Alcohol and your performance

A group of people drinking alcohol
Author:  Angela Calder, Applied Sports Knowledge
Issue: Volume 8 Number 2

Many would agree that alcohol is a big part of Australia’s sporting culture, and as officials, you are not immune to the post-game functions. With that in mind, have you considered how your alcohol intake might be affecting your performance as an official?

Let us take a step back and look at the short-term effects of alcohol:

  • Dehydration — the most commonly consumed beverages at sporting events are full-strength beers. Drinking full-strength beer will result in dehydration. Wine and spirits that are served in tumblers are also in this category. Light beers or spirits served in tall glasses may actually aid rehydration, as long as you eat the ice and they are consumed in moderation.
  • Slower decision-making and reaction time — the more drinks you have, the worse your physical and mental performance will be.
  • Alcohol worsens injuries — after officiating a tough game, it is likely that your muscles have undergone a degree of damage. For your muscles to repair and recover, they require a reduced blood flow to the area (as this reduces inflammation). Alcohol has the opposite effect and actually increases blood flow to the damaged area, thus slowing recovery time.
  • Cramping — drinking alcohol 24 hours pre-exercise will increase the likelihood of muscle cramping.

Whether your officiating demands a high physical load (such as Australian football umpires), or is weighted more towards high-concentration levels (such as cricket umpires), alcohol will worsen your performance.

What are your drinking habits? The Australian alcohol guidelines recommend that healthy men and women consume no more than two standard alcoholic drinks on any day.

However, if you are to perform at your best as an official, there are some occasions that should be regarded as ‘alcohol-free zones’. These include:

  • the night before officiating
  • during a tournament
  • after suffering a significant soft-tissue injury.

Practical guidelines for the official

  • Come up with a plan for your post-officiating duties, and stick to it — it may be something such as: ‘I will have two beers at the post-game function. If I am feeling quite dehydrated, these will be light beers. If I am injured, I’ll have food and water/juice instead.’
  • Drive to and from your match — this will alleviate peer pressure to drink alcohol.
  • Rehydrate before going to bed — on those rare occasions where you have had too much to drink, this is the best way to prevent a hangover. Have a big glass of water before bed, and keep a water bottle at your bed-side during the night.
  • For more information on how alcohol will affect your officiating performance, see related downloads.

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