I’m not a big fan of youth soccer tournaments. I think they are expensive, time-consuming, and when a team participates in too many of them, the players don’t appreciate them as much. But more on this in future posts.
One thing that really irked me in the past was having a huge gap of time between games. What are a team, parents, and players to do when they are far from home, it is 105 degrees, and you have 6 hours to kill? It is great if many of the families are staying at a hotel with a pool but by the time the kids are through swimming, how much energy will they have for the next game? A movie theater is a good alternative but you can see a movie anywhere. A mall is OK but for 10-year-old boys?
However, with some planning and forethought, an extended gap can present a team with unique and fun opportunities. At a recent tournament in Sacramento this past summer, my son and I had such an experience. Along with another father and son, we drove around Mather Air Force base hoping to see some take-offs and landings or get a glimpse of some vintage planes. We did better. We found the main terminal and after asking, we were allowed to eat our lunches in an air-conditioned lunch room that just so happened to have cable TV. While the boys were entertaining themselves, the dads got their fill of Gol TV. Another inquiry resulted in an employee taking the four of us on a 20-minute chauffeured tour of the tarmac where we got to see our vintage airplanes, a DC-9 up close and personal, and much more.
I asked my son the other day if he remembered the tournament. The only thing he remembered was Mather Air Force base. He had no clue how his team did in that tournament.
As a veteran of what seems like hundreds of tournaments, these events are and should be much more than just about the soccer games and the final results. After all, there will only be one winner in each age group. Make the most of these tournaments. Organize events between games that are not physically taxing, preferably non-soccer and non-sports related, memorable, fun, and unique to the area that you are visiting. The club hosting the tournament should be able to provide several suggestions. Interactive museums are always fun. Visiting a local landmark can be exciting. Older players may enjoy a private campus tour of a nearby college or university.
Don’t forget the importance of eating. Make sure the players eat appropriately between games. If it turns out the gap between games is not too long, a team barbeque or picnic featuring board and card games can be a lot of fun and a very memorable experience, especially if the food is good.