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Sand vs. Grass vs. Turf - The Pros and Cons of Roundnet Surfaces


One of the best qualities of roundnet is that you can really play anywhere. Bring it to the beach to play on sand, head to your local park and play on grass, or go to a local gym and play in the racquetball court. Of course, tournaments are typically held on sand, grass, or turf, and players definitely have their preferences. What are the pros and cons of each surface?

Sand

Pros

  • Diving - This has to be the clearest advantage of playing on sand. With soft sand below you, you never have to hesitate before diving for a long get or dropping to the ground to reach a drop shot. You can go all out all the time. 
  • Beaches - Most sand tournaments are held on beaches which means that tournament days double as beach days. Go for a swim after the event and enjoy the great beach atmosphere. 

Cons

  • Slants - Not all beaches are completely flat. This means that some roundnet courts will be held on a slight slant, which can put the uphill team at an advantage. This has been seen during the massive pool play of SummerSpike, but fortunately is not a recurring issue in Chicago or on the West Coast.  

Ian Golembeski winds up to hit a ball at SummerSpike 2016.

  • No Lines - One of the biggest issues with tournaments on sand is the inability to put down serving lines. The one thing it does offer, though, is the ability to look where a player stepped due to imprints in the sand.
  • Net Movement - Since contacting the net causes a loss of point, we need to be sure that players did, in fact, make contact with the net. Sometimes on sand a player's motion on sand will cause the sand, and subsequently the net, to shift. This puts players and observers in a tough spot as it is difficult to tell what caused the net to move. A disagreement of this nature occurred at the Chicago Grand Slam last August. 
  • Wind - Wind is not exclusive to beaches, but it is more common than on fields a bit more inland. In my opinion, wind is the most frustrating element to deal with when playing roundnet. It is not always an issue, but pool play at the Chicago Grand Slam was noticeably windy.

Grass

Pros

  • Quicker Movement - Grass already is easy to move on, but the ability to wear cleats takes it to the next level. Players can move quickly on grass fields to get to long hits or circle around the net to play body defense.
  • Lines - Serving lines can be installed using spray paint for the benefit of both players and observers.

Cons

  • Slants and Uneven Spots - Grass fields are often slanted or have divots in certain spots that make some areas unfair or unsafe to play on.  It is often possible to avoid these spots if there is enough space on the field, though. 
  • Weather Effects - Rain, even a few days before the event, can ruin the fields. Playing on a muddy field is not ideal for a competitive tournament. Rain the day before East Regionals in Boston made for a muddy affair. 

Max Model of Hilltop Spikes covered in mud at 2017 East Regionals.

Turf

Pros

  • Even Surface - Turf fields are always flat, creating a fair playing surface for all sets. 
  • Quicker Movement - Like grass, players can move faster on turf fields.
  • Weather Effects - Turf fields are minimally affected by rain.  

Cons

  • Rough Surface - It depends on the field, but many turf fields hurt to dive and slide on. This causes players to hesitate before going down to their knees or diving. A lot of players choose to wear knee sleeves and pads to help with this issue.
  • No Lines - It is not possible to spray paint temporary lines on turf. The good news is that recently we have we been experimenting with chalk paint and tape lines with decent results.

Chris Hornacek serves at the Washington D.C. Tour Stop in 2016.

  • Heat - Turf fields can get really hot. The 2016 Washington D.C. Tour Stop was held on a particularly hot day and the conditions on the turf were brutal.
  • Ball Rolling - As the turf fields are perfectly flat and lack tall grass, the ball rolls forever, which requires players to have to spend a lot of time chasing down balls. Chasing down balls was not fun at the aforementioned D.C. Tour Stop. 

What do you think is the best surface?  Let us know in this Straw Poll: http://www.strawpoll.me/15214219/r.

What pros and cons did we miss? Comment below!

Got something related to roundnet that you want to know more about? Have any topics you want to be discussed on the podcast? Contact Mike White at mwhitey17@gmail.com or @mwhitey17 on Twitter.

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