But there was one thing, and many coaches will agree with me, that stood out at tournaments; the best team seldom wins. Tournaments are anybody’s game and you have to beg the question, why?
Let me paint you a picture of what happens at these events. On Friday you rush down after work with your family to a nearby town to be rewarded with a greasy buffet and lots of pudding.
Nestled with a homing beacon for young players on tour is the notorious and ever so popular vending machine where chips, sweets and chocolates have never looked so good.
Players chomp away and chase down the corridors playing tok-tocki until the late hours.
Like clockwork, almost as if the script for touring was the same each year, the coach rounds up the trouble makers and threatens them with sitting on the bench if they don’t go to sleep.
The following morning players are up at dawn to pack their bags and head down for breakfast. The classic hotel breakfast, fried eggs, white toast, bacon ala oil, cheese sausages and baked beans.
On each table is a sugary watered drink where players top up every 10 minutes.
Once bellies are full, players head down to the bus and head for the tournament.
Now even before I continue with what to expect, it is not rocket science to know what food and drink lie ahead.
Quick, fast and mass produced food as you correctly guess – boerewors rolls, pies, burgers and toasted sandwiches.
Let’s not forget the rows and rows of tempting delicious delights, sports drinks and colas.
First game kicks off and everyone is out of the starting blocks, a little sluggish but that must just be their nerves. The rest of the match doesn’t go as well as the coach would have hoped but they sneak a win.
Second games for most teams and the performance side seems to pick up. Coaches can be critical but happy.
Its round about this time of day, midday to be precise, that you have a flurry of athlete’s heading to the tournament shop to stock up on everything bad.
The consumption rate increases dramatically because the next two games are after lunch. The long wait begins until the next match.
Do you think for one minute after all that sugar induced players are going to be sitting still, reading a book or listening to music in the shade?
They are high on life and will be attacking the jumping castle, playing small friendly sideline football games to show off their skills, or running around exploring the venue.
Lunch comes and goes and the third game ends in a draw. The coach will then give all the players a sturdy pep talk, tell them to get their act together because they are better than this and that should be enough to motivate the team for a win.
The day is over and everyone heads back to the hotel to clean up and meet for dinner.
The evening of day two is scripted just like the last with a possibility of the tempo of activity increasing.
The next day, the pep talks begin on how it is important to win and the coach wants focus and discipline.
At this point, the best team in the league and supposedly at the tournament is about to play the next two games but the wheels of the bus come off.
They draw the next, win on penalties and lose the finals horribly.
The refs are blamed, some of the players are blamed, the other team is blamed and the blame games begin.
If you look at the script above, give or take a few variations, the finger that is pointing outwards should be in fact pointing inwards because tournaments are not won on being the best team, but rather teams that have prepared well and have taken two of the most important factors into account… nutrition and recovery.