Ok, so something that I frequently come across as a beach volleyball coach, is a players choice to play tournaments with only their favorite or best option for a partner only. I completely understand this logic, however, unless you are making a living winning volleyball tournaments, you are making a big mistake. I see this phenomenon much more in juniors divisions than in adults, and unfortunately it will have a dramatic effect on your progression as a player. Of course there are exceptions to every rule, but for the majority of U18 players, it is it is not the smartest move.
Everyone has their favorite player to partner up with whether its because you have the most fun or have the best chance at winning with them. But what happens if that person is unavailable to play? Maybe they are out of town? Maybe they got injured? Or maybe they dumped you for someone they thought was better (more about this later)? No matter the reason, there are few things worse than wanting to play a tournament, and missing out on a prime opportunity to get tons of reps in, get out to the beach, and enjoy your weekend being competitive, because you choose not to play with someone that wasn’t your number 1 choice. If you and your partner are playing at any level lower than mid open level, and your goal is to become a better competitor, then you need to get out and play regardless of your partner! The volleyball world is amazing family to be a part of, but if you choose not to branch out, you are not only stunting your growth as a player, but your will also be stunting your personal growth. Sometimes you can learn little tricks and tips from the most unlikely people and places, but if you limit yourself by proposing volleyball marriage, those opportunities may just pass you by.
So here is the deal. You should not look at dumping your favorite volleyball partner as dumping your boyfriend or girlfriend. For that matter, nor should feel as though you have just been dumped if your favorite volleyball partner chooses to play with someone else. Instead of feeling rejected, use it as motivation. Motivation to become better, to work harder, to prove others they were wrong! You should also not feel guilty for choosing to play with someone else so long as you don’t tell them the night before a big tournament that you are playing with someone else (this is a matter of respect, not volleyball). Anyone that really cared about their partner/friend should not want to hold them back from bigger and better things. You may not always progress at the same speed as your partner. Take the current #1 USA mens team for example. Phil Dahlhausser and Nick Lucena were a great team breaking their way onto the AVP back in 2005 winning their first pro tournament. However, this would be the last the two would play together for 10 years! Phil teamed up with Todd Rogers and became one of the best teams in the world while Nick continued to work and grind his way back to the top of the pack, proving to his friend and long lost partner that he was Dalhausser’s number 1 choice once again.
In a nutshell, just go play and have fun. With the growth of beach volleyball and the pressures to become better, earn scholarships, coaches yelling and running sprints, don’t forget why you started playing this game. Not because beach volleyball is the best game ever (<——proven fact), but because you love the game. Grow yourself, grow the game.