Mind and Body: How to prepare for a pickleball tournament
When you play in a pickleball tournament, how often do you feel that you’re at the top of your game and fully prepared to take-on the competition? I’m not just talking from a pure skill level perspective. But are you also preparing your mind and body to take on the area’s best players?
Just like in other sports, “preparation” doesn’t just mean whether you are playing at the same level as the competition. We have all seen the “better” players struggle because of losing focus, lost stamina, and dehydration; especially in larger tournaments where you can easily play for more than 8 hours. Here are a few tips that will help you be prepared – on all levels – for playing in your next pickleball tournament.
Being properly hydrated doesn’t start with the day of the event – and also doesn’t mean guzzling a ton of water during the event. You have to be smart about staying hydrated. On the day of the event, try to avoid drinking caffeine beverages – I know for some of you, a trip of Starbucks in the morning is natural. But when you’re competing, caffeine can increase fluid loss. You should always have water with you throughout the day – especially in-between matches. When playing, your sweat rate can help you determine how much water you should consume (Learn how to take a sweat-rate test). Your body won’t always tell you when you should drink water; and if it does, it may be too late and you’ll end up with leg cramps.
To have maximum performance, you need a healthy diet. Like hydrating, this is a constant thing – not just the week before the tournament. A balanced intake of fruits, vegetables, grains, lean proteins, and some seafood is important. Drinking water instead of sugary drinks like soda is important as well. But to perform your best during a multi-day tournament, it is important to consider how much you’ll be playing, whether you’re playing indoors or outdoors, and the forecast (if outdoors).
The goal of planning your meals before, during, and after a pickleball tournament is to maximize your energy stores; this will help with strong muscle performance and recovery after the event. Don’t eat anything that is unusual to your digestive system – especially if you go out with friends the night before. The International Tennis Foundation has a great Pre-Match, Match, and Recovery plan that will help you and your body be healthy at your next tournament. I would recommend checking it out. Visit the ITF website.
When I’m at a tournament, I like to rest between matches. There are times you’ll see me laying in a corner, listening to music on my phone, and staying off my feet. I’ll some times help and ref if needed, but I primarily like to find a comfortable place to chill. Because I typically know who I will be playing ahead of time, I rarely watch matches. I know my game and the game I need to play to be successful. I would recommend separating yourself from the competition and relaxing as much as possible. Watching the “next” teams can make you relax, tense up or stress about the level of “their” game.
Trying to work on your game at the tournament is like cramming for a test 5 minutes before it begins; it most likely will stress you out and distract you from what you’ve been working on for the past months and weeks. If you’re playing in a large tournament, you may be waiting a lot between matches. This can cause anxiety and you may get the urge to play a few “practice” matches with your friends. Depending on the level in which you practice, this may actually hinder your playing level when the match counts. Be cautious when practicing between matches; too much and you or your partner won’t be able to perform at their maximum level.
Have you ever watched Ichiro Suzuki play baseball? He is constantly stretching – whether he is getting ready to bat or playing right field. For the 40-year-old Suzuki, he is known for his incredible stretching routines. They are a big component of his successful 22-year career in baseball – both in Japan and in the United States. You can read about his stretching routine in this article by the Wall Street Journal.
Stretching also plays a huge part in performing at your best in pickleball. It reduces the risk of injury and allows you to get that extra step when needed to cover the kitchen or cover that deep lob. Below is a great video created by physical therapists and athletic trainers at Shoreline, Sport, and Spine in Spring Lake, Michigan.
Between matches, instead of sitting in your chair or bleacher watching other games, try to do some stretches. You want to keep your muscles warm and by stretching, you continue to focus on your body for maximum performance. I recommend reading this article to learn why stretching is just as important as exercising.
How do you prepare?
This, of course, is how I prepare for a tournament; I would love to hear your thoughts on tournament preparation. Either comment below with your routine or visit me on Facebook.