Player endurance during tournaments

Here’s an interesting question I saw posted in a discussion group.

Q: In tournaments endurance is critical. Please send answers for the following 3 areas:
1) building endurance?
2) nutrition/best foods: pre, during, after
3) other things to do: stretches, massage, mind/mental stuff?

Let me address each component.

Building endurance

The physical side of this question is actually one that might be pretty unique in sports. In most cases I’d venture to say that team practices last longer than tournament matches. Let’s use Juniors in the US as an example. Club teams probably have something like 2-hour long practices as the norm. When they play in tournaments, though, they generally last less than an hour. In fact, it’s probably only about 45 minutes in most cases.

What about the case of college teams playing two best-of-5 matches per day during early season tournaments? Well, in that case we’re talking mainly about teams that have been doing 2-a-days for some period of time up to that point.

This being the case, I would suggest no additional “endurance” training is necessary. If you have a sufficiently high training tempo then the players should be more than reading for the tournament physical demands.

Nutrition and hydration

To my mind this is probably the most impactful area to focus on. If you want your players to perform at their best throughout an event they need to have the necessary energy reserves and access and must be properly hydrated. This starts the day before the event and carries through it. Aside from what players take in there is also the question of when.

I am not a nutritionist or any kind of expert on this subject. I’ve been in seminars on the subject, though. There are different things to consider here, depending on your circumstances. My recommendation to you is to sit down with someone qualified to speak about your specific situation. That way you have the most relevant information to pass along to players (and parents) and for your own planning purposes.

The other stuff

For me the other big thing is recovery. That means getting enough rest between matches – and in the case of multi-day events, sleep. You don’t want your players needlessly burning energy (kind of like my thoughts about match day serve & pass). Keep in mind, though, that the mental side of things is just as important as the physical. If you have the team doing stuff like scouting or other brain work, it could be just as draining as doing something physical, if not more so.

As for things like stretching, massage, etc. I think there’s probably a situational element. These are definitely much more meaningful considerations for older, more advanced athletes. Again, I’m not expert. I will defer to a trainer, a physiotherapist, or someone like that. I think, though, that time between matches matter. You probably don’t want to do something that will relax the muscles too much if there isn’t much time before you play again. And obviously if there’s an injury situation with a player there are probably things they’ve been advised to do, or not do.

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John Forman
About the Author: John Forman
John currently coaches for an NCAA Division II women's team. This follows a stint as head coach for a women's professional team in Sweden. Prior to that he was the head coach for the University of Exeter Volleyball Club BUCS teams (roughly the UK version of the NCAA) while working toward a PhD. He previously coached in Division I of NCAA Women's Volleyball in the US, with additional experience at the Juniors club level, both coaching and managing, among numerous other volleyball adventures. Learn more on his bio page.

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