Preparing for a Tournament Weekend

By: Malia Jelneck

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Tournaments: one of the most exciting weekends in a young soccer player’s life. For young players like myself, tournaments are exciting, but they are not all fun and games. There are many stages of preparation that we go through to get our mind and body ready for the tournament: endurance drills, sprints, and teamwork drills are just a couple of things my team does to prepare. Many of the coaches in our league will just do typical tournament rules such as no sleep-overs, early bedtimes, and absolutely no heavy meals before games. Other coaches go above and beyond.

One particular tournament rule my coach has is a strict tournament diet.  Typical tournament diet restricts us from having sweets or sodas, heavy meals, or fried foods. Tournament meals typically consist mainly of carbs, which many people call “carb-loading.” These carbs will give you the much needed boost of energy during games. Another great food source that our coach encourages us to eat is fruits and vegetables. They make for a great snacking alternative instead of chips, candy, or other unhealthy options. We are also encouraged to drink a lot of water. When I say a lot, I mean a lot. Our bodies have to stay hydrated during a game, and when we are under  the hot Florida sun, hydration is key to performing well in tournaments.

During tournaments, our coach has a strict bedtime so that we are well rested.  For our team, the normal tournament bedtime is 9:00 pm sharp. If you are not in bed by 9:00 pm, then the next morning you will be tired and sluggish. Trust me, the coaches know who gets to bed at 9:00 pm and who doesn’t. Of course, keeping sharp on your skills is important, and our coaches give us drills and skill moves to practice at home before the big weekend. This helps prepare us to make a move around a player, make a good pass, or shoot on goal. One thing I am grateful for is that our coach doesn’t give us too much to do; he wants us to stay sharp and not tire out too quickly so that we can perform well for the tournament.

Our coach practices combinations and teamwork drills with the team. He assigns several drills to make sure each player is mentally in the game, and they are not just kicking the ball in random directions. Many drills that we do such as possession drills, passing drills, and combination drills ensure the player is thinking during the game. Without each player thinking through their passes, the team would lose possession as soon as they gain it. In tournaments, the mind is just as important as the skill.

Our coach makes us dress up as a team, and stay off our feet in between games. When my team arrives to a game, we have about 45-60 minutes to prepare for the game ahead. We always show up in our practice jerseys and slip-on shoes with no shin guards or cleats. Once we arrive at the game, we put on cleats and shin guards. After practicing for a while before the game, we change our practice jerseys to our game jerseys. After a game, what should you do? Go in the pool? Wrong. We are told to keep our feet up and to stay well rested in between games. Our coach doesn’t want us any more sore than we have to be. As additional precaution, we are also required to stay inside and out of the scorching sun. Staying in the sun for an extended amount of time makes players sluggish, and slow players will be taken out of the game.

In summary, tournament preparation consists of:

  • Keep a strict tournament diet
  • Stay hydrated
  • Get to bed early
  • Practice drills and skills leading up to your tournament weekend
  • Stay off your feet in between games
  • Show up to the games early
  • At night, don’t go swimming or participate in any strenuous activity
  • Stay out of the sun

Coaches that go above and beyond are the ones that win tournaments. They inspire us to be the best we can be, and of course, they inspire us to win. After preparing for 4-5 days, you don’t want all of that preparation to be for nothing. The players aren’t the only heroes if the team wins. The coach is the real superstar in a team that is prepared for a tournament.