Preparing to compete in tournaments is something that most players place far too little importance on. You can’t really lift your performance much by preparing well for a tournament, but by not preparing you most certainly can bring down your performance.
Here are some tips on how you can prepare for tournaments to make sure that you are as comfortable as possible thus ensuring the best performance possible.
Create a packing checklist
This is a tip that a sports psychologist once gave me. One of the biggest causes of stress for traveling athletes is forgetting something important, or even something that isn’t that important but gives you comfort.
Do you use your iPod before matches to get ready? How would you feel if you’re on your airplane about to take off when you realize you have forgotten your iPod? Or even worse, your court shoes or rackets!! By creating a packing checklist you will reduce the chances that you forget something before you leave.
Cut down on heavy training leading up to the event
This may be a controversial point for some players. I know some people who like to ramp up their training before playing to get themselves ready to go, I don’t agree with this.
Leading up to a tournament you want to have your body feeling good, and the last thing you want is to injure yourself right beforehand.
By reducing your training volume slightly the days before you will have more energy for your tournaments. Also, playing more games and cutting back on the badminton court physical stuff could be a good idea as well.
Book accommodation close to the badminton courts
The last thing you want is to have to take expensive taxis to the hall, or worse walk a long distance before you have to play. This is often something that the tournament organizers should be responsible for taking care of, but if you’re on your own be sure to keep this in mind.
Confirm your itinerary well in advance
You don’t want to be booking flights and hotels at the last minute. What happens if you arrive with no place to stay? Or you can’t find a cheap flight and have to pay a heavy price for booking late? If you only play a couple of tournaments a year this is no big deal, but when you are playing dozens a year you need to be efficient and economical.
One useful tip could be getting there early enough to get rested and acclimatised to the place, especially if it’s a different country/time zone.
Also, it could be useful to get a feel of the venue/courts beforehand, if possible. It can really help if you can get to the tournament courts a couple of days ahead and then get used to playing on those courts (every court has its peculiarities and it is important to adapt one’s play to suit the court)
Watch your diet
A lot of people talk about carb loading your diet before an event, but I’m not a dietitian so I’m not going to give you specific advice on that, all I’m going to say is watch what you eat. You know when you’re eating badly.
Avoid McDonald’s, KFC, and other fast-food restaurants. Don’t go for fish and chips. Don’t eat greasy, oily food. Eat healthy, if you don’t know how to do that then talk to a dietitian.
If you can’t afford a dietitian, then ask your mom what you should eat, she’s probably been trying to get you to eat your vegetables for years!
I have found from personal experience mostly, and hearing it now and then, that potassium is an excellent way of getting rid of the jitters, so I will buy a bunch of bananas (kiwi works too but it is messier) for myself and eat them between matches. I would agree that there is a noticeable difference!
The diet part is really what is most important to me. Not only does it help you perform better but it also gives me confidence and makes me feel ”light” on the court. Watching what you are eating the day before and of course, during the tournament is really a good way of preparing for such events.
I got myself a sports nutrition book which really helped me with my performance during training and competitions.
One more thing that I would add about diet is: do not eat new stuff before a tournament, you could get indigestion, cramps or just feel bad from that new food you just tried. If you travel to other countries, try to drink only bottled water as the water from the sink could make you sick.
You can learn more about the diet here.
Don’t try to learn new things
The week before a tournament is NOT the time to be trying to add some new shot to your game or to be changing your footwork drastically. Focus on doing what you already do well. If you try to add something new to your game, you will confuse yourself and make more mistakes than you should.
Relax as much as you can
Do you have major anxieties the night before a big tournament? When I used to play tournaments (many years ago), I used to get really jittery the night before the tournament and could never sleep well. As a result, my performance suffered the next day!
Not until my partner advised me that tournament or competition preparation is always stress building. He suggested me to keep focused on the task at hand and not the anxiety.
After that, I found breathing exercises and visualisation techniques really helped me get through those very stressful moments when you feared losing it all.
Then I will be able to enter the tournament relaxed (but not too relaxed) and ready to go. For me visualising fast movement and smooth action really helped.
Some other things that might work are having a pre-game routine and then sticking to it religiously, and listening to classical music (or anything that helps you relax) before/in between your matches.