Be Your Best on Game Day

Sam competing while in Australia.

Competition days often go by in a blur of refereeing duty, games, eating, rehydrating and travel. Tournaments are social occasions as well, a chance to see people that you haven’t seen in weeks/months/years; a chance to heckle or support from the sideline and to chat over a drink once you are done.

However, when it comes down to it, unless you are one of the ‘social butterflies’ that I talked about in my Types of Beach Volleyballer article, we all want to win. I’ve put together a number of tips about little things that you can do to make yourself more successful when game day comes around. Hope they are helpful!

Tip 1: Stay Warm

Through the day, you’ll hopefully have lots of games as you progress through the tournament. Depending on the format, you’ll have some rest periods, and probably some times when you have to referee games. It sounds simple, but it is really important to stick on an extra couple of layers between games.

It’s so easy to just get caught up in the moment immediately after a game, to get into the debrief, and then to realise that you are now refereeing and stand there for an hour in just a vest and a pair of shorts. What I can guarantee is that, if you do that, you will have stiffened up for the next one! Keep moving a little and stay warm-if you are having to put more clothes on because you are cold, it’s already too late.

Tip 2: Food

This is really important. Firstly, have a good breakfast. That’s not a croissant 5 minutes before your first game; that means eating a good, balanced meal at least an hour before you play. I tend to go for overnight oats with fruit and peanut butter, or eggs on toast with something green.

Once you get to the tournament, my approach is to eat little and often. I always try to bring lots of snacks with me, and then work my way through them between games. It’s also OK to have a bit of banana or a quick snack during the game, too; you need to just keep yourself topped up all day. What you really don’t want to do is a.) have one really big meal in the middle of the day, or b.) crash, because you haven’t eaten enough.

When I was in Australia last year, I used my Fitbit (not that accurate, I know) to calculate my average calorie burn per tournament day. Granted, I did help setting the tournaments up and packing them up, but I was staggered by the numbers-the average ended up being around 5,500 kcal. It’s OK, in fact to be recommended to go and have a big meal in the evening, especially if you are playing the next day-you need to get the calories in somehow! But in the day, getting them in is a battle-I always make sure that I eat between every game, and try to have snacks ready for when I am reffing or sitting around.

Tip 3: Warming Up

At the start of the day, make sure that you arrive in plenty of time to do a thorough warm up. When I go abroad and play, I try to make sure that this involves someone serving at us as a team so that we can go through our side out, rather than just doing the classic hit-and-set warm up. Then, before each game, your warm up doesn’t have to be long, but it does need to get you switched on and sweating. If you are still chatting about what you had for lunch when you are about to start playing then you probably aren’t ready!

Tip 4: Drinking

Like food, this is a case of little and often. Make sure you start early-if you turn up to the tournament dehydrated, you are already on the back foot. Get hydrated early, and then keep it that way. It’s also OK to have a sports drink or an isotonic drink-these are good ways of maintaining your blood sugar levels and getting some more calories in you! I often have both a water bottle and a sports drink ready for games.

Secondly, especially on warm days it’s really important to make sure that you are replacing your electrolytes. Something that I put on my tournament kitlist are electrolyte powders or tablets. Dioralyte works well, too. Have a second bottle with some of this in, and work through it over the course of the day. It’ll help keep the cramp away!

Finally, make sure you have plenty of water before you start your games, there’s nothing worse than running out and having to use part of your precious time-outs to find someone to fill your bottle up for you.

Tip 5: Have a Plan

How many times have you warmed up for a game completely, done the toss, and then turned around to your partner and said “so who shall we serve then?”

If you’re like me, probably a fair few. There is absolutely no reason for this. If you don’t know the team you are playing, ask someone who has. If you can’t find anyone, have a plan with how you are going to start anyway, based on what you have seen before. If in doubt, you could serve the ball down the middle, see who takes it and then serve the other one.

Above all, though, it’s really important that you have a clear plan for how you as a team are going to serve points, both on your side out and on serve. It might be that you decide you want to hit wide sets a lot, or that you like hitting on 2 as a team. Whatever floats your boat. But make a side out identity or blueprint for yourselves, and stick to it. The same for block/defence. Who are you going to serve? Where? Why? What shots does or doesn’t that player have? These are all questions you should be asking and talking about before you get on court to warm up.

I hope this has helped folks! Good luck, and, as always, if you think I’ve missed something then please do comment below.

Sam x

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