SANDCAST: LSU becoming beach power but nowhere near a beach

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Russell Brock-LSU
Russell Brock talks to his LSU team/Daniel Shirey, LSU photo

A common issue being navigated by the vast majority of college beach volleyball coaches:

“What tools did they have in their indoor game?” LSU coach Russell Brock said on SANDCAST: Beach Volleyball with Tri Bourne and Travis Mewhirter. “Being able to evaluate them on film or in person, to be able to say ‘You know what, this is the stuff that’s going to translate really well to our game, or these are the things that are going to limit our ability to be successful on the short term.’ It’s gotta be a fast transition.

“What do they do well and how can I help them understand how it can directly translate to the beach game?”

Whether it’s LSU or USC or Pepperdine or UCLA, nearly every college beach coach will have to make that evaluation – how much of a player’s game will have to be modified from indoor to fit the sand?

Brock, though, and every other sand program not located on one coast or another, has another obstacle: How do you get volleyball players to play beach volleyball for a school that is nowhere near a beach?

LSU is located in Baton Rouge, a good four-hour drive from Gulf Shores, Ala., site of the NCAA Championships and likely the closest natural beach there is for the Tigers. It presents an obvious dichotomy from, say, USC, UCLA, Pepperdine, Hawaii, Long Beach State, Cal Poly, Loyola Marymount and a number of other programs that have a bounty of beaches to from which to choose.

Manhattan Beach or Hermosa? Santa Monica or Huntington?

LSU plays at a bar.

Ok. That sentence is misleading. Yes, Mango’s Beach Volleyball is a bar and restaurant, but it also comes equipped with 13 beach courts that are well-lit, well-maintained and as deep, if not deeper, than Manhattan Beach’s famously deep sand.

It is, objectively speaking, an excellent complex, one that prides itself on being the home of LSU beach volleyball.

But it’s not a beach. While as close a representation as a sand complex can get, Brock recognizes that the location of California alone is “just a massive advantage from a recruiting perspective,” he said.

“And I went to (U)SC, so I understand the passion that’s involved with the tradition of all the schools out there with UCLA and Long Beach, and the girls who have wanted to go there growing up because their parents played and their grandparents played and it’s what they just do. Inevitably there’s a big advantage to that.

“The realistic perspective is, a lot of those players aren’t interested in leaving California, and I get it. I don’t hold it against them, it’s a beautiful place. There’s a ton of opportunities to play a sport at a really high level out there. For us, it’s about building our brand as a beach program to prove that we can play the game and play it well, to become attractive to people, regardless of where they’re from, to respect it and to know that we can train them and we can give them opportunities moving forward to continue to play the game and compete at the highest level. And that’s what takes time.”

But not, it seems, a tremendous amount of time. LSU is already one of the top programs in the country, consistently in the top 10 of the AVCA coaches poll, beginning the season at No. 6.

“We’re looking for the very best talent, wherever it might be,” Brock said. “We can’t care where they come from … and LSU is a pretty unique place. When people do move here from wherever they come from, they’re always impressed. There’s a lot of things that if you want it, we can provide it, and we can provide it at a super high level.”

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