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Show Up to a Tournament or Showcase with a Plan for Success

Hockey team is shown skating past their bench high-fiving in celebration

Tournament or showcase play can take a major toll on an athlete’s mind and body. Don’t just show up to a tournament or showcase – show up with a plan that will allow you to play at your best.


Prior to leaving for tournament or showcase:

  • Take time to clarify goals for the event and be prepared.
  • Don’t show up tired from hard training or the past weekend’s competition. Taper activity leading up to an important tournament or showcase.
  • Make a packing list and check it twice: regular medications, rehabilitation/exercise equipment, all playing gear, and contact information for your medical team back at home.
  • Will it be hot or cold? Make extra preparations for fluids, salt-containing foods, shade, and change in clothing (wet clothing is miserable in heat or cold).
  • Nagging injuries? Get them looked at before you leave and have a plan for continuing to play and recover.
  • If driving, don’t try to set speed records for quickest arrival. Plan stops every 2-3 hours for food, fluids, and light exercise to avoid cramping and stiffness.
  • Identify medical support at the event and know where it is (including first aid kits, defibrillators, and athletic trainers).
  • If medical support is lacking on site, find sport medicine clinics nearby for recovery and support.


A special note on showcases or identification camps:

  • Please realize that most coaches use showcases or ID camps to take athletes off lists. It is very rare that athletes “wow” a coach and move up a list.
  • Coaches have long lists and brief periods of time to see/evaluate each athlete. If an athlete isn’t playing well, coaches usually won’t take the time to ask about injuries; they will usually cross the athlete off the list and move on to the next player. So if an injury makes you not at/near 100% of your usual playing ability, it is best to pass on the event until you are ready to show your full capabilities.


Night before game or tournament:

  • Concentrate on eating a balanced meal with lean protein, carbohydrates, and unsaturated fats.
  • Eat low fat, high carbohydrate foods like pasta, potatoes, or rice (without cream sauces and butter).
  • Include vegetables like spinach, broccoli, and squash to add a great source of calcium and fiber.
  • Continue to drink lots of fluids, especially water. Your daily water intake should be 75% of your body weight in ounces. For example, 100 lbs = 75 ounces of water or about 2.5 liters.
  • For a dessert or late-night snack, try fruit, sherbet, or yogurt.
  • Get a good night sleep of 8 to 9 hours; rest is the key to recovery and optimal performance.


A special note about the importance of sleep:

  • Sleep is probably the best and most under-rated and under-appreciated performance supplement. Lack of sleep is a momentum crusher.
  • If deciding between an extra hour of sleep or an extra hour of training, recovery, or screen time; the extra hour of sleep wins every time.
  • Being nervous about the competition while away from home, probably with a roommate, in a weird bed, and even in a different time zone is not the best recipe for falling and staying asleep, so CLICK HERE for some practical recommendations for a sleep plan that will work.


Morning before games begin:

  • If possible, eat breakfast 2-3 hours prior to competition.
  • Eat light and low fat; avoid greasy foods such as hash browns and sausages.
  • Stick with familiar foods, especially with nervous pre-game stomachs.
  • Try a bowl of cereal, bagel, fruit, fruit juice (1 cup is enough), yogurt, toast, waffles (pancakes can be too filling), and scrambled eggs.
  • Continue to drink water. Stay away from sodas and caffeine drinks.
  • Pack snacks with you: a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, jerky, carrot sticks, water, and sports drink to avoid eating junk food at the snack bar.


Between games (short time; 1 to 4 hours):

  • Perform a light cool down following game. For example, a 5–10-minute light jog or walk, repeat a dynamic warm up (etc.), followed by a general static stretch.
  • Continue to hydrate with water and sports drinks (i.e. Gatorade); 8-16 ounces/hour is a good rule of thumb. Muscle cramps can be a sign of dehydration and low electrolyte balance.
  • Bring your own familiar fluids. There’s nothing worse than drinking a new sports drink that doesn’t agree with you.
  • Eat a light snack within 30-60 minutes of the end of the game. Some examples are: a low fat sandwich, fruit, soup, energy/granola bar (not high in protein), yogurt, or low fat muffin.


Between games (long time; over 4 hours):

  • Perform a light cool down following the game, as described above.
  • Continue to hydrate with water and sports drinks (i.e. Gatorade); at least 24 ounces.
  • Eat a normal size meal that is high in carbohydrates, low in saturated fat, and a smaller portion of protein than normal
  • Get some rest and stay cool out of the direct sun. Take a short nap and elevate your legs up above your heart for 30 minutes to aid recovery.


Following last game of the day:

  • Perform a light cool down following the game, as described above.
  • Continue to hydrate with water and sports drinks (i.e. Gatorade); at least 24 ounces to replace electrolytes.
  • Eat a regular size meal that is high in carbohydrates and protein (to help muscles repair) and low in saturated fat. Unsaturated fats such as nuts, avocado, and olive oil are okay.
  • Remember the vegetables – eat your dark leafy greens and other colorful veggies. Have a salad at the end of dinner.
  • Jump in an ice tub for 10 minutes. Fill the bathtub with a couple of bags of ice and fill with enough water to cover your legs.
  • Get that all-important good night’s sleep of 8 to 10 hours.


If you get hurt or sick:

  • Use on-site medical support for the initial evaluation. This may be able to save you an urgent care/emergency room visit, however, if one is needed,  the medical staff can give you a referral to a trusted location.
  • Get electronic copies (or at least screenshot images) of x-rays or other images to share with the sports medicine team when you return home.
  • Get electronic copies of any lab or other reports before you leave the facility.
  • Contact your local sports medicine team for a follow-up appointment right when you return home.
  • Don’t guess. If there is any doubt, sit out. No matter how much time and money has gone into the tournament or showcase, your health comes first.


Final words on tournaments and showcases:

  • Plan to strike a balance between business and fun.
  • Yes, your primary goal is to perform at your best, and the performance of you and your team can be improved with well-planned sightseeing and bonding experiences.
  • Some of an athlete’s most memorable experiences are off the field during road trips.
  • Good plans that keep goals about sleep, nutrition, and recovery in mind can make those memories as positive as possible. 


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