Beach coach encouraging players to stay active over summer
June 18, 2020 | Lynchburg, Va.
First-year Liberty University women's beach volleyball Associate Head Coach Jess Nelson, a former outside hitter for the Lady Flames' indoor volleyball (2004-08) and basketball (2008-09) teams, was just starting to get her team of 14 players to hit their stride when their season was cut short by COVID-19.
"We had a really strong start to training for the spring and it was really exciting to see the progress start to pay off in the sand," said Nelson, who also serves as a professional advisor to Club Sport athletes through Liberty's College of Applied Studies and Academic Success (CASAS). "The girls put a lot of time and hard work in. We started pretty hard in the weight room in the spring and we started (playing) indoor when the weather would not allow us to get into the sand."
In mid-November, the Lady Flames traveled to Florida to play matches against first-year NCAA Division II Palm Beach Atlantic and in an open tournament in Pompano Beach.
"That tournament was really so special," Nelson said. "Being able to see different competition builds so much in your defensive and offensive abilities. You just take those back as, ‘What can I work on now? What do we need to get better at and hone in on?' Going to that tournament was super fun, a great team-bonding experience. At the same time, not being able to bring that back and apply what they learned immediately was disappointing."
Since the coronavirus put an abrupt end to their season in mid-March, and forced student-athletes to conclude their semester studies online, Nelson has encouraged the Lady Flames to stay active in the sport and in their fitness during the unexpected offseason.
"We're so blessed at Club Sports to have probably the best Strength & Conditioning staff that has worked with us for the last two years," she said. "We've been able to get them workouts to keep them in shape, keep them motivated. That's more independently on the athlete to maintain."
She is optimistic that players remaining in the Lynchburg, Va., area and returning to campus will be able to resume play in Queen of the Beach and King of the Beach pickup tournaments that the team started two summers ago at the four beach courts located beyond the Liberty Mountain Intramural Complex.
"That's one of my favorite things to do in the summer," Nelson said. "You partner with everybody on your court and see who comes out with the best record. That actually teaches quite a bit that we don't apply during the season when they're paired up in their partnerships. It's adapting every game to game, you're learning your opponent and you're learning your teammate and making those adjustments. I'm really hoping we can get some good numbers out and stay within (COVID-19) safety protocols for Virginia and still get a lot of sand learning in."