Running a Beach League: Where to Begin?
Beach volleyball is one of the largest growing sports in the world, and this holds true for any level, because it's fun. Adults have been competing in co-ed after work beach volleyball leagues for many years. As more volleyball clubs are owning and leasing facilities, Club Directors are realizing the demand for indoor and/or outdoor sand courts. During off-peak times when your teams are not practicing on the sand courts or your club is not hosting a beach tournament, running a beach league is the perfect way to increase the bottom line, while bringing new customers to your facility. Here are some ways to get started.
The format of the league usually comes down to limitations for the available courts and the lighting situation - for example, you may be like Bradford Beach in Milwaukee that has 35 courts but no lights, or you may have a smaller facility with 4 sand courts, but proper lighting. This will change the overall availability of how you can schedule the matches.
It is recommended to place all teams in a division (12U,14U, Men's A, Women's Open, etc) into a round robin that ideally runs for "# Teams-1" Weeks, that way you can assure each team plays the other teams once. Sometimes that can't be achieved, and in those cases, you can make adjustments. It's perfectly fine for each team to not necessarily play each team, as long as you have enough matches to properly seed a playoff.
Double-headers are also an interesting option to give players more chance to play.
Below are some "typical" league formats:
4's and 6's Sand Leagues (adult and youth)
- Each team plays 1 match per week
- A match is 3-sets to 21 (or 25). Teams play all three, not treated as a "match", but as individual sets with a reward for winning all 3 (like a free pizza or pitcher of beer or whatever), play one match per week for 8-12 weeks (varies wildly from organization to organization).
- Playoffs: Everyone gets a playoff of some sort, and all are single elim
- These groups are generally more casual, in my experience, so playing all 3 is a simple solution.
- This format works great if you have a few number of sand courts (2-10), but proper lighting such that you can schedule into the evening.
- Typically run matches every 50-60 minutes, depending on the number of teams. So you could have 5-6 timeslots in an evening . I've had organizations that start matches at 6:00, 6:50, 7:40, 8:30, 9:20, and 10:10, with the league ending at 11pm. Probably a little late for your youth leagues, but tolerable with adult leagues. BracketPal also has a timeslot balancing feature to ensure that teams will be given a relatively even distribution of timeslots, so that no team will be getting too many 11pm matches, while another team gets none.
Doubles Leagues (adult and youth)
- Seem to work best with double headers
- Each match plays 2-sets to 21 - play both sets - and do *NOT* treat it as a match, so if the teams split, they split - no differently than if you're running a beach event where you do pool play with 2 to 21.
- Playoffs: Similar as above - but these being generally more competitive groups will want larger brackets or double-elim brackets.
- This format works great if you have a large number of courts, but poor lighting.
- Matches will be scheduled on 40-minute intervals, giving you mostly 3-timeslots to work with through the summer months: 6pm, 6:40pm, 7:20pm (with matches typically ending at 8pm). In the longer summer days, you could also throw makeup matches at 8pm and even 8:40pm (if the conditions are right in the height of June and July).
- Scheduling double-headers over 3 timeslots is a task that is *tremendously* difficult to do by hand, but BracketPal can handle it in an instant (in fact, it was one of the first things built to accommodate my league up here).
Playoffs, in both cases can run multiple weeks if you so desire. Here are three main ways to run end-of-season playoffs:
- Some more casual leagues will literally just run a bunch of 2-team single elim brackets: 1v2, 3v4, 5v6, etc.
- More competitive players will obviously want more fleshed out brackets. For example I have some customers that will take every team and dump them into a seeded double-elim playoff.
- The last option I see done with larger leagues that run different leagues every night (say they run Adult 6's B league every night of the week), and do a final tournament with the top X teams from each of those leagues. So instead of a playoff on each night, they'd take the top 2 teams from each night (say 12 teams total - 6 nights x 2 teams), and plug them into an actual seeded tournament on a saturday or sunday. Then it's just run as a standard 12-team tournament to find a "grand champion" within a division for the whole season.
Another consideration to make especially with doubles is the fact that if one player can't make it, a team has to forfeit, so an integrated Free Agent list is a Godsend in that situation, so that folks can just look for a sub for a single night just in case someone has to be missing.
A final consideration to make is whether to do rotating times or static times. The largest leagues use rotating times, meaning that from week to week you may play at any of the predetermined times (6pm, 7pm, 8pm, etc). Some of the smaller leagues will do static times, meaning every week, you play at 7pm. The benefit of static times is largely convenience for the teams in that league: you never really have to worry about checking what time you play each week. The benefit of rotating times is the ability to grow (something I find the static time folks are unable to do). It's easier to grow with rotating times because *everyone* wants to play the 7pm matches - gives folks plenty of time to get there from work, but you're not out too late. The side effect is that less people will be willing to play at 6pm (due to work) or 9pm (maybe they get up early), and as a result, 7pm and 8pm will sell out, and 6pm and 9pm will languish. Rotating times allows an organization to say: "hey, you're going to play a relatively even number of 6pm, 7pm, 8pm and 9pm matches every week", and they know in advance. Then *everyone* can sign up, and only have to worry about maybe being late 2 times, or staying out too late 2 times, and so on.
One of the features BracketPal is managing is a King of the Beach League, where each player will be partnered with a different partner each week.
Here are a couple live practical examples:
Wasatch Beach in Utah runs adult doubles leagues using double-headers over 4 timeslots for adult leagues. Click here to view.
You can also view an example of a completed league with the double-elim bracket from last season here.
New Berlin Ale House is a great example of a large casual league. Click here to view. They run one of the largest leagues in Wisconsin with approximately 450 teams in the summer. And they run the 3-to-25 format mentioned above.
Hopefully this gives you some ideas to get your league started. If you can secure a location and get the word out in advance, your beach league, if run successfully, will be a huge success.
For more education on events click here.
About the Author
Jesse is a beach volleyball player from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He is the creator of Bracket Pal, a web-based system for tournament and league management.