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In With the New
So the good people working with Swatch Major Series have decided to let me try my hand at blogging for them before and after events. Big mistake. My first order of business will be to write down as many dirty words in as many different languages as I can think of, and see how many get censored. Hopefully they’ll allow as many as the referees on tour, so I’ll only get warned about the English ones. But in all seriousness, we’ll see how long they let me do this, as it will be mostly simple thoughts (and very simple jokes, often ones that only make me laugh), from a fairly simple mind. Now here’s what my brain says this week…
Changes happen pretty frequently in sport, and the most significant of those usually happen during any given off-season. For beach volleyball that is especially true during the break after an Olympic season. This year has been no exception. Just looking at the Main Draw entry lists for Fort Lauderdale Major, there will be at least 11 new teams for the men, and 17 for the women. I am very interested to see which new combinations work. Some will get along, and others will bicker like siblings. But for all of the altered teams, this first Swatch Major Series event will be the first real proving ground to show everyone that switching partners was the right choice. Or maybe that it wasn’t.
Ben and partner Chaim Schalk in action on home sand at the Toronto Finals last September.
It takes a little longer to identify that the new teams won’t be the only ones who have made changes. Even for those of us whose beach partnership has lasted longer than any romantic relationship (so far), there are adjustments being made. The off-season brings all the experimental training to the forefront, as teams try to figure out the next big thing that will vault them up the rankings. Personally, I’m hoping running outside the antenna chase setting will be the next big thing, because that seems to be my best skill.
The first tournament of the season is always very telling of which teams, either old or new, are the most ready to transition from where they used to be to where they want to be. Which teams will cause the most shocking upsets with new styles of play, and which teams will adapt the quickest to the different strategies they will face? Which teams will have practiced chest bumping so thoroughly that it will never be an issue on national television again?
THAT'S what we call a chest bump 🙌 @saxtonschalk @BenSaxton13 @chaimschalk @VBallCanada #TorontoFinals https://t.co/3ZXGTToVzM
With the fresh batch of changes to the World Tour this past break, there will also be a small aspect of which teams can best manipulate the new point system in their favor. Some will play many events, and others will pick and choose based on the number of stars, location, prize money and single or double elimination (one of the most drastic additions this year). Of course, the Swatch Major Series events will highlight the new system, but since this is a World Championship year, making the most of each opportunity will be extra important when fighting for a place on the plane to Vienna.
All of these off-season changes have already been made, but one of the most interesting parts is that this season will have more than one chance to make the major adjustments. The first event might be just around the corner, but there is another off-season of sorts shortly thereafter, since Fort Lauderdale Major precedes another three-month break before many teams play their next tournament. Plenty of time to add new things to the table. Some teams might even be completely changed from their first competition to their second.
Really one of the only things that stays the same from one season to the next is that we’ll all be back on the beach court where we belong, jumping around and flailing our limbs about at a blue and yellow ball.