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Alike, but Different

Contrasting NCAA and Olympic beach volleyball

The upcoming Olympic Games will feature beach volleyball as an official Olympic sport, as they have since 1996. But this will be the first Olympics since beach volleyball also became an NCAA championship sport. While the two share similarities, fans will notice subtle differences between college and Olympic beach volleyball.

NCAA Beach Volleyball 


Olympic Beach Volleyball

As of now, the sport is played only in a team-dual format. Each team consists of five pairs, with each team naming Nos. 1-5 flights. The first team to win three of the five matches wins the dual.


This is an individual pairs sport. While the players represent their respective countries, all of the teams are playing for individual gold, silver and bronze medals.

Players can wear shorts or briefs, similar to those worn in track and field, and tank tops that cover the entire torso.


Many players wear bikinis. But the International Volleyball Federation modified the rules in 2012 to allow shorts and short-sleeved or sleeveless tops.

Only women can compete in the sport. It was placed on the emerging sports for women’s list in 2009 and reached the threshold to become a sanctioned varsity championship by 2015. The first National Collegiate Beach Volleyball Championship was May 6-8.


There are men’s and women’s pairs competitions. In the 2012 Olympics, 24 two-person teams of each gender competed for medals.


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Champion magazine goes behind the headlines and beyond the scoreboards to celebrate the unique connection between Americans and college sports. Champion is published by the NCAA.