By Gideon Rubin
Ariel Haas launched the San Diego Volleyball Camp a decade ago which was — in terms of the evolution of beach volleyball — an entirely different era.
The sport that once sat on the fringes has surged into the mainstream, with major colleges offering scholarships for what within the last year has become an officially sanctioned NCAA sport.
Haas will hold the longest-running nonprofit beach volleyball camp in San Diego County for a 10th straight year starting later this month.
Haas, the camp’s director, is Canyon Crest Academy’s girls’ volleyball coach.
“My goal was to bring out all the indoor kids to learn the beach game,” he said. “This was before colleges started to create and add sand programs and local clubs started to add sand programs.”
Times have changed since Haas started the camp in partnership with the Association of Volleyball Professionals in 2005, but his objective hasn’t.
The two-week camp is open to girls ages 12 to 18 of all skill levels. Haas said the participants will be split into beginner, intermediate and advanced divisions.
The camp will be held in separate segments from July 21-25 at Del Mar Dog Beach and from July 28 to Aug. 1 at Pacific Beach (South Mission Volleyball Courts). Participants can sign up for either or both segments of the camp.
And Haas insists that the camp offers something for all participants.
For those with limited experience, the camp offers basic instruction.
For advanced indoor players, it offers a an opportunity to develop a more well-rounded skill set playing two-on-two than they get in the indoor game, with six players on each side.
Perhaps more important, the sand game provides year-round players a much-needed break from the unforgiving hardwood floors that have led to staggering numbers of knee and foot injuries in recent years amid the proliferation of a club circuit that’s understood to be a requirement for those aspiring to play at the collegiate level.
“Sand is a very nice way over the summer to let your body recover and to build a lot of the stability muscles around your joints to improve your health and your longevity indoors,” Haas said.
“You can play on the sand until you’re 70, because it’s so soft on your body.”
The camp was sponsored by the AVP when Haas started it in 2005 through the league’s grass-roots program, designed to promote the sport, until it folded in 2010. It is now sponsored by Wilson Sporting Goods, KindaGood.com, Volleyball Magazine, and Style Science Sport Optics.
The camp typically attracts participants from as far away as Colorado, Washington and Canada.
“We expose the kids to a lot of (beach) volleyball in a fun atmosphere,” Haas said. “Many of them enjoy coming back.”
Camp participants will have no shortage of opportunities to apply what they learn.
“It’s the best way to learn volleyball in the summer, because you get so many more contacts and repetitions,” Haas said, noting that beach volleyball’s two-on-two format provides much greater involvement than the indoor game’s six-on-six format, which also involves rotations.
“You could play three points in a row indoors and you might never touch the ball,” Haas said. “On the sand, you will touch the ball every single point. That’s the one advantage or difference that the sand game has. It’s far more interactive for players, and it’s going to be maybe a little bit less boring for the player because you’re always involved.”
The camp’s past participants include former CCA standout Samantha Cash, who graduated in 2011 and now plays on the sand and indoor circuits at Pepperdine. She played on a Waves team that earlier this year won the inaugural NCAA national sand championship.
CCA alumna Delaney Sullivan (2013), who went on to play college ball at Azusa Pacific, is a former camp participant who continues to volunteer for the event. She believes the sand game and her involvement in the camp contributed to her development in the sport.
“Playing outdoors is really similar — but it’s really different,” she said. “You have to take up much more of the court, so you’re responsible for everything — so you have to (develop) new skills. If you’re a passer, you have to hit no matter what, and if you’re a hitter, you have to try setting.
“You have to get used to (playing) all positions, basically.”
Volleyball can get monotonous when it’s played indoors, but outdoor play keeps it fresh, Sullivan said.
She’s considering transferring to a four-year school that has a sand volleyball program.
“It makes it feel like it’s a new sport,” Sullivan said. “It’s so different, it doesn’t make you feel like you’re doing the same thing as you’re used to.”
, or contact Ariel Haas at firstname.lastname@example.org.