Clubs have different rules about what is expected of their coaches and teams at tournaments. The more you coach, the more you will also develop your own expectations and routines for them. Much of this will depend upon your personality and your priorities. First ask yourself why you are going to the tournament. If the first priority is winning (and, be honest, for some of you it will be!) you attitude is probably going to be different to if it is team bonding, or a reward for a good season.
Most clubs stress that when you are at the tournament you represent the club so your behavior needs to be exemplary. For parents and coaches this means not getting thrown out of games, fighting in the pool, or waking up in a local’s yard. Seriously though, the reputation of your club for other people is often based on that one team they saw at that tournament once. We recommend having a team meeting before going to your first tournament with a team to explain what you expect from everyone.
Within the team you also need to decide what image will be projected by coaches and parents. If you choose to drink alcohol in front of parents tread very carefully! Some clubs don’t allow this at all. Others think that it is ok as a form of bonding with parents. If you are a parent coach with a player on the team, you probably feel that if other parents are allowed to drink with their dinner then you should be able to also. Keeping in control is obviously required. Also you need to think about how it looks to other parents if you hang out with a select few of them. Coaches should try to appear (and be) impartial at all times, treating all players and families equally. It only takes one moment at a tournament to damage this image. Drinking before or between games is forbidden by all clubs that we know of.
For players the rules are usually more straightforward. Again, it comes down to your reasons for going to the tournament. For “winners” the player rules are often quite strict in order to keep players as fresh and recovered as possible. For “bonders” the rules may be more relaxed to give your players time to meet, play, and have fun. For those trying to do everything, you need to come up with a compromise that best meets all of your goals. Do you set bedtimes (yes, if players are not with parents)? Do you allow them to hang out by the pool between games, or at all? Do you allow them to lock their doors? Do you have keys to all the rooms? Are they allowed to leave the hotel? I could go on and on… The point is, you need to set these rules before the tournament and then stick to them so there is no confusion.
A few years ago I was at a tournament up in the mountains. My team had seven objectives that we were working towards for the tournament, with one of them being to win. Another team, staying in the same hotel, appeared to have the single goal of winning. Where my team swam in the pool, went out to dinner, and went on float trips, the other team were required to stay in their rooms. No swimming was allowed during the weekend.
In typical story fashion, both teams get to the final and my team are feeling the pressure. Before the game I asked them why we came to the tournament, and we listed the seven goals that we could think of. So I asked, if we lose the final, how many of our goals have we still achieved? The answer came back – “six” – and yet the other team, if they lose, how many of their goals have they achieved – “none” – and it was this realization of who the pressure was really on that allowed my team to shake off the fear and win the final.
Then there is the team that got to the final to face the “best team in the tournament”, only to find that they all had sun burn and fatigue from spending the day at the water park. This time it was the prepared and rested team that walked all over them. Finding the right balance is key to team success at tournaments.