One of the questions that I get from parents of beach players a lot is, how do I last all the way through a tournament? As many coaches know when trying to answer parent questions it can be really difficult. Sometimes what might seem like a simple question just isn't when you think about all of the factors.
Just a few factors to include when thinking about stamina in a tournament are:
What is the format of the tournament?
Is it pool play and then bracket?
Is it a two day event?
Is it a three day event?
Are games to 21, 28, 15, or some made up number that the tournament director decided that day to help keep the number of points even?
Is it match play?
If there is pool play, how many teams are in the pool?
How long are the breaks between games?
I know that parents have the best intentions when asking questions like this and I don't get upset by them, but i think it is important to realize that there is no cookie cutter answer to this. Instead of using a specific parent as an example, I will use my sister. My sister's kids do not yet play sports, but she is one of those people that wants to be prepared for any situation to arise. If in a few years my niece or nephew decide they would like to play beach volleyball, inevitably she will be the mom dragging the wagon across the sand to try to get her camp set up at her kid's court before everyone else. She will have a cooler, places for everyone to sit, plenty of shade, food, water, sunscreen, and absolutely anything else with her that she thinks her kids might need in order to be successful. That's just what parenting is sometimes. Trying to give your kids every advantage they can have in life in order to help them to be successful.
Now, If my sister were to ask me, how to help her kids to maintain throughout a tournament, I would probably have to ask her a million questions in order to figure out what the best strategy would be for them. You see, larger pools have more down time for recovery, rest, and hydration. Smaller pools have back to back games sometimes and how do you last through them both? Match play is a whole different thing in and of itself. Multi day tournaments use even different strategies to have the stamina to last. The month of July every year with national championships where kids can literally play in a tournament every single day for the entire month is a different kind of preparation too.
Ok, so then how can I keep my child prepared for all of those different kinds of things you ask. Well, I will give you the answer that I give parents when I get the question.
1. Have your child listen to his/her body. There is a difference between aches and pains and injury. Don't try to be the hero and push through, you will jeopardize months of training by having to sit out if it gets worse.
2. Pre-hydrate. Yes, pre-hydration is a huge key to being successful. I always liked to start the day before the tournament in the morning making sure that I was getting enough fluids and electrolytes for the next day. Here are some good electrolyte supplements that you can use.
3. Complex carbohydrates seemed to do me well when it came to sustained energy. I would eat pasta the night before competition a lot. Preparing for games is almost more about what you do before you play than it is while you are playing. Planning out what I would eat the night before was always really important for my success. Protein and carbohydrates seemed to do the trick for me. My favorite meal the night before competition was spaghetti and meatballs. Seemed to do the trick
4. Hydration during an event is key. I tell this story to kids because I don't think it is something that people think about often. My partner and I would play in crazy heat for tournaments sometimes. We would try to pre-hydrate, make sure we were getting plenty of liquids throughout the tournament, and then try to re-hydrate afterward. Well, my partner's pre-hydration for our tournament one time consisted of only water. He then drank only water the entire day during the event. We were sweating profusely as temperatures at the event were over 100 degrees. During one rally he dove for a ball and started screaming. I thought he had injured himself somehow. That was not the case. Drinking water ONLY for the entire event, he had flushed all of his electrolytes. He was cramping in pretty much every muscle imaginable. The ambulance actually had to come and take him. So, hydration during an event MUST include some sort of electrolytes. (See above for some products I used if you are interested in trying them out.)
5. Eating throughout the day to sustain energy is huge. I could never eat a huge meal before I played. I would do some yogurt, orange juice, and perhaps a couple of eggs in the morning but never liked to eat much more than that unless I had a lot of time to digest it before I played. I did, however, eat all day long. I would snack pretty much every chance I got when I was playing. Protein packs were good for me. I liked cheese and crackers. I liked the little bit of energy that eating oranges right before I played would give me. A couple of my favorite protein packs are below.
6. Ok, so you made it through day 1 of the tournament. Now your process starts over at #1, but you also have to figure out a way to help your body to recover. Proteins fill in those micro tares that happen to your muscles when exercising to make them stronger. Hydration is VITAL along with replenishing your electrolytes. What do you do to help your exhausted legs in order to get back out there the next day and compete? What do you do with that tired shoulder? Well, you HAVE to take care of them. I have had quite a few athletes over the years purchase the two products below to help with that. They saw the money investment for them as an investment in something they were going to, hopefully, be doing for a very long time and thought it would be worth it. I really like both of these and would suggest them if they are something that fits your budget.
For those of you who don't know if the investment is worth it, try someone else's first. I personally watched Chase Budinger and Casey Patterson sit with the Normatec boots on in Chase's house between games at the Manhattan Beach Open last year trying to do recovery.
7. Now you have gotten your routine down, but wait, you didn't quite have enough electrolytes and are beginning to cramp. What do you do? Pickle juice! No, not Windex, pickle juice! It may sound disgusting, but it helps. I have actually personally seen athletes carry around the product below in their coolers for emergencies. I also saw Ryan run off the beach in Hermosa and into The Good Stuff a couple of summers ago to grab some pickle juice for one of our athletes who was cramping. The look on her face was classic.
In summary, your routine is VITAL to your success. You can't just show up to the beach against the best competition the country has to offer and expect to win unless all aspects of your preparation are taken care of. Get yourself into a good routine. Tweak the things you eat, and how much of them you eat at a time. Tweak how much and how often you drink liquids to find YOUR perfect balance. I can promise you this. The feeling of running out of gas as in the semifinals is not something you want to experience. Athletes need to listen to their bodies. Parents need to help keep athletes accountable for how they are fueling themselves and how they are approaching their recovery between games and between days.
If you enjoyed this post, give it a like. Feel free to check out my other posts while you are here too! There are some good insights on a variety of beach volleyball related topics along with products I genuinely recommend!