How To Prepare for a Tournament When You’re The Underdog

d2 the mighty dubs dublin roller derby

Dublin Roller Derby had an absolutely incredible time at Pittsburgh’s D2 Playoffs + Champs over the weekend of August 18-20th. They came in as the bottom seed but took home three nail-biting wins, beating Naptown by two and No Coast by just one point. 

Dublin came to fuck everyone’s brackets and did just that, contributing to the most exciting D2 playoffs ever and making that late decision to live-stream fully justified.

I’ve had the pleasure of playing against Dublin twice in the past year, so I interviewed Malibruise Stacy of DRD to find out just what it took to make it to Pittsburgh and firmly cement Euro derby’s place amongst the best in the world.

How many years have you been playing roller derby? Have you always skated with Dublin? Could you skate previous to playing roller derby?

I’ve been playing for 6 years, I started Fresh Meat with Dublin Roller Derby (then Dublin Roller Girls) back in 2011 and have been with them ever since. I had done a small amount of inline skating as a kid, but never on quads. I didn’t think my inline experience would help, but I was able to move forward at my first session so there must have been some familiarity!

Was making D2 a specific goal for your league this season? Do you have your sights set on D1?

At the start of 2017 we had a look at our current ranking (#86) and the sanctioned games we had lined up for the first half of the year, and although we really wanted to make D2 in 2017, we didn’t think it was feasible without a US trip. We weren’t in a position to head to the States so our plan was to stay in Europe for the year and work towards getting us into a good situation for making D2 in 2018.
It wasn’t until after EuroClash in March that our Rankings wizard Beans on Toe Stops pointed out that if we pulled out really good scores in our next 3 games (and depending on other results around the bottom of D2) we’d be in with a chance of seeing D2 in 2017.
The dream is to eventually take home the Hydra, so of course we need to make it to D1 first! Hopefully after D2, we’ll be able to get the games required to improve as a team and then the rankings will follow (hopefully)!

As I’ve recently discovered, tournaments are tough – really tough – how did you physically and mentally prepare for such an event? Has your personal training and practice looked differently in the run up to Pittsburgh?

We got our invite really late for Pittsburgh so we didn’t have as much time to prepare as we would have liked. We were literally in the middle of our league’s summer break when we got the invite and had 4 weeks to prepare.
Luckily we had the ground work down for mental strength training as several months before we, as a team, went through mental prep/visualisation worksheets and had worked it into our game day schedule alongside our physical warm ups.
It was hard to balance personal training alongside training 4 times a week, so outside of training I just did what I could. Reading some articles on tapering, I decided to do a few short workouts a week instead of my usual longer gym sessions when I could. I also used this as an excuse to eat more food!

Has team practice been different in the run up to Pittsburgh? If so, how (without giving away any Dublin secrets of course!)?

Once we got the invite our team leadership set up a 1 month plan specific for the tournament, focussing on what needed improvement coming out of our last couple of games. We also redeveloped our off skates and on skates warm ups for game day so that we’d be more prepared for the first few jams.
The league were really accommodating, giving us an extra training session per week, swapping hours and scrimmages, and allowing us to work as a team as much as possible. Training 4 days a week against each other was intense, but knowing it was for a short length of time with D2 at the end of it made it possible. One session a week we treated like game day – we’d have a quick chat about the focus, do our mental prep, do our game day warm ups and then train as if it were game day. We found that being familiar with the run of events helps with nerves on actual game day.

What would you say was the toughest part about the tournament in Pittsburgh and how did you deal with it – personally or as a team? 

For me, I’d say that the toughest part was the adrenaline come downs after the games. On the Friday and Saturday we had evening games (6pm and 8pm) that were both extremely close (1 point and 3 points). The adrenaline and excitement of winning those games as the lower seed was incredible. Trying to get a good night sleep afterwards (and not just read through all the messages form everyone back home) was really difficult. Combining this with jet lag and not being used to playing 5 games in 3 days… it was really tough.
I tried to deal with it by surrounding myself with smaller groups of teammates throughout the weekend as my brain was over stimulated enough without getting caught up in group excitement.

What was your favourite moment(s) from the tournament?

Probably the final whistle of the Auld Reekie game. As the bottom seed you go in telling yourself “we’ve got nothing to lose, it’s up to the other teams to beat us”, but there’s also the part of your brain wanting to prove that you deserve to be there. So when we won that game there was this sense of not only excitement for having won, but also relief. Combining this with knowing we didn’t travel all this way for only 2 games was also pretty great.

How do you decompress/reset after the success of Pittsburgh? Do you feel motivated and ready to attack the next season or do you need time to process it all and re-evaluate your goals?

The team has taken 2 weeks off to decompress/rest our weary bodies/see our family and friends again. The month-long run up to the tournament and the tournament itself was consuming so I think it’s really important to have this time. I’m finding it slightly difficult to adapt to not working out at all after working so hard in the lead up to D2, but it’s needed.
Once we’re back at training it’s going to be difficult, on a personal level, to prioritise what I want to work on. There’s 5 games of footage for me to watch over, reset goals, evaluate where I am with prior goals. The team will also have goals, different packs within the team will have goals. We’re so proud with how we did in Pittsburgh and I think we’re more motivated than ever to improve and show everyone it wasn’t just a case of ‘Luck of the Irish’.

If you could give one bit of advice to someone about to attend their first ever big tournament, what would it be? 

To make sure you take the time to enjoy it? It can be overwhelming if you let it be – there are teams, officials and announcers you recognise from, there’s so much excitement, there’s nerves, there’s the pressure of more people watching, there’s the competitiveness. Taking the time to appreciate that this is what you were working so hard for in your training hall back home for several hours a week, for months/years. Trust that your training got you here and to enjoy the moment.

And finally, do you have any last words of wisdom or something you’d like to say to your team? 

I just want to thank everyone who supported us – all our family and friends, our league who were behind us every step of the way (on and off the track), everyone cheering in the venue (the other Euro teams and everyone else we could hear!). Also Steel City for hosting such an amazing tournament- it takes a lot of people doing a lot of work to pull off a double track tournament!

Malibruise Stacy #490

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