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Olympics Primer: How to Watch Beach Volleyball

Your cheat sheet for watching beach volleyball at the Olympics

By Scott Ross
|  Wednesday, Aug 8, 2012  |  Updated 8:59 AM PDT
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When it happens:
July 28 through Aug. 9

How it became a sport:
Beach volleyball was born on the shores of Hawaii and California in the teens and '20s, with teams sporting six players apiece. It wasn't until 1930 that 2-on-2 beach volleyball was developed by four guys who just couldn't wait any longer for the rest of the players. The sport finally made its Olympic debut at the 1996 Games in Atlanta, with the U.S. having since dominated, winning five of the eight medals awarded.

What it takes:
Height, quick reflexes, stamina, a big jump and excellent eye-hand coordination are all key—having a great body helps, too, as those uniforms are unforgiving.

How you win:
Twenty-four teams of two play in a single-elimination tournament, with each match a best-of-three showdown. A set of 2-on-2 beach volleyball begins with one player serving first, and continuing to serve until his/her team fails to win a point. Each team gets three hits to get the ball back across the net. When the receiving team wins a point, it takes over serving. Serving continues to rotate in the same direction among the four players throughout the game until one team scores 21 points, except in the third and deciding set, when 15 points wins.

The lingo:
Beer: When a ball goes through a defender's legs.

Campfire: When a ball lands untouched between two defenders.

Chicken Wing: When a player swings at a ball with an arm bent like a chicken wing.

Cobra: When a player stabs the ball with his or her fingertips.

Tough Bacon: A poorly made set or pass that makes it difficult to play.

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