The Rules of Beach Volleyball: agile teams and engagement

A whole weekend with friends: picnic lunches and BBQ evenings. On Saturday afternoon we head to the beach for some Volleyball. A little bit of running around, to find some sticks to mark the ‘net’ and to scrape a rectangular court into the soft sand and we were ready to go. Was it the regulated size? I doubt it, we just guessed as we dragged a foot through the sand, walking backwards, marking out a patch. Indeed, one side had a significant bulge, the cause of a few miscalled ‘outs!’.


When play commenced, teams were fluid: sometimes three a side, sometimes four, on one occasion, five, if you included the toddler crawling around in my half. Rules were equally fluid: play to twelve points, play to fifteen, no kicking the ball, kicks allowed, and so on.

Emergent. Co-created and co-owned.

And nobody was particularly good, but that didn’t matter because we stepped into some games and out of others. The team structure itself was very fluid.

And it’s that fluidity that i was reflecting upon this morning as i sat on the coach to the airport: we played all afternoon, on one court, with one ball, but no one person played every game. The teams were sub communities out of a wider population, united with desire to play, but flexible on quite how and when. It wasn’t planned, nor were rules rigidly interpreted. It was emergent, within some kind of structure.

Modern organisations need some of this fluidity: when i write about being
scaffolded and reconfigurable, i mean able to adapt at speed to circumstance. Which is exactly what we were able to do in our volleyball match. If they team started feeling a bit lightweight, i could call on Sal or Liz, both energetic defenders, or Jonny, with his six foot three frame and strong serve. But just when needed.

Whilst played at a particularly amateur level, even professional teams do this, maintaining a roster of players that they can draw upon depending on terrain and intent, or who’s injured or on good form. It’s that mindset within Social Leadership that requires us to understand how these communities, these teams form, fast, and how we can unite them, give them purpose and deploy them. Winning teams that function for a game or two then are disbanded, with just the memory of a great score.

About julianstodd

Author, Artist, Researcher, and Founder of Sea Salt Learning. My work explores the context of the Social Age and the intersection of formal and social systems.
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5 Responses to The Rules of Beach Volleyball: agile teams and engagement

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