This is something that family members and casual volleyball spectators often ask, so here’s a run down on what they all mean. The player who is blocking gives a signal for each of the opponents so their partner knows which part of the court they’re trying to cover with their block. The passer will then attempt to cover the half of the court not being taken by the blocker.
It’s a totally personal decision for each team/person determining what kind of blocking strategy to use, but you won’t often see the closed fist at the professional level because it’s vital to have a block in place against that caliber of hitter.
You can also sometimes see a blocker wiggling one of his/her hands, which is an indication of which player the blocker wants his/her teammate to serve to. In doubles this is an important decision because the player that passes will automatically be the hitter.
Next time you’re watching (or playing) beach volleyball you’ll be prepared to explain (or use) these hand signals to notify your teammates of your blocking intentions.
Here’s to sand volleyball season!