Stingray Volleyball, Where Athletes Become Well-Rounded on The Court And in Life
It is one of the worst things to tell a beach volleyball player or coach or enthusiast of any kind: Indoor players shouldn’t play beach. Whether that reasoning is due to fear of injury or overuse or just the fact that beach is taking away time from indoor, the argument is always flawed. It doesn’t happen often, mind you, but it does happen.
And Toriano Lands is, frankly, tired of hearing it.
“The school coaches talk trash on [beach volleyball]: ‘Oh, it makes you slower, it’s bad for your game.’ I’ve been fighting that since 2009,” Lands said. “If you’re telling these parents that it makes them slower, that’s ridiculous. It’s the craziest thing I’ve ever heard.”
Saying it’s a crazy idea is one thing. Proving it altogether wrong is another. Which is exactly what Lands has been doing since 2009, when he founded Stingray Volleyball Academy in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
It started simply enough, with the notion that there were beach volleyball players in Oklahoma, yet nowhere to play. And when Lands saw athletes missing the cut for their indoor teams, he wanted to give them an option, only one outside of the gym.
“Nobody was doing it,” he said of beach volleyball in the area. “I’d be working late, and I’d be watching volleyball tryouts, and it seemed like these coaches already had their teams picked, and the kids would just walk out devastated. The kids would come in and they would kick the kids out of the gym and take the kids they wanted, and these little girls were devastated, and I was like ‘Well, I want to do something to keep them going.’ So we started it to give them something else.”
What he gave them was a 15-acre plot of land and six beach volleyball courts, in a facility that is the first of its kind in Oklahoma. He gave them a dedicated coaching staff, practices and training that would improve their vertical leap, tournaments in which to compete, opportunities to travel to Southern California and get noticed by college coaches.
The result, to most, is obvious: They got better at volleyball. Quickly. Remarkably. Both on the sand and indoors. To some who still had reservations about the beach game, this came as a surprise.
“Now people are starting to see that the kids who are training on the sand, they’re heads and tails above everybody else when they go back to indoors,” Lands said. “A lot of people are asking ‘Hey what do you do over the summer?’ Well, she was playing beach for Stingray.
“We see increases in vertical and just the whole beach game, it rounds off your game. We make no bones about it with how hard we train. We get the girls to where they need to be. I always say for younger kids, put them in beach. Because now you have a well-rounded player, they don’t get pigeonholed in a set position, and they’ve been covering a court with two people all summer long, and they come back to indoor, and they say ‘That thing I couldn’t get last year I can get easily, because there’s five other people on the court!’”
He’s a proponent of his athletes being well-rounded, Lands. Not only as volleyball players, but, more importantly, human beings.
“What we try to teach them constantly is that social media stuff is temporary, but your character and how you treat other people – those are things that are going to last you a lifetime, and they’re going to benefit you a lifetime,” he said. “I always tell them, instead of sitting there at night, posting something that might be questionable, why don’t you use that time to benefit you? Let’s do some crunches. Let’s do some pushups. Let’s do some ball-handling in your room.”
It’ll make them better, which has been Lands’ mission for the past decade. It’ll make them better on the beach. It’ll make them better indoors.
It will make them better everywhere they go.
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