Working well as a team is paramount to success in two-on-two beach volleyball.
US veteran beach volleyball standout April Ross has managed to achieve that with three different partners, winning Olympic medals alongside both Jennifer Kessy and Kerri Walsh Jennings before battling to a silver medal at the 2017 FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championships with new partner Lauren Fendrick.
Ross, who has won silver and bronze medals at the Olympic Games as well as the 2009 world title, stresses that open communication, understanding a partner’s mindset and developing the right chemistry are all essential in order to thrive and win matches.
Ross and Fendrick entered the 2017 World Championships as the 14th seeds but managed to exceed expectations by excelling together to reach the final, where they fought valiantly before losing to the German Olympic champions Laura Ludwig and Kira Walkenhorst.
“A lot of our chemistry stems from supporting each other,” Ross says about her success with Fendrick. “I think our communication is the best that I’ve ever had with a team-mate and that helps to create chemistry on the court. At the world championships, we definitely did that.”
Here, Ross offers her top tips for teamwork and chemistry on the field of play…
IF YOU MAKE A MISTAKE, OWN IT. IF YOU COULD HAVE DONE SOMETHING BETTER TO HELP YOUR TEAM-MATE SUCCEED DURING A PLAY, RECOGNISE THAT.
Be accountable for yourself
“If you make a mistake, own it. If you could have done something better to help your team-mate succeed during a play, recognise that. You can almost always do something to help out your team or team-mate and give yourselves a better chance of success. If you get caught up with your team-mate’s mistakes, get down on them or let it affect you negatively, it’s going to make winning less likely. Always be accountable for yourself, and support and help your team-mate wherever possible.”
Understand there is a “right” amount of communication
“Too much communication can overwhelm your team-mate, be unnecessary and waste time while preventing them from sharing information with you. Keep it to the essentials and let your partner also have a say regarding strategy. Too little, however, can also be detrimental. If you are both communicating, you and your partner will feed off each other’s energy.”
Establish a game plan together
“Get together and discuss a game plan before matches so that you go into them with the same ideas about what you’re going to do strategically. Make sure you debrief afterwards as well, whether you win or lose. Talk about what went well or what went wrong and how you’re going to fix it.”
Be a good team-mate off the field of play
“Being a good team-mate extends to off the field of play as well. When you’re with your team away from the court, it goes a long way to be inclusive and accepting of everyone. If you exclude or make a team-mate feel alienated, it’s going to transfer to the field of play, and your chemistry – and potential – will suffer. The most successful teams I’ve been on have done a great job with this and it’s also a lot more fun for everyone involved. I firmly believe this is essential to maximising a team’s potential.”
“Sometimes you will disagree with your team-mate or coaches, but be open to trying new techniques or strategies even if you’re not sure, especially in practice. If you are not open to your team’s ideas, you won’t be using all resources to maximise your team’s potential. I’ve learned this the hard way – I have very strong opinions and I’m sometimes resistant to trying things that don’t fit within my comfort zone. I’ve become better, however, and I see many different ways to make myself and my team improve.”
BEING A GOOD TEAM-MATE EXTENDS TO OFF THE FIELD OF PLAY AS WELL. WHEN YOU’RE WITH YOUR TEAM AWAY FROM THE COURT, IT GOES A LONG WAY TO BE INCLUSIVE AND ACCEPTING OF EVERYONE.