Beach Volleyball Blossoms This Spring Under Coach Smet


Photo courtesy of Ella Puckett

Beach volleyball players with Coach Smet

Mark Hsia, Assistant Editor

As she steps out of her car after an hour stuck in Caldecott Tunnel traffic, an athlete stretches out her muscles. The sky darkens, afternoon fades into evening, and crow’s calls become the soft hoots of owls as other athletes arrive and warm up in the sand at Moraga Commons. 

These athletes are members of the newest PHS sports team: CIF women’s beach volleyball. The long-term initiative to add beach volleyball as an official school sport was approved in June 2022, and the team started its first season under the PHS Athletics banner this spring. 

The initiative to create the team began over two years ago according to Beach Volleyball Booster parent representative Kim De Young. During the 2021-22 school year, a Title IX survey was sent out to students to gauge interest in different sports and assess gender equality in athletics. 98 respondents from PHS and MHS, 70 of whom were girls, responded indicating interest in beach volleyball, rendering it one of the most popular sports. 

Varsity beach volleyball player and junior Ella Puckett said that some of the factors that make beach volleyball so appealing are its outdoor nature as well as the relaxed atmosphere.

“You get to be outside playing on the beach a lot of the time and it’s just more of a relaxed environment,” Puckett said.

Beach volleyball practices are temporarily being held at Moraga Commons Park, which is over a half-hour drive away from Piedmont. Options for practice locations are extremely limited across the East Bay, and teams such as Miramonte and Campolindo have no choice but to share practice spaces.

Practices are fun, and tournaments are fun because of the settings that you get to practice in

— Ella Puckett, junior

Many students struggle to find transportation to Moraga, which DeYoung believes is discouraging girls from joining the team and practicing. 

Many girls who can’t drive themselves have to rely on teammates or other adults to get to practice. Despite 24 athletes being registered for the team, on average only five show up to practice, and as few as two members show up on some days, said DeYoung.

DeYoung has been working on an initiative to obtain approval for installation of beach volleyball courts in Piedmont for several years now. She said she believes that installing local courts would also not only help resolve the issues that arise from practicing in Moraga Commons, but also provide a fun, community space. 

“I hope that there can be somewhere within the city of Piedmont that any middle schooler or high schooler could just walk to and just hang out socially and play beach volleyball,” DeYoung said.

DeYoung said she also believes having a portable court option could be a relatively inexpensive possibility. This would involve post holes being installed for a portable net to be placed in. She said she estimates this option would amount to roughly $500.

Despite the setbacks they are experiencing, the athletes are working to expand their team, said Puckett. The beach volleyball team recently held their tryouts, and has continued to work on their outreach program to try to recruit more players to the team. 

“We’re trying to cultivate a sense of community that can create a strong and consistent program for the future years,” Puckett said. 

DeYoung said that most of the current players are people who have played beach volleyball in the past, so more publicity would allow kids to get more exposure to the sport at a young age.


“The more that you can get the kids learning at a young age the better, because some girls don’t play because they’re intimidated to walk on as freshman who’ve never played before,” DeYoung said.

In addition to trying to get more athletes, the team is also in search of a coach. For this season, PHS athletic director Bradley Smet has stepped in as interim coach. DeYoung said one factor that contributes to the difficulty the team is experiencing to find a permanent coach is the lack of funding allocated for the position. DeYoung said the pay is not competitive at all, so multiple candidates have declined the position. In the meantime, Smet has taught himself the rules of beach volleyball via instructional videos. 

“We had some doubts at the start of the season, but Smet has put in a lot of time and work and done a really good job so we really appreciate him,” Puckett said. 

On March 11, the team had its first tournament in Half-Moon Bay, a recurring event that they will continue to attend as the season progresses. They also plan on having local matches on Wednesdays and other tournaments in locations such as Santa Cruz.