Preparing For Your First Roller Derby Tournament

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As you may know, I’ve recently returned from a trip to Colorado where I took part in my first ever multi-day, multi-game roller derby tournament.

Before going I was nervous – would I have the fitness, stamina and mental energy to survive it? As I’ve never experienced something like it before, how could I know?

This feeling was compounded by the fact that I’m a high-rotation pivot – it’s more than likely that I would be have to jam at some point.

Add to that the fact we’d be playing multiple games, with the potential of playing two games a day for three days*, unsure of the amount of rest we’d have between games…. eek!

So how do you prepare for something you’ve never done before?

1. Practice….. lots!

This is kinda obvious but I tried to make as many practice sessions as physically possible. I wanted to make sure I felt 100% comfortable with our tactics and strategies and that I could 100% trust my pack.

Every single session before a tournament is important for refining and adjusting play, as well as building that team bond. And trust me, during a tournament, which is full of challenges, you need to know you’re team are behind you no matter what. So much can happen over a weekend that you feel like one minute you’re on top of the world and the next, someone’s kicking you in the face. That team bond is what gets you through.

2. Train… lots and hard!

You cannot survive a tournament off the fitness you get from just skating. Two games in a day might add up to two hours but trust me, it is not the same as a two hour practice. Games are so much more intense and tiring, emotionally as well as physically, so you need to make your body (and mind) as strong as you can beforehand.

Incorporate lots of workouts that focus on building strength whilst keeping the intensity high. High intensity interval training is good for building endurance, as is combining the two – i.e. burpees + front squats or squat jumps + back squats. These kinds of workouts can recreate the intensity of a hectic game where you’re switching from strength – holding a jammer back – to power and explosive moves – taking the star, doing offence. 

Being part of Treble’s Tribe and our #exerciseeveryday challenge really helped keep me motivated and push myself. Come join us and be inspired by the amazing people we have in the Tribe!

3. Train…. twice!

Doubling up on training, or training the same day as practice, is a good way to recreate the feeling of playing two games a day. It helps prepare you for going into the second game fatigued and finding out what your body can do when it’s tired.

For tournament prep and to recreate that two-game feeling, you want to try to train the same energy systems you’d use in a game in both sessions:

If you’re primarily a jammer you’d likely want to train in intervals of high intensity, using explosive movements, pushing movements and working on endurance – similar to you’d feel in a game.

For a blocker, perhaps you’d focus more on strength or resistance training with some HIIT – to recreate the type of energy you’d use during a game.

If you can find out exactly what times your games will be, you can also try and train at these times so you can prepare your body (and mind) to recover and be ready to go again in the same timeframe.

4. Practice……. fatigued!

You might have to play two games back to back, or two games with very little rest in between so it’s good to prepare your body for skating when it’s fatigued. You need to know how it feels to have already-worked legs but still be able to focus and give 100%.

You don’t necessarily need to do a full hour’s gym before practice but a quick HIIT – emphasis on the intensity – session right before you kit up is not only a good warm up for training, but helps to build that endurance too. If you’re someone who struggles with time for working out, getting to practice 20 mins early to do a quick and dirty plyometric HIIT workout is an efficient use of your precious time!

This was something a few of us from CCR would do together before practice and it actually helped to make us feel more focussed and physically prepared for practice so it’s something we’ll probably continue to do.

5. Visualise!

Your brain can't tell the difference between what's real and what's imaginary Click To Tweet

Your brain can’t tell the difference between what’s real and what’s imaginary so you might as well use this to your advantage by visualising yourself at the tournament. That way, it’ll feel like you’ve already done it so you know what to expect.

You can imagine what the venue looks like (or check out photos so you know for sure), imagine skating on that track, going through your warm up, lining up for the first jam, what happens after the whistle, how you’ll do offence, jumping the apex… Imagine the colour of your uniform, wearing the star or the stripe, coming in for a huddle, discussing tactics during a timeout…

Imagine playing the second game of the day or the fourth game of the tournament, imagine how your body might feel, where might be sore, how tired you might feel, imagine feeling ready and pumped for the next game and imagine how you’ll feel at the end…

The scariest things are the unknown, so trick yourself into ‘knowing‘ the tournament already. The more familiar you can make the tournament seem, the more prepared you are and the less nervous you’ll feel.

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So, the question is, how did I do? Did I prepare enough? Was I ready?

I survived. I think I played OK for the most part and had some good moment so I’m fairly happy.

But I felt like I could have been fitter. I felt like I could have been stronger and I definitely felt like my mental toughness was lacking at times.

But this was my first time, right? And every single challenge is full of lessons. I’ll be even better prepared for my next one.

It showed me what I need to work on. And I’m motivated to get back to work.

Do you have any top tips for preparing for your first tournament? Let me know in the comments!


P.S. Not quite at tournament level yet? This series on mental toughness for your first games might be helpful!


*Whilst I’m sad we didn’t progress through the tournament to the finals I am also a tiny bit glad we didn’t have to play six games in a weekend because deeaaaathhh and also we had a hot tub which kept calling our name.



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