The period of transition that occurs when an athlete starts to get fatigued in a game is important for coaches to understand. Games can be divided into three categories:
- Games where athletes never get tired for a variety of reasons.
- Games where athletes suddenly get fatigued after a particularly intense series of events.
- Games where fatigue sets in after a long struggle. During a match, most players will fall into one of these categories. Some players are at their best when fatigued. Some are great front-runners and then lose steam as a match progresses.
During the "transition to tiredness" several decisions must be made:
- What style of serve will the athlete use? Is it good to keep banging away at full force or let up at some point? If you are a full court press team, for how long do you employ this strategy?
- Will the athlete keep attacking their opponents weakness or change style?
Athletes ability to strategize becomes more difficult as tiredness sets in.The real beginning of a tennis match and any other competition, is when the transition to tiredness is complete. Those early 20 - 6 runs in basketball are not really "the game", which does not start until fatigue factors have taken their toll. This leaves the remainder of the contest to be played in the "tired mode".
Recommendation: If players are feeling the strain of a match, have them aim for consistency. For example, a tennis player could try to get a higher percentage a first serves in at a lower speed instead of going for aces. A distance runner may want to slow down the pace and "kick" down the stretch. Being aware of "how much gas" an athlete has left will do the following:
- It will save energy for the critical times during a match or competition.
- It will force them to play smarter. The body eventually gets the message across to the mind to strategize in ways that will reduce pain and save energy.
Imagery can also be used to save energy. Imagery is most effective when athletes convince themselves that the best possible outcome is yet to come. It helps control nerves and builds character and mental toughness during long and physically grueling games. Have your athletes visualize the final score when they feel their body start to run out of fuel. It's a quick mental pick me up guaranteed to push the right physical buttons (at least for a short time).