1. Create a pre-tournament schedule
You know you’ll attend a roller derby tournament weeks (maybe even months) ahead, so you have time to prepare yourself and your team for the big weekend. Simple things might make a world’s difference and take away way too much stress.
Adapt your training, rest, sleep, nutrition and hydration the weeks before, so you will peak at tournament games.
“Victory is the child of preparation and determination”-- Sean Hampton
2. Scout the venue
Location - It’s nice to book lodging close to the venue or with an easy way to get there. Having a supermarket around is practical to save time and energy when you need more food or drinks. Figure out the way to and from the airport/train station, or where you can park the car.
Skate floor - What is the skate floor like, and what wheels does the hosting league suggest? If you can, test it before the team warm up and actual games. That way you already know what wheels you want on your skates and you don’t get distracted by ‘gear fear’ in the moments leading up to the game.
Upon arrival - Where are the toilets, where can you refill your water bottle and where are the changing rooms
3. Make a packing list
Being away from home is more relaxing when you know you’ve packed everything you need. Make a packing list!
Check your skate gear! Do you have ALL your pads with you? Too many people have forgotten a single wrist guard, a mouth guard or helmet or so. Do you have the wheels you (might) need?
Did you pack your team uniforms, sleeping aid (earplugs, night mask, whatever you need), extra socks, lucky underwear, favorite pillow? How about your snacks and drinks?
Read up on Packing for Derby Travel
You’ll probably be bunking with your team mates. Those slumber parties are great for the team spirit and unity, but might be destructive to your sleeping pattern and make you yearn for a fresh and quiet bedroom. This is where the ear plugs, night mask, book, mp3 player… come in. It’s okay to zone out every once in a while.
It’s necessary to respect each others sleep and rest - you’ll need each other as fit as possible on the track. Find team mates with similar rituals and pick them as your roommates.
Staying up all night or sleeping in seems cool, but your body will not like it. Try to stick to your normal routine as much as possible. Not just for sleep, but also for eating and drinking. Oh and cut the caffeine and drink enough water!
5. Hydrate & eat properly
Hydrate! Water and electrolytes are your savior here. Alcohol and caffeine are the devil (at this specific moment) - so no beer, tea or coffee pre-games! *insert pedantic finger pointing*. Carry that water bottle with you at all times, it’ll help you not to forget to take a sip every once in a while. Drink enough before the game, so you only needs small sips during. A stomach full of water sucks when you get on the track. Be alert about some sports drinks, they might contain sugar and cafeine, which is not what you’re looking for right now.
Eat well! You’ll ask a lot from your body, so fuel it sufficiently to fulfill the task. You can only ‘get out’ of your body what you put in. Keep it healthy, even your snacking and post-game food. While you might have ‘earned it’, you will most likely regret it the next day. POOP!
Think: Refueling the gas tank.
6. Don't live in the venue
You might notice how heavy excitement, noise and light weighs on your body and mind. Take away excess impulses and give yourself a break. You’ll need your focus in the upcoming games! Simple things might do the trick:
- Wear earplugs in the venue. It will take away a lot of the noise, you’ll still understand conversation, but your body won’t get overloaded with too much input.
- It might sound and look diva or whatever, but wearing sunglasses and/or a cap does wonders. It will dim the light and reduce the stress on your eyes. Ever wonder why your eyelids weigh so heavy at the end of a tournament/game day?
- Throw on a sleeveless hoodie. It'll help you stay warm, even in warm ups - and you can easily take it off whilst already wearing your protection. Same goes for a sweatpants. Wear your game uniform underneath, but still be warm and comfortable. When the game comes up, just throw it off, no outfit change necessary.
- Leave the venue from time to time. Even if it’s only to catch some fresh air outside.
7. Self love and reset
In the hussle of leaving the track, chaos in the changing rooms and overall excitement, warming down and stretching is forgotten so easily. Find a moment to give your body some attention, you’ll rely on your body for the upcoming games/days, so treat it well. Bring your foam roller if you have one! Roll and stretch after every game so you are ready for more.
Hang your gear out to dry! The next game will come up soon and putting on wet/moist gear is the worst. If you can, use something like Stink Out! to kill the bacteria and thus the smell, or shove a skunk bag in your protection and skates to remove moist, smell and bacteria.
After a tournament weekend, give yourself some (active) rest. Your body will have taken a beating. From performance and pressure throughout the tournament days and the days/weeks leading up to it. Active rest, because going from all to nothing is the worst you can do. It’s a shock to the body and creates that post-game/tournament depression after such a high. Light skating, cycling, rowing, light running… These are definitely encouraged, just don’t hit the gym hardcore at 7am on that Monday.
And don’t forget to evaluate the weekend and games while everything is still fresh in the mind. What was successful, what was not, and how are you going to get better. Every experience is a learning experience.
In the end, for me, it all comes down to this: Being prepared and trying to control the controllable. It reduces stress, makes me feel more comfortable and lets me focus on the games.