Hopefully, as the 2012 Summer Olympics beach volleyball competition heats up at London's Horse Guards Parade venue, the world will be watching. After all, since beach volleyball became a medal sport at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, it has become the place to be if you're attending the games.
Played outdoors in a sand court, with two players on each team, each beach volleyball match is a fast-paced, exciting duel between highly trained athletes. In either the men's or women's matches, the teams fight to be the first to win two sets to 21 points (with a third tiebreaker to 15) in order to advance in pool play and into the playoffs that lead to bringing home the gold.
So before the games begin, make sure to learn all these beach volleyball terms, especially the slang ones, and you're sure to be the savviest one in your Olympics-loving crowd.
Serve: Putting the ball in play, by hitting it from behind the back line over the net and into the opponent's court. Jump serves can travel at over 100 mph, if executed properly.
Pass: Also called a bump, a player passes (bumps) the serve to his/her partner, in order to be set the ball. Arms are together, forming a flat platform, causing the ball to bounce forward in the air toward the net.
Set: Putting the ball up near the net, in order for your partner to spike (hit hard) into the opponent's court. Can be accomplished with two open hands or by using the arms together in a bump pass.
Spike: A hard-driven ball, hit with the palm of your hand, that blasts into the opponent's court.
Dig: Bringing an opponent's spike back, hopefully on your side and with enough control that your partner can set you the ball. Can be done with open hands or with a bump pass.
Block: A wall created by your hands and arms above the net, in the hopes of stopping the spiker from hitting the ball successfully into your court. Also used to take away an alley in the court, so that your partner can be ready to dig the ball in the spot where you have forced the spiker to hit.
Sideout: Losing the serve (and a point) to the opposition, so that the serve goes to the other side of the court.
Husband-wife: Also known as the "hubbie-wife," this is the moment when a serve or a spike comes at the defenders, and neither one makes a move to play the ball. As the ball lands between them, usually since neither one has communicated an intent to play it, that moment is known as the husband-wife, AKA "no communication."
Six packed: Does not refer to the athletes' ripped stomach muscles; instead, "six packed" is used when a defender is smacked in the face by the ball, either by a spike or when the ball caroms off the block and back into the spiker's face. Also known as a facial or a tattoo, one thing is certain: it's never pretty.
Chicken wing: An ugly dig of a ball, when the defender uses just one arm, bent like a chicken wing, to make the play.
Kong: A one-armed block that miraculously stops the ball at the net. Never done on purpose.
"Helmets!": Yelled after a spiker has hit the ball so hard there is no way for the defender to make a play.
Fish (or tuna): Name given to someone who repeatedly touches the net and causes a violation on the play.
Jenny Peters played varsity indoor volleyball for University of Maryland, and continued her indoor career for many years on a USAV team based out of New York City. She has also been a CBVA AA-ranked beach volleyball player and continues to play beach doubles every weekend in Southern California, all year round. Except when it rains.