Representative teams with players chosen from a range of other teams may also play short tournaments, which is often part of their preparation for a longer tournament, for example national teams may play in tournaments such as the Albert Schweitzer tournament or William Jones Cup in preparation for playing a zone championship. Representative teams may also play in friendlies, where 4 or 6 teams arrange to play against each other.

Characteristics of “Short Tournament Play”

Playing in a “short tournament” is characterized by:

  • playing more than one game each day
  • losing a game in the early stage often means a team is out of the tournament (e.g. in some tournaments only the top team in each pool progress to finals)
  • limited opportunity to “scout” other teams as there may be more than one game played at a time
  • limited time between games, possibly as little as 2-3 hours
  • game timings may be adjusted to allow for multiple games per day
  • fatigue has more effect on player performance than perhaps any other competition format.

Rest and Nutrition are Key!

Because of the short time frame between games and the number of games played in a small number of days, it is vital that coaches allow for the players to get appropriate rest. It may be easiest to do this by staying at the stadium, rather than driving back and forth to a hotel and players should be encouraged to take shoes and socks off between games. Having a new pair of socks for each game is also important.

Similarly, hydration and nutrition are particularly important in the context of a “short tournament”. Teams may need to arrange to take food to the stadium, rather than rely upon what a canteen may have for sale. In addition to drinking water, it may be worthwhile for athletes to have some sports drink during the day, however water should still be the primary source for hydration.

It is worthwhile for the coach (or team manager) to plan for when and how meals will be taken prior to the tournament starting. Often the tournament organisers are able to provide information about local places to eat, accommodation etc.

Setting Objectives for the Tournament

The objectives that a coach sets for the tournament will be influenced by the nature of the team. If it is a representative team (e.g. a national team) playing as part of their preparation for another tournament, the coach may:

  • focus on playing all players, so that they can see what combinations work well and the level of understanding players have of the style of play the coach wishes to play. This would be particularly so if the team was still at “squad” stage and a final team had not yet been selected.
  • use a variety of tactics in order to work through the team’s “playbook”. This may mean changing tactics at a time in the game where if winning was the sole focus, they would not make the change.

Where it is a club team, the coach should set objectives that are also related to what they have been regularly doing in practice and in other competitions that they are playing.

Rotation of Players

Again, because they players will be playing a number of games in a short space of time, all players should have an opportunity to play in each of the games ensuring that all players are rested.

Indeed, one of the benefits from having teams play in such tournaments is to give players that may not play as much in league play the opportunity to play a greater role.

Playing only a small number of players will greatly increase fatigue, which also increases the likelihood of injury to the player. It may also impair their performance, particularly in the latter games of the tournament.

Understanding the Tournament Format and Rules

There are many formats that tournament organisers may use and the coach must familiarize themselves with:

  • any variations to game rules: e.g. reduced game time, reduced number of time-outs, restrictions on when substitutions/time-outs can be called
  • how progression to the finals is determined.

Using Assistant Coaches

A short tournament may provide an opportunity to give an assistant coach different roles than during normal league play, which can be good for their development. For example, the coach may let the assistant coach take charge of the team whilst the head coach scouts a game that is being played at the same time. Equally, the assistant coach could scout the game.

Scouting Other Teams

There may be limited opportunity to scout other opponents and, even if coaches have been able to do so, there are limited opportunities to provide information to their own team.

Typically in a short tournament, the coach’s focus should be on what their team will do, making tactical adjustments during the game (as they would in any game) but without attempting to specifically prepare for an opponent.

If the coach has not been able to watch an upcoming opponent they may at least be able to get a copy of the scoresheet and statistics if they are available. Particularly if they are able to see scoresheets from a number of games, it will provide information on:

  • the opponent’s likely starters (starters are marked with an “X” next to their name)
  • distribution of scoring
  • identifying players that may be foul prone

Again, if the coach has not been able to watch an upcoming opponent, the warm-up provides an opportunity to scout the team, particularly enabling the coach to identify:

  • the preferred hand of each player
  • likely position each player plays (particularly important to allocating defensive roles at the start of the game)
  • whether or not the player is a good perimeter shooter.