may fail to execute their skills properly leads to another interesting discussion on the psychology of coaching; something which Pete, as a professional counsellor, is well versed in.  “Mistakes happen,” he says, “but as a coach, I’m always more interested in hearing an athlete rationalise why a mistake happened, rather than trying to justify it. Learn from the mistake, don’t look for excuses.”

For any player looking for excuses, beach volleyball provides plenty in terms of the changeable climactic conditions it’s played in. Wind, rain and bright sunshine can all wreak havoc on a player’s game. However, learning to cope with those conditions makes beach players a pragmatic bunch, suggests Pete.

“I think that good beach players are more tolerant than their indoor equivalents. Indoors, I spent years coaching players to pass to a very specific area on court. On the beach, players want to be just as precise but they’re also pragmatic about this, knowing that the sand and weather conditions make perfection far harder to achieve. Getting the ball ‘there or thereabouts’ can be an acceptable outcome.”

“The coach’s challenge lies in distinguishing pragmatism from laziness. Yes, moving smoothly on the sand is tricky – which is why beach players have more rescue shots in their armoury. But that’s not to say you can’t always look to improve a player’s movement. It’s an area of the game where I do look to translate a lot of what I’ve learned from coaching indoors.”

The only concern ahead of the coaching clinic will be whether two days is enough for the effervescent tutor to get across everything he wants to. Despite having won trophies at pretty much every level of the game, his obvious enthusiasm for the sport is infectious and remains undimmed by time. His students will do well to simply keep up.

The two day Level 1 beach coaching clinic takes place over the weekend of June 17-18 at Brentwood Leisure centre. Places are still available at £140 per person and registrations will be taken up until June 9. A further clinic is scheduled for July 22-23 at Keele University in Staffordshire. For more information, or to reserve a place, click here.

To find a beach court near you, click here for a map of the 44 locations where beach volleyball facilities are available.

Beach coaching clinic heads to Brentwood