Traveling for an away tournament can be a huge team bonding experience and tons of fun for any youth sports team. But as much fun as it can be for the players we as parents and coaches know that planning, organizing, and coordinating an away tournament means keeping track of a thousand and one details, including ensuring that your team is getting the right nutrition to play their best.
Pack healthy snacks.
While a weekend of nachos and hot dogs may sound like a dream to a 12 year old baseball player, we as parents and coaches know that if we want our teams to play at their best they need real food at hand! Instead of relying on the concession stand to feed your team plan ahead and pack plenty of healthy snacks that your team can munch on throughout the weekend. Things like fresh fruits and vegetables (apple slices, carrot sticks, etc), low-fat cheese snacks, and granola bars (as long as they aren’t too sugar heavy) are all great options to have on hand. They also make great snacks for the hotel and keep your team away from the vending machines.
If you bring a cooler you can even stop at a local grocery store and pick up some deli meat or peanut butter and jelly to make sandwiches on the fly. A lot of big tournaments might be in the middle of nowhere with limited dining options, so being able to make a healthy meal right in the parking lot is a great option.
Just skip fast-food restaurants entirely.
The best way to avoid junk food is to just steer clear of places where that’s all you can eat. While many fast-food restaurants are adding healthier options to their menus, you’re still probably better off finding a real restaurant, or even a grocery store that sells prepared meals, and guaranteeing your team is getting the right nutrition they need. If you are staying overnight, take advantage of what you can with your hotel’s continental breakfast. Maybe avoid a dozen boxes of Frosted Flakes, but have your players grab an extra banana or bagel for later in the day. Eggs (if they’re being served) are a great source of protein first thing in the morning and can keep your players filling fuller longer without weighing them down. Even a glass of milk and piece of toast with peanut butter is probably better than a lot of fast food breakfast items.
Research what restaurants are around and make reservations.
Many bad food decisions are made because the team is hungry, tired and in a rush to eat. Save yourself a lot of trouble down the road and scope out what kind of restaurants are around before you get on the road. If you know what kind of food is available you can plan out where and when your team will eat (especially important if one of your players has food allergies or dietary issues) and call ahead to let the kitchen know you’ve got a dozen hungry athletes coming. If there are only a few restaurants in town big enough to seat the whole team you can bet it’ll be crowded. The last thing you want is for dinner to be at 9 PM because the local restaurants were too full to seat your team!
And don’t forget to keep everyone hydrated!
Avoid super sugary drinks like sodas or juice boxes and definitely keep energy drinks away from your team! Those sugary drinks might give them a burst of energy right away but the crash is going to leave them worse off. Water should always be the go-to drink, followed by sports drinks like Gatorade as needed to replace electrolytes.