Whether your team has a winning record or not, there is something your players are always losing during practice and games. It’s water.
Dehydration is your silent opponent. The harder your players push, the more they sweat. The more they sweat, the more water escapes their body, and with it goes speed, power and performance.
Jeff Dillman, director of strength and conditioning at the University of South Carolina, pushes water hard, during practices, workouts and games to make sure athletes stay hydrated.
“We are constantly preaching hydration,” says Dillman. “We tell them to drink a minimum of a gallon of water a day. We are always pushing fluids. We are always telling guys if you don’t hydrate the muscle, it’s not going to fire right. You’re not going to stay strong.”
Like most players, Dillman’s athletes understand that hydration is key. But many student-athletes across the nation don’t understand that they must stay hydrated at all times. They can’t just hydrate during practice and games.
“It’s just like competition,” says Dillman. “You prepare for battle Sunday through Friday, and then you battle on Saturday. The battle is already won. You win Sunday through Friday. The same thing goes for hydration.”
As the director of strength and conditioning for the Gamecocks, Dillman says he talks to athletes about hydration every single day. But he also tries to send a message about sleep.
“On top of hydration is sleep,” says Dillman. “So many athletes average about 4-5 hours of sleep per night. They need to be getting 6-8 hours of sleep per night; 4-5 hours is not enough. That’s 6-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep.”
It’s important for coaches to tell athletes to sleep without distractions. Otherwise, they fall into bad habits, which can hurt their recovery.
“I always tell my athletes, ‘Hey, put something over your alarm clock. Get in a dark room and go to sleep,’” he says. “No distractions. Turn your music off. Turn the TV off. A lot of times guys will fall asleep watching TV, and that detracts from your sleep time.”
By staying hydrated and resting properly, hard-working athletes will put themselves in the best possible position to win.
This article was written by Paul Markgraff, contributing writer for CSCCa Magazine and CSCCaMonthly.com.