Have you competed in really high temperatures with humidity and your body tells you it’s done halfway through?

I would like to share my experience with heat exhaustion at a mid-September pickleball tournament. Be sure to scroll to the bottom for Beat the Heat Tournament Tips to help stay cool during a competitive pickleball tournament.

I signed up for just two days of competition; Open Senior Doubles followed the next day by Open Senior Mixed and flew home that night. On day one, second round I could already feel my second competitor “the weather” wearing me down, but I was able to battle along and get to the medal stand – Bronze! Day two (mixed) we started at 8 am and by the second round I could tell physically my body wasn’t having fun. It was a challenge to stay focused for every point, and the sweat was just pouring out. I didn’t share any of my struggles with my partner because I figured no need for him to worry and really what could he do to help. He’s doing everything right, I just need to do my part! Then, third round my heart is beating differently and the sweat never stops. In time I became nauseous, and my ability to focus faded. I called a second time out, plopped down on the sidelines and knew I couldn’t continue. Interestingly, my friend and certified referee, Nicole Hobson realized something was up. She said “Jennifer let me see your eyes.” I lifted my sunglasses, a bit scared now with a tear running down my cheek, and she immediately said I’m calling first aid to the court. Wow! The paramedics who were stationed at the tournament each day quickly arrive. They start asking me questions and I knew I was done. Sorry partner – FORFEIT. Paramedics and partner escort me to the waiting air-conditioned ambulance. Sounds good to me! With help, I step up into the van, have a seat and got one IV. This took about 20 minutes and most of this time I was focusing on slowing down my breathing. Relax Jennifer!

As my time bonding with the paramedics came to a close, they remind me that the hydration I received from IV is nothing more than a water solution; they reinforce that I neede to get some magnesium and potassium in me asap to prevent cramping that will surely come next. Great, another task. I did stumble upon two bananas, check! And then asked a senior player if they happened to have any magnesium pills. My lucky day, they did and minutes later returned with a few “horse” pills. Ok, check, got that in my system. Later, I even popped a few Hyland Legs Cramps pills for precaution. At that point, I was just hoping I wouldn’t cramp on the airplane ride in a few hours. I’m happy to report I did survive the “cramp-free” plane ride home. The next day I relaxed and slept most of the day. Phew, that was a whirlwind.

This experience has reminded me once again that I have no fun when faced with this additional opponent – the hot, humid weather. From day one of playing pickleball, it has been all about the fun and it’s not fun (for me) when it’s really hot and humid. As pickleball gets more popular, tournaments are popping up all over, vying for open weekends and in some cases, this puts a tournament smack-dab in the middle of stifling heat and humidity. It’s one thing to go out and play a few games before it gets too hot, but quite another to play a tournament, fight to advance each round and therefore play all day. I for one will be looking closely at the calendar and the average local temperatures on game days.

Beat the Heat Tournament Tips

Hydration: Don’t wait until you’re thirsty. If you wait to drink until you’re thirsty, you’re already dehydrated. A good benchmark for proper hydration is that you shouldn’t be thirsty at all if you are drinking enough over the course of a normal day. Consider your age, weight and activity level, AND where you play. Your urine should be a light straw color. This is one of the absolute best ways to tell is you’re properly hydrated. – Pickleball Magazine, March/April 2018.

Soak your pulse points (neck, hands, etc) in cold water and/or use a cooling cloth. I actually do this, between matches I go in the restroom and run cold water over my hands to give some relief.

Searching the internet will provide you with many more resources to cool down and beat the heat. It is imperative to understand this graphic as heatstroke can be life-threatening.

Graphic courtesy: www.oregon.gov

Randy Coleman – a top senior pro who partnered with me on this special day ;-0 shares his tips:

If you’re planning on going to a tournament where heat will definitely be a factor, here are a few things to consider:

  1. If you are driving absolutely consider taking an easy-up tent. Players need relief from extreme temperatures.
  2. Have the ability to cool your body down after being exposed to upper 90 – 100 temperatures. Have plenty of ice or cold water, cooling towels (neck/armpits).
  3. Humidity is also a big factor when temperatures hit 90 because your body will expel even more vital fluids. Water additives and other products help to replace these fluids.
  4. Take your shoes off whenever you can to help body heat escape, same goes for your hat when in the shade, let some heat escape.
  5. Consider playing only 2 events not 4.
  6. Hydration is crucial days before a competition, not the day of.
  7. The most important factor during extreme heat in tournaments lies on the tournament director to provide a safe and enjoyable environment. Provide plenty of shade areas for all players (not just VIPs), cooling mist fans, nutrient snacks like bananas and hydrating fluids.

Now my disclaimer: I am from San Diego and there is virtually no humidity or high temps where I live and play. Yes, I do like it that way. As a result, in the last 9 years of playing pickleball tournaments around the world, I come prepared because I sweat a lot when I play.

Another disclaimer: Admittedly, this is the second year of the Texas Open and they had above-average temperatures. Even the locals were not exactly used to the heat. Let’s just say that IV’s were flying off the shelves…. I attended this tournament to support my friend and tournament director, Jeanne. This girl worked so hard to create a first-class – Texas-style event with lots of fun events and dinners for all.

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