HAMMONTON, N.J. — After his team played its second game on a hot, sunny day at EDP Cup Spring on Memorial Day weekend, Jay Witkowski, coach of the Harleysville Soccer Association's Rangers Ready 04, gave his Boys Under-14 team some important instructions:
"Rest, hydrate and eat well."
Some excellent advice after performing in the heat. The last thing you want in the middle of a game is realizing you don't have enough fluids in your body.
"It's very important," said Dawn Parks, an EMT at EDP events. "It's important for everybody to hydrate in the heat. You don't usually feel it until the latter symptoms, in which you are cramping up, throwing up, stop sweating. Now you're in a heat emergency."
At that point, its all about putting back all the vital fluids your body needs.
"Besides water being a vital part of a balanced diet, athletes require good hydration to maintain an athletic body," said EDP technical director Simon Collins.
"A few key points to remember when preparing for games/training is what water does for us. During high intensity games and training hydration acts as a regulator of body temperature while also aiding the transfer of nutrients from food, providing energy to the players muscles. Hydration keeps the body functioning, which is vital during sports. Athletes that enter into games and practice without prior hydration risk suffering from fatigue and reduced brain function."
If you don't drink enough liquids, dehydration can happen to anyone. Last weekend Parks had a case in which a player collapsed.
"I think he was a U-12 player," she said. "He was nauseous and had a headache. He had stopped sweating, but he did not know to tell his mother that he was soaking wet first and then his body just stopped because he had nothing else to put out. It happens often."
Simon said that he has witnessed too many of these incidents during professional soccer career.
"As a player we were always given instructions to hydrate," he said. "Hydration as an athlete is a daily requirement. Our doctors and physios would always have specially prepared drinks made available. These would be provided both before, during and after practices and games. As a coach you have to be mindful there are lots of factors affecting an athlete's body during games which cause the best prepared athletes to suffer from dehydration. Weather conditions, stress and pressure of the game, field conditions and the standard/performance of the opposition all contribute."
Parents need to be educated as well.
"I have seen young players turn up for games with large cups of coffee," Collins said. "When the player is asked about his/her drink they said for example, 'My dad gave it to me because the caffeine will make me run more.' "
And dehydration can go beyond just getting enough fluids into a players' system.
Collins added that many dehydration incidents have had several contributing factors, including lack of sleep, poor diet and thinking that fizzy drinks are good forms of hydration. "Dehydration can contribute to poor decision making and seriously effects your performance," he said. "In some extreme situations players require medical attention to rehydrate them."
Yes, a good diet is key as well.
"Eating well before a game is important," Parks said. "Go with the proteins. A lot of these athletes, young ones that don't know better, will go with the quick sugars and the sugars, of course, burn off and you have a whole new problem." So, it was vital for players to drink the right fluids.
Then there’s game day.
Parks had this bit of advice for players: "Start hydrating at least a day before."
During the EDP Cup Spring, game officials called for water breaks midway through each half. No one certainly complained as players were seen gulping down water or drinks that had electrolytes.
That was fine with Witkowski "It helps," he said. "You're getting hydrated. Also taking a minute or two, you're not running. You calm down for a minute or two. It's nice."
Witkowski has a rule for his team:
"Every guy has got to get hydrated. There's more games to come. We don't want any more injuries. As soon as you get off, you've got to take a big water break."
Which his team did. "I've already drank five bottles of water today," forward Beckett Wenger said on Memorial Day weekend. "I think I'll be drinking 10 more."
At EDP events, Gatorade is made available to players, coaches and game officials at tents located at midfield of all fields.
"There are many leading brands in the market place that aid a player’s preparation and recovery," Collins said. "We at EDP use Gatorade to help the players replenish lost fluids."
And some last words to the wise. Parks reminded players, coaches and parents that dehydration can happen even during normal temperatures.
"It doesn't have to be in the heat because they get dehydrated because they're perspiring for using up their electrolytes," she said.
Just remember to drink up.