Lausanne, Switzerland, September 21, 2017 - When the first international beach volleyball circuit was launched in 1989/90, it featured just three tournaments and a total prize purse of $140,000. Last season, $800,000 were up for grabs at the Swatch Beach Volleyball FIVB World Tour Finals alone.
FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour events are now held all year round and in countries across the world. And the development of the competition has also brought rapid changes in training methods. The top teams in the world now enjoy all-round care from a host of experts.
When it all began three decades ago, that was by no means the case. “When I started out, there was nothing: no statistics, no masseurs, no psychologist, no trainer, no co-trainer. You have all those things today,” said beach legend Karch Kiraly. The American won the first Olympic beach volleyball competition alongside Kent Steffes in Atlanta in 1996.
In the early days of professional beach volleyball, the two players were usually completely on their own. According to Kiraly, this had its own benefits: “The players just used to figure it out. We learned an incredible amount that way: about ourselves, and also how to react to problems. That was training for life. Learn to be a better learner. Learn to solve problems on your own.” However, for Kiraly beach volleyball has changed dramatically since. “The game has become far more aggressive, especially with the jump serves. The sport is also much bigger than it was back then.”
Anyone wanting to be successful at the beach volleyball tournaments around the world, and earn good money in the process, must be ready. The strain and stress caused by traveling and the number of matches played at the highest level mean that successful rehabilitation and psychological factors are also key.
Current Olympic and world champions Laura Ludwig/Kira Walkenhorst are excellent examples of how to deal with these issues.World champions Kira Walkenhorst and Laura Ludwig celebrate their title with their team
After winning the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championships in Vienna in August, Laura Ludwig introduced the team “without whom our sensational success would never have been possible.”
The mastermind behind the German team's success was head trainer Jürgen Wagner, who also coached Germans Julius Brink/Jonas Reckermann to World Championship and Olympic gold. “He is a real calming influence, which is something I definitely needed in my life. He always has a vision and an explanation. He somehow seems to have a seventh sense. His knowledge of all areas is superior to that of anyone else. And he has an answer for any situation,” said Laura Ludwig. He was ably assisted by co-trainer Helke Claasen. The former beach volleyball player was responsible for training the two athletes.
Physiotherapists Jochen Dirksmeyer and Katharina Hubert were equally important. “Over the past few years, we have always had periods during which we have been injured or had physical issues. Their skill is outstanding, as is their willingness to go above and beyond the call of duty,” said Walkenhorst. Like doctor Michael Tank, they were both on call around the clock for the world champions.
Scouts Raimund Wenning and Ron Gödde were another important piece of the puzzle. Their work with statistics allowed them to expose the weaknesses of the team's opposition.
“Ron is at every tournament and works long days. He definitely gets less sleep than anyone else,” said Ludwig.
And then there is psychologist Anett Szigeti. “She is an incredibly important member of our team. She worked with us to develop a system, with which we can overcome periods when we are having problems with our health and our game. We won the World Championship in our heads. Working with her in recent years has given us mental strength and freedom, as well as the knowledge of how to overcome situations that may occur during a match,” said Walkenhorst.
The most successful women’s team of recent years is a fine example of how beach volleyball and the FIVB World Tour have changed over the past three decades. And development is set to continue with technology playing an increasingly important role as a new season gets underway.