If you are an elite player, you’ll know what it’s like to play in a weekend tournament. Most likely you’ll play anywhere from 4-6 games in a weekend, and depending on where you live, it’s usually in the summer, so temperatures are much warmer than they are in the regular spring season. Many players overlook pre-game meals, and pre-game hydration, but in reality, those two things that play a huge role in performance. In this blog post, we’re going to provide some helpful hints on how to prepare you mentally and physically before a big tournament weekend.
First, we’ll start with mentally preparing yourself for a weekend of playing. We hope that all of you are out there playing because it’s FUN, and because you are surrounded with your teammates who are also your friends. You can’t beat traveling and staying with your friends all weekend, while playing a sport you all love. But with playing, as we all know, comes the rigorous practices, the heat of summer, the effort that goes into every single game, and sometimes that can be mentally draining, especially for a highschooler. To prepare yourself mentally for a weekend of games, first ask yourself, why are you there? Are you there to hang out with friends? Are you there to get recruited and/or play at a higher level? Are you there because your parents are making you be there? Once you can answer those questions, you can set the tone for the weekend. Hopefully the answer to the previous questions were being there to get recruited and/or play at a higher level. Most summer tournaments (and even in the fall) are showcase tournaments, which means there are no championship games; it is a tournament strictly to showcase players who want to play at a higher level. WIth that being said, being mentally ready to showcase your skills is a huge part of playing. If you can mentally tell yourself that you can beat the heat, and that your body feels good and ready to go, you will perform at your best. You know your body best. You also know your limits. If you are able to push through for yourself, and for your teammates, your effort will be recognized. Now, don’t get this mixed up with needing to take a break. Taking a break and/or asking for a break is PERFECTLY okay, especially in the heat. If you need water, ask for a sub; if you need to catch your breath, ask to come out for a minute. Asking to sub out does not mean that you have given up - it means you are giving your body a chance to recover. Once you’ve had that recovery, you’ll be able to get back in and keep pushing harder.
Which leads into the second part which is physically preparing yourself. Many athletes think that just hydrating the day of or morning of a game will do the trick - but it doesn’t. According to the NCAA Sports Science Institute, “optimal fueling should be a focus 90% of the time during the week.” Fueling doesn’t just mean hydration, it also means eating. Some teams schedule pasta dinners the night before a game or tournament; loading up on carbs is essential because carbs give you the energy you need to perform well. Next to carbs is protein; proteins are just as important because they give you longer lasting energy throughout the day if you have that rigorous schedule of 4-6 games a weekend. Recovery is also KEY. If you are playing in the summer months, you are sweating out probably double of what you would during a normal game (factoring in the heat). Making sure you feed your body good nutrients AFTER a tournament or game is just as important. So make sure when you are leaving for the weekend you pack fruit, granola bars, energy bites, gatorade and other foods that will fuel your body the day of, and maybe suggest a pasta dinner to your coach the night before! When you eat well, you feel good, and when you feel good you play better. Now, this doesn’t mean at the end of the tournament you can’t reward yourself with one of those delicious sno cones they always have - go for it! Just make sure that you are also eating other foods that will help your body recover from such a long weekend.
We as coaches here at TEAM always want our players mentally and physically ready to go when it comes time for a tournament. We hope that this post helps our athletes understand a little bit better how truly important preparation is. All of this can also be applied to practice! Sometimes, practices are even more rigorous than games, and in that case, being prepared is key. Tournaments are a great time to bond and be with your team, and feeling good in between those games will make it that much better! Good luck to everyone as they finish their summer season!
1 NCAA Sports Science Insititute http://www.sportsrd.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/Lacrosse-Sports-Nutrition.pdf