5 Tournament Survival Secrets
1. Gear Up: Wash & Toss - A few days before the tournament or jamboree, hold your nose, get out your barbecue tongs and empty out your player’s hockey bag. Wash, toss, clean, repair and restock—whatever it takes to have all the equipment on hand and ready. In addition, get skates sharpened, check the laces and tape the stick. Inventory everything as you re-pack the bag and pack the car. The last thing you want to do is buy a new stick, or even tape on the road.
2. Rest the Mind: Tunes vs. TV - Todd Smith, a Peewee coach in Colorado, says to rest the mind and body two hours before a game. “Video games and TV have the tendency to over-stimulate our minds and reduce our metabolism well below couch potato level,” Smith says. “Then, when the body is asked to do an extreme activity (hockey), the mind is exhausted and the body is shocked (like waking up after two hours of sleep to a fire alarm).
“If you want to be entertained,” adds Smith, “put on some music using headphones—music actually induces the production of endorphins.” Follow curfews imposed by coaches and, if possible, avoid sleepovers with teammates. Ask the coach for guidance regarding off-ice activities such as skiing, hiking and swimming.
Another coach warns that mental exhaustion can lead to injuries during tournaments. Rich Kennedy, a U8 coach, says, “Especially in tournaments with many games, players will let their guard down/lose focus in situations where they shouldn’t, and end up getting hurt. While coaches do their best to keep on players to not get lazy mentally, they have a lot going on and may miss signs that a player is mentally loafing. Mom and Dad can use their time between games to stress the importance of not losing the mental clarity.”
Kennedy adds that “In losing mental clarity, a player will be skating and working hard but putting himself in very dangerous situations because he is not thinking sharply. An example would be chasing a puck into the corner really hard and not thinking about an opposing player who his chasing and looking for a big hit. If the player is mentally sharp, they will judge all the dynamics correctly and protect against/avoid the hit. A mentally tired player misjudges the situation and ends up getting hurt.”
3. Fuel Up: Bread, No Bull - For out-of-town tournaments, nutritious food can be a challenge. To avoid the pizza/french fry/sugar overload that often results, try to pack fruit, sandwich supplies and low-calorie drinks. Coach Smith’s pre-game tips include:
- Stick with simple carbs (fruit), some complex carbs (pasta, rice, wheat bread) and protein (eggs, turkey).
- Stay away from dairy products and thick liquids.
- For a boost, stick to low quantities of sugar and little caffeine. “It’s been proven that Red Bull and kids don’t mix,” says Coach Smith. “Stay away from these drinks before a game.”
- Eat one hour (or more) before a game.
- Keep quantities of food low before a game.
After the game, focus on simple carbohydrates and lots of protein and lay back on sugar. “High blood sugar sends kids on a roller coaster ride of alertness and action/reaction,” says Coach Smith.
4. Hydrate: Stay Fluid - Theories abound on what and how much to drink before and after games. The consensus seems to be 16–24 oz of water before and a drink with electrolytes after. Coach Smith warns not to fuel up on water alone: “You need salt and potassium (bananas, etc.) to use water. If you drink a lot of water without these ingredients in your body, your body fills the void from cells in the body including organs.”
5. Have Fun: Watch & Play with Passion - Parents and players need to remember that tournaments, and especially jamborees, are for fun. They are great opportunities to get away as a family, see new places, bond with teammates and coaches, and play different teams. Tournament results do not count toward your team’s standings or individual stats.
Cheer with enthusiasm, play with passion and keep it in perspective. “Enjoy the time with your son or daughter. They'll be on their own before you know it and you’ll never get these times back” says Coach Smith, the father of four daughters and a son. “Spend it well.”
Editor's Note: Thank you to Kelly Kordes Anton for this article.
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