Preparing for Softball Tournaments
Today I am going to talk about tournaments. How do we prepare for them? What do we do between games, and how do we benefit from them.
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Let’s talk about how we prepare for tournaments first. In my opinion, tournaments should be used as sort of a game rehearsal for the most important tournament of the season. Every tournament should have a purpose. If you are a tournament team and travel rather than playing in a league, you might select 3 or 4 tournaments as rehearsal tournaments. The preparation for this would be that you want to specify the purpose of the tournament. You might want to focus on the first out for example. So, every game during the tournament you are going to record during every inning, whether or not they got the first out. This is an important confidence builder during playoffs because sometimes getting that first out will get rid of the butterflies that the team might have going into the game.
By knowing what your focus is for the event, you can devise a tracking system for that component of your game to reflect on once the tournament is over. This will give you information on how you should set up your practice plans as the team returns to the field. Let your team know what the goals for the tournament are, and they can then help to facilitate them. Reminders and check ins through the tournament will keep the team informed and focused if they need to be. Reminders do not mean reprimanding them though if they are not achieving the goals but more like informing them.
What does your team do in between games? It usually depends on the amount of time in between, or where the games are because sometimes a tournament can be so big that games are at different fields. One of the best things you can do for your team between games is to keep them away from the concession stand. The food provided there is often deep fried and low in nutritional value. These things either weigh you down or take too long to digest which takes up important energy sources that will be required for competition. If you can have a food team of parents or spectators assemble snack foods for between games that are not too full of fat and protein that will solve the issue easily.
If you have a long time in between games where you need to warm up again, make it a short 15-20-minute warm up as the players have already warmed up for games and you don’t want to add to any fatigue that might accumulate through the day. If there is less than 30 minutes between games a warm up might not even be necessary. Just a short combined throwing and fielding drill to get them back in the groove will be fine.
When the games are the next day, sleep is the number one factor when away at tournaments. Players want to stay up and have fun however without 8 hours, they are starting with the tank only 80-90% full or even less depending on how late they were up. If you are at a hotel with a swimming pool, avoid the fun until all games are over for the day as the chlorine also contributes to fatigue. Doesn’t sound fun at all does it? This is all dependent on the level of your team and the desired performance outcome for the weekend. That’s why if you are a travel team it might be more productive to have at least 1 or 2 tournaments where they can have fun and be on a “road trip”.
How do we benefit
Having a purpose for the tournament is going to determine how your team benefits. If it’s a fun tournament that you don’t have high expectations for, the benefit might be a team building trip where everyone gets to know each other and learns how to have fun in each other’s company. Those are as important as the high expectations tournaments, especially at the beginning of the season. As you move towards the most important tournaments, the focus and intensity should shift and the desired results will change to more performance outcome benefits. If the team has been gradually taken to that level, the confidence and their ability to focus will be easier than if you suddenly expect that everything is going to be perfect on that one weekend.
Use your tracking tools that you develop prior to the tournaments to examine the true benefits of each tournament. Remember, every tournament needs to have a purpose, even if it’s to make sure everyone gets to play. Ask your team after the tournament how they felt it went and if you accomplished your goals. Regardless of what the goals are, everyone should have a good experience.