Healthy team performance in the sand
The block-defense-strategy in beach volleyball explained in a different way: how the Chinese philosophy can engage on the beach court. The basis for this is a block-defense distribution in beach volleyball, taking purely psychological aspects into account.
Do you know YIN and YANG? This interplay of apparent opposites. The day consists of light and dark. Humanity is divided into man and woman. Success grows from gain and loss. And a beach volleyball team is made up of block and defense. Great! Then let’s start using the Yin & Yang philosophy for the block-defense strategy in beach volleyball.
The YIN aspect tends to stand for the substantial, material, solid, dark, stable, supporting, recovering, nourishing.
The YANG aspect stands for the dynamic, spiritual, airier, brighter, changing, moving, releasing, consuming.
Both aspects move in a continuous, situationally adaptable and balanced energy equilibrium. This creates a flow in a living organism. They interact in a continuous interdependence, mutual transformation and constant reciprocal consumption in order to ensure or restore the well-being and health of mind and soul in the long term.
YIN & YANG on the court
Two opposing aspects that are mutually dependent, complementary, controlling and transforming each other. This is how they create their balance.
Let’s transfer this approach to beach volleyball: the yin and yang aspects transform into each other. Example: Receiving is followed by releasing the ball and vice versa. The ball is received via the serve (= release) and is then released for the subsequent action (e.g. serve). This type of transformation is described as a harmonious change in the natural course of events. This allows time to be experienced and the development of the game structure to be felt.
The yin and yang aspects can be distinguished and are simultaneously connected. They determine and generate each other. For example: jubilation can only be experienced as an emotion in comparison with sadness. Height requires depth in order to be perceived. And the soft sand under your feet compacts for a stable landing.
The yin and yang aspects control each other. Any one-sidedness would be destructive in the long run. Example: Emotions are pleasant when joy and sadness are balanced. One-sidedness threatens a state of exhaustion.
It can be seen that yin and yang constantly produce each other and thus bring about a continuous, careful transformation. An incessant give and take – an exchange of energy.
Let’s go a more concrete step and transfer the approach to the block and defense positions: In order for energy to flow, a structure is needed – so-called lanes. In beach volleyball, this basic structure is provided by two positions: Block & Defense. This is associated with a certain distribution of tasks and the assumption of responsibility in the sand. The blocking and defense roles are taken on by athletes with individual personalities. In order for energy exchange and flowing freely, accessible and permeable paths through clarity are required.
The model – clarity combined with YIN & YANG
Healthy team performance requires an optimal team frequency. To tune this, (1) clarity has to be worked out and (2) combined with the Yin & Yang approach:
Clarity about the distribution of tasks, responsibilities and the own personality in order to utilize strengths and balance weaknesses.
The block = Yin
Let’s start by looking at the tasks of the individual positions – regardless of the personality that will later fill the position. The block is responsible for the first hurdle that the opponent’s ball has to overcome. The task of the block is to act as a wall to fend off the opponent’s attack so that the ball stays safely with the opponent and falls into the sand – the firewall in beach volleyball.
Let’s focus on the mental requirements of the personality: What does it take in terms of mentality? Calmness, timing, precision, patience, focus, concentration, belief, conviction, self-confidence, courage, anticipation.
The defense = Yang
The defense is responsible for the second hurdle through which the opponent’s ball must find its way into the sand and therefore acts as a backup for the block. The task of the defense is therefore to compensate for the gap in the first hurdle. Which mentality is valuable here? Flexibility, logic, reading the opponent, security, determination, conviction, belief. As a jaguar, the defense lurks in the block shadow and balances out the attack with its dynamic movements. A renewed build-up of play with a successful attack can be the reward for the secure defense.
Block as Yin, defense as Yang
Based on the characteristics of the respective aspects, the block embodies the yin and the defense the yang. Both together balance each other individually and situationally. This balance is created through interdependence, complementarity and exclusion. And this logic leads to the joint block-defense strategy: fending off the opponent’s attack in such a way that a point is scored on your own account. The following overview illustrates the interplay based on the chains of action:

[block-defense in interaction – what is conditional, complementary and mutually exclusive?]

An example of an action chain: a successful block is conditioned by the appropriate action (block selection) and knowledge of the action area (1a), supplemented by knowledge of the safety of the defense (2a) and excludes an action by the defense (3a). The energy flows from the opponent’s attack into the successful block directly to the point.
A look at the individual personality complements the overall work in order to make strengths and weaknesses usable for the model. From the outside, the block personality appears to be introverted, calm and deliberate – in other words, it tends to embody the yin aspect on the court. Defensive personalities, on the other hand, appear more open, lively and energetic in their nature – in other words, they tend to embody the yang aspect on the court. When the athlete assumes the respective position and thus takes on the role, an analysis of the personality can be essential in order to act in balance.
The model takes into account the psychological aspects of block-defense behavior. If the team succeeds in ensuring its individual balance (Yin & Yang) at this level, then being able to defend is a constant security that brings a carefree and healthy team performance into the sand.
The Yin & Yang aspect is extremely versatile and can also be transferred to other elements and sports. This modeling can be used and adapted for this purpose.
Finally, I would like to share an encouraging image with you: each of us has a proportion of both yin and yang energy flowing through us, rocking in unison and harmony on our inner seesaw.
The original article was published in the German volleyball magazine in July 2023:
Link to the german version: Yin & Yang im Beachvolleyball
Link to the Swedish Beachvolleyball Players Åhman/Hellvig: Yellow is the new gold