SANDCAST: Diving deep into college beach volleyball with Mike Placek
Mike Placek was just looking for the simple stuff. He didn’t need to know tendencies or flaws, what his opponent’s strongest and weakest shots were. He didn’t need to know serving habits or whether they preferred a backhand or a forehand.
All he really wanted to know, as the top-ranked youth tennis player in Southern California, was whether he was playing a 5-foot-9 guy from Argentina or a 6-foot-6 monster from Australia.
“When I went to play, there were zero scouting reports, and a lot of the guys were foreign, so the only way we’d have any idea of who we’d be playing in our next match was this college tennis site,” Placek said on SANDCAST: Beach volleyball with Tri Bourne and Travis Mewhirter. “It was super basic but it showed you who played for what school. It kept a super good data base, had a ranking based on an algorithm, and it was basically all I needed and all the tennis players lived on it.”
Placek’s talent was in tennis, but not his passion. He’d go on to have a solid career at the University of California, Santa Barbara, but he didn’t have any designs on going pro afterwards.
“I didn’t love it, but I was good at it,” he said. “Even watching the Australian Open right now, it makes me nervous.”
Afterwards, then, he turned to where his heart resided: beach volleyball. He’d grown up around the courts in Del Mar, toted along by his mother. He idolized the guys there, such as Sean Scott, and when an AVP would stop in Southern California, there you could see Placek, sitting behind the court, watching 12 hours a day.
“That’s how I learned how to play,” he said. “It was a life I wanted.”
In a decade as a professional, Placek would make an AVP semifinal, in 2008 with Russ Marchewka, and in 2014 and ’15 he’d become one of the top players on the NVL, winning a third of the events he entered. But when his playing career came to a close, and his coaching career at WAVE Volleyball in Del Mar began to take off, he found himself staring down the same exact problem he once had as a tennis player.
As he attempted to follow WAVE alum at the college level, he found nothing.
“I’d have to go on the [school] website, go through a bunch of different things, go onto the next kid,” Placek said. “I was like ‘How is there nothing more simple than this?’ So I started talking to some indoor college coaches, asking them if there was really nothing more going on with the beach game and they said no, so I said ‘Ok.’”
Placek recalled the tennis website he and every other youth tennis player lived off as a kid, and he created exactly that. He hired a programmer and up went collegebeachvb.com, which has become the one-stop shop for all things college beach volleyball.
It’s simple and comprehensive. There, you can find every individual’s record: who they played and when, the results, their rank. Everything you’d need to know, from Division I to CCAAA, is but a few simple clicks.
Three years in, it’s the most reliable site for good, objective information, incredibly beneficial for coaches, fans, and players alike.
“It’s pretty cool and going back to where I started it, there’s all these college kids coming up, and if you’re a pro and don’t know who this kid is, maybe go on the website,” Placek said. “I’m hoping it’ll translate so maybe the juniors will look at the universities and see if they’re junior stacked or freshmen stacked. It’s for the college game but I’m hoping the juniors and parents of juniors can see what programs are out there and how many matches they play. I’m hoping it will be more of a resource for the youth.”
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