Every athlete attempts to prepare themselves for competition but they are not truly tested until they must play extra innings or go into overtime. The importance of hydration can play a huge part in an athletes ability to be ready for the unexpected, for example the temperatures of a mid day game or a back to back basketball tournament where athletes will play at least three to four games in one weekend. No athlete is safe from dehydration whether they compete indoors or out as long as the athlete’s body sweats then they are at risk for losing valuable electrolytes. Since my primary responsibility occurs during the summer with the USSSA Pride in the National Pro Fastpitch my knowledge of how to keep athletes hydrated in such extreme temperatures have become well practiced. Keeping younger athletes hydrated properly can be more difficult since their thermoregulatory systems are not fully developed. In addition, younger athletes often do not communicate as well in terms of how their bodies feel with warmer temperatures and how it affects their ability to perform.
Past studies have found that if an athlete is dehydrated as little as 1-2% loss in their body weight it may result in negative effect on their performance. Therefore as coaches and parents it is important to plan ahead for your younger athletes in terms of what they will need prior to games to properly hydrate.
Proper hydration and nutrition days before a game plays a vital role in replenishing your athlete’s glycogen stores and essential nutrients such as carbohydrates, potassium, sodium, calcium and other vital electrolytes. A good way to keep younger athletes hydrated is to provide them with a water bottle they can refill throughout the day. Most water bottles are around 6 to 8oz, which will be sufficient for athletes to maintain regular fluid intake throughout their normal daily activities. Unfortunately, water alone will not fully replenish what the average athlete looses in a practice or game. I always urge parents and coaches to make sure the athlete has some sort of sports drink option with a proper balance of electrolytes and carbohydrates generally containing <7% to rotate in with their normal water intake. There are some myths that if your child is not thirsty during activity or if they are drinking solely water then they are clear of any hydration issues. Oppositely, water alone will shut off the athlete’s drive to drink additional fluids due to the increase in their blood plasma levels. This will result in the remaining sodium and other vital electrolytes being lost through urine and not replaced in a timely manner. During particularly hot and humid environments where heat illness is of great concern it is vital to monitor your athletes more closely in terms of what they are drinking and how frequently. I always encourage athletes to become familiar with his or her body by seeing what works for them during practices and scrimmages. This will allow them to find a proper hydration balance without feeling bogged down.
One of the more problematic situations that many athletes often encounter is how to prepare themselves for multiple competitions in a one or two day period. Here are a few tips to guide you to help your athlete compete at their best and help prevent heat illnesses.
- Check the weather prior to the weekend to get an idea of the conditions your athlete will be competing in. The warmer and more humid the more conscientious athletes will need to be taking in proper fluids
- Providing athletes a combination of with water and sports drinks to rotate is key (intake should be encouraged prior, during, and after especially in preparation of a sequential game)
- In between innings or during time outs remind the athletes that just came off the field to take a drink of fluid especially ones that sweat more profusely than others. Sometimes during games an athlete’s focus to hydrate isn’t always a priority but a quick reminder can keep them on track
- Often a good rule of how much to drink throughout a competition is around a cup to half a cup every 15-20 minutes. Although if an athlete wants more then keep the fluids coming. The more often athletes are able to take a drink the less chance is they will chug fluids at once, generally an alternation of water to some sports drink is helpful
- Remind the athlete to check the color of their urine as odd as it sounds it’s a good indication of where their fluid intake is at prior and post competition. I always go with the following guideline: the closer the urine color is to apple juice the more in danger the athlete is to being dehydrated compared to a clearer lemonade color of urine.
- Remember thirst alone may not be the best method of determining if an athlete has suffered extreme fluid loss. A more objective reliable way to gauge fluid loss is to weigh the athletes prior to competition or know their average weight out of competition. The athlete’s weight post activity will allow you to determine if they have lost significant amounts of fluid during activity. A small 2 lb difference in weight means the athlete will need to ingest 32oz of fluid prior to the next practice or game.
- Communication is key remember to talk with your athletes, I spend a good portion of time talking to each of my athletes and learning how they each respond differently to competition and practices in terms of hydration.
Follow Sonya on Twitter: @SonyaMontoya2
About USSSA Florida Pride:
The USSSA Florida Pride is a professional franchise in the National Pro Fastpitch League that is owned and operated by USSSA. The amateur organization of USSSA has multi-sport coverage and encompasses teams and players from the United States and abroad.
National Pro Fastpitch is headquartered in Nashville, TN. The league, created to give elite female fastpitch players the opportunity to pursue a professional career in their chosen sport, has operated since 1997 under the names of Women’s Pro Fastpitch (WPF) and Women’s Pro Softball League (WPSL). NPF is the Official Development Partner of Major League Baseball in the category of women’s fastpitch softball since 2002.
The United States Specialty Sports Association (USSSA), headquartered in Osceola County, Florida, USSSA is the World’s Largest Multi-sport Athletic Organization. Founded in 1968, USSSA has grown to over 3.7 million participants, competing in 13 nationally sanctioned sports including Baseball, Fastpitch, Slow Pitch, Karate, Basketball, Soccer and more! For more information on USSSA and to register your team visit USSSA.com. Also be sure to visit USSSAToday.com for the latest USSSA News!