As with any sport, there are a whole lot of unwritten rules in beach volleyball to accompany the official rules. Because these are not official rules, you aren’t in danger of being penalized for breaking them, but you are in danger of making a bad impression on other players.

One of the biggest differences you will notice at your first beach tournament is that there are no official referees. You and your partner will be reffing the matches of other teams, and when you are playing, other players will be reffing your match. Your responsibility as a referee will be to keep track of the score, call the ball in or out, watch for foot faults, nets, double contacts, or other rule violations. Your main goal as a ref is to let the players play. If you aren’t 100% about a call, then don’t make it. Rather, let the players decide the outcome of the game. Just don’t take this advice as an excuse not to watch the play. Pay attention and give your undivided attention to the match you are reffing.

Match Format:
Typically, matches are best 2 out of 3 games to 21 and a third game to 15. Don’t be surprised, though, if your tournament director shortens this to one game to 21, especially if you end up in a five-team pool. Every 7 points, teams will switch sides, so keep track of the total score and on multiples of 7, switch sides. If it goes to a third game, teams switch on multiples of 5. If you notice that a side switch is supposed to happen but no one has done anything, they likely just haven’t realized it, so speak up!

Warming Up:
Both teams will have a total of 10 minutes to warm up, so make sure you are ready to go as soon as the previous match ends. This may mean standing off to the side of the court while the other match finishes up and tossing the ball back and forth to start warming up your arms. You can also pepper beforehand or stretch—anything that doesn’t require the net. Because there is precious little time you’ll have with the net, you want to take advantage of it when it comes. Spend your time on the net practicing hitting and serving. Both teams will be warming up on the same net and court at the same time, so you will want to make sure you know what the expectations are for sharing. Typically, each team gets one half of the court, but if in doubt, go ahead and ask the other team.

Coin/Ball Toss:
There will either be a coin or ball toss to determine serve and side. During a ball toss, one member of the team is chosen to compete. Each player has their own ball and stands at one sideline. On a count of three, the players will toss the ball, aiming to come as close to the opposite sideline without touching it or going over. Whichever ball ends up closest to the other sideline wins. The winner has the choice of choosing serve/receive or side. When choosing serve/receive, their team will get to serve or receive serve first and the other team can choose side. If they choose side, they select a side to start on and the other team can choose to serve or receive serve.

Retrieving Stray Balls:
Your team is responsible for retrieving balls after the rally that end up on your side of the net. If the ball is on the other side of the net, simply let the other team retrieve it for you. If you are retrieving a ball for the other team, make sure to roll it under the net as opposed to throwing it. Try to roll it so that it lands as close as possible to the back line. If your court has more than one ball, the extra balls not currently in use should sit behind the back line at a safe distance. Just make sure to keep an eye on where the ball is at all times.

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