A student came to a lesson exhausted. Her team had played in an “all night tournament”. Doesn’t that sound fun? Perhaps, on the surface.
I tell our Certified Instructors that we have three rules in our organization: 1-It is about the kids 2-It is about the kids 3-It is about the kids. Today, I stand up for the kids.
If you ask a good doctor about skipping sleep and playing a game at 4am, I don’t think you will like the answer. The body is slow, clumsy, and reflexes are dulled. This lack of coordination means that the brain loses fine motor skills, so a quick pivot and throw can blow a knee or overload a shoulder.
A good contractor once told me that he sent employees home if they came to work after being out all night. He said far more injuries occur for the reasons mentioned above. Judgement, cognitive skills, and recognition of risk are all poor at best.
Perhaps a sleep expert would endorse playing all night? Not likely. Studies show that, if the body needs rest, it will get it in different ways. There will be little lapses when the mind turns off, maybe for ten seconds at a time. We have all been there. Let’s just hope it does not happen when an 86-mile per hour line drive is screaming at a kid. When we are tired, routine actions become anything but routine, such as “calling a fly ball”, so many safety rules go out the window.
We could consult a nutrition expert. How do you plan appropriate meals with the right nutrition for a body that is dealing with the stress of no rest? Can that body recognize hydration needs?
Athletic trainers will tell you that fatigue is a huge cause of injuries. In any sport, as a player tires, he or she no longer has the energy to keep the core correctly engaged. They begin to “reach” instead of moving the feet. Movements are out of sync. Form is forgotten. Injury risk skyrockets.
Then there are the peripheral concerns. Can we execute plays or game plans when we are under duress? Do coaches make good decisions? Does one of the players get a little cranky and affect team unity?
We are supposed to be developing players. Under ideal conditions that is challenging. Under poor conditions that is frustrating and risky. The top priorities for coaches should be toward keeping their kids safe, healthy, and then focus on developing their skills and sharpening reflexes. It is hard to see how any of these are served in these situations.
I was never a fan of tournaments that started with 8am games and finished at midnight for the reasons we have discussed. Tournaments need to make money. We get that. We appreciate those who make playing opportunities possible for our kids. The problem comes when the lines become blurred and priorities are tossed aside.
This is not an attack on people who put on these tournaments. They would end immediately if there were not people demanding to play every waking moment. Tournaments are reacting to demand and feeding a frenzy, but I am not sure it is an appetite that is healthy for our kids.