The Coach's Guide to Making High School Sports Competitions Fun for All

Published on:
September 29, 2021

Traveling to a high school sports competition can be a lot of fun for student athletes, especially when it involves an overnight stay. They get to spend the entire weekend playing the sport they love, hanging out with their teammates, sleeping in a hotel, and eating out. What’s not to love? But for coaches, things can quickly get out of hand if you’re not prepared. Here are some essential tips for making the trip go as smoothly as possible.

Charter a Coach Bus

Coach buses provide a comfortable way for students to travel to their tournament destination. They often feature a variety of amenities such as comfortable seating, bathrooms, air conditioning, electrical outlets for charging electronic devices, and DVD players for on-the-road entertainment.

Before travel day, take a poll of your athletes to find out what movies they would like to watch. You can also play some team-building games to pass the time. One method that coach Joe Maddon uses to help Cubs players relax before their games is a themed road trip, where all the players dress up in pajamas, superhero costumes, etc. for the duration of their travel.

If the trip is particularly long, make sure to stop at rest stops every 2 hours to give your players a chance to stretch their legs, which will help prevent stiffness.

Distribute a Packing List

Few things put a damper on a trip quite like kids who have forgotten to bring their competition uniform. Put together and print a packing list for your athletes and their parents to reference. While it won’t completely eliminate the complaints of, “Oh no! I forgot…”, it will help. Here’s some ideas to get your started:

  • Sports uniform
  • Team tee shirt(s)
  • Casual clothes
  • Pajamas
  • Underwear
  • Socks
  • Casual shoes
  • Sports shoes
  • Sweats
  • Bathing suit, if appropriate
  • Athletic braces, if needed
  • Hair ties, if needed
  • Deodorant
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Lip balm
  • Shampoo/conditioner
  • Contacts and contact solution
  • Other toiletries
  • Medications
  • Pillow, if preferred
  • Healthy snacks
  • Water bottle
  • Sunscreen
  • Bug spray
  • Phone and phone charger
  • Headphones
  • Books or other personal entertainment
  • Homework

Establish a Hotel Code of Conduct

Make sure that your players understand what will be expected of them once they get to the hotel. Address the following questions:

  • What time is lights out?
  • Are they allowed to use the hotel pool?
  • Will hotel rooms be assigned or can the students pick?
  • Can they travel between rooms?

Enlist the help of parent volunteers or chaperones to help enforce these rules.

Also, if your trip involves some sightseeing, beware of accidentally exhausting your athletes with activities. It’s good to keep them occupied, but it’s bad to keep them so occupied that they can’t perform their best during the competition.

Set Rules for Parents in Attendance

Parent volunteers can be invaluable to maintaining order when you have a teamful of teens running around. They can also present an obstacle when they get in your way as the coach. Here are some ground rules you may want to establish with them beforehand:

  • Don’t try to advise your kids on their performance, especially during the competition and/or you have little experience with the sport. The only advice the athletes need to be hearing during that time will be from their coach.
  • Positive cheering only. Do not jeer at the other team or encourage violent or unsportsmanlike behavior from your child.
  • Winning isn’t everything.
  • Respect the coach’s decisions.

Aside from establishing some rules of conduct, it also helps to discuss the rules of the game with parents so they understand what’s going on. This will help them be better fans and enable them to better support their kids. Most importantly, they will be less likely to argue with you or the referee.

Practice Good Sportsmanship

Attending a high school sports competition isn’t just about winning. It’s also about honing your players’ abilities in a competitive environment, developing valuable life skills, and of course, having fun. The way you handle competition as a coach sets an example for your athletes, and they are likely to emulate you.

Make sure to have a pre-game speech prepared to pump up your players and set a positive tone for the tournament. List some goals for the team, such as being competitive and gaining experience.

During the game, make sure to give all players a chance to participate, even if they’re far from being one of your stars. Aside from helping prevent your top performers from fizzling out, it strengthens your team by giving others a chance to gain experience. Who knows — that kid you want to bench this year might turn out to be next year’s star.

After the tournament, be prepared to deliver a post-game speech. Win or lose, be encouraging. Point out the highlights of the game and celebrate the achievements of specific individuals.

High school sports competitions and tournaments are a great opportunity for student athletes to develop lasting bonds with their teammates and hone their skill in their sport. Use these tips to make the best of it, and don’t forget to hire Pegasus Transit to make sure you start and end the trip on a high note.

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