What to Take With You on Tournament Day

inside tennis bag

A friend of mine called me last week – her sons decided they wanted to start playing junior tournaments, and she didn’t have any idea how to get them started. I pointed her to several articles on this website to give her an idea of how things work. I guess she found them helpful because her boys are playing their first ever tournament matches today!

That said, she called me again yesterday afternoon asking me more questions about how these tournaments work, and I realized I needed to provide a little more information, so here’s a list of things you and your junior need to bring with you on tournament day (see My Tournament Packing List if you’re traveling far from home):

  • At least two tennis racquets that are strung and ready to use.
  • A small cooler that can hold ice, 2-3 bottles of water, and 2-3 bottles of electrolyte drink. Your child will take this on the court with him/her for each match. Make sure you have extras in case your child plays more than one match in a day.
  • On-court snacks to eat during changeovers such as pretzel sticks, blueberries, grape tomatoes, energy bar, energy gel. These should be packed in the racquet bag. Again, bring extras.
  • Hand towel to be used on-court to dry hands between points and to wipe excess sweat.
  • Frog Tog (or other similar towel) to be used on-court during changeovers to bring down body temperature on hot days.
  • At least two changes of clothes, including underwear and socks. Boys especially should pack an extra shirt in their racquet bag to change on court. Be sure your child changes socks between matches or even between sets on really hot and humid days to prevent blisters.
  • Between-match and post-match recovery drinks and snacks. Those little boxes of chocolate milk are great. So is Endurox (be sure to bring along a shaker bottle to mix it).  Peanut-butter crackers and energy bars are staples for us.
  • Bandaids, cloth tape, Ibuprofen, and any other first-aid items you might want to have on hand.
  • Sweat-proof sunscreen.
  • Tennis balls to use for the pre-match warmup.  Some tournaments will provide warm-up balls, but it’s best to be prepared.
  • Something to do between matches – a book, playing cards, a backgammon set, crossword or Sudoku puzzles are all great time-killers when there are delays.

I’m sure I’m leaving items off this list – please comment below and let me know what else to add.  And be sure to check out our Newbies page for more information.

Help Yourself!

Have you noticed all the medical time-outs and trainer visits the pros seem to be having during their matches in recent years?  Sometimes they’re necessary,  but sometimes they’re a strategic move on the part of the player to shift the momentum of the match or take a time-out to regroup after a rough patch.  In either case, I think it’s time for professional tennis to take a lesson from the juniors and teach the players how to care for themselves court-side or just resign themselves to the fact that the fitter, healthier player is going to win that day.

Very few junior tournaments have medical trainers on staff – it’s just too expensive for the tournament directors – so it’s really important that your junior player understands how to take care of any minor (let me stress the minor part) ailments or injuries on court.  What constitutes a “minor” ailment or injury?  Of course, this is a very individual thing, but things like blisters, muscle aches, slight muscle cramps, a scraped knee, or a headache can probably be handled by the player at the side change as long as he is prepared.  If there is any question regarding the severity of an injury or illness, the player should seek IMMEDIATE medical attention.

Part of being prepared is making sure your player has the proper first aid components in his tennis bag.  A few things that my son always keeps on-hand are BandAids of varying shapes and sizes (including the special blister-relief ones), first aid tape and scissors, Super Glue (great for blisters!), Advil, Tiger’s Balm, and an old tennis ball for massaging tight or cramping muscles.  During tournaments, he also brings plenty of water and PowerAde as well as pretzels and either grape tomatoes or blueberries to stay hydrated and keep his sodium levels within a safe range to help prevent cramping.  A Frogg Togg Chilly Pad towel is a necessity during the hot and humid summer months – keeping it in a cooler with ice really helps it do the job of bringing down your player’s body temperature on those brutal days.

If you think an injury might warrant a visit to the doctor, Orthopedic Surgeon and Sports Medicine/Spine Specialist, Carl Goodman, offers this advice:  “Stay fit and stay strong has been my mantra for preventing and treating most tennis ailments.  Lower back pain and shoulder problems are the primary complaints I hear in my orthopedic practice- light exercise will usually resolve these problems and allow you to continue your tennis activities. Complete rest is a no-no for me if you want to get well fast!”

He goes on to say that, for junior players, “lower back pain that does not resolve after 2 weeks may represent a stress fracture in the spine. Consultation with an orthopedic doctor is advised at that time.”

When it comes down to it, it really is your child’s responsibility to take care of himself while on court.  Whether it’s taping up a blister or rolling out a tight muscle, knowing how to “treat” those minor ailments during a match could be the difference between getting to play another round or going home.  That said, no match is worth risking a long-term injury or illness, so knowing when to say, “Sorry, but I need to retire!” is vital, too.