The Venus Fly Tramps and I have a whirlwind July. Three weekends in a row, three very challenging teams (one weekend down, two to go – thanks QCRG!). It’s a marathon, but we’re ready for it. Why are we ready? Preparation.
Game preparation doesn’t just happen on game day – here’s how I see the process:
First, Know Thyself. When pro sports teams compete, they have a Championship plan. They draw out a roadmap of where they want to get to and create actionable steps to get there. Luludemon has a great post about deciding what kind of derby team you want to be. Her key points: Have a team culture – what kind of team are you? Joy Collision said the best way to build a team is to have “shared biological events” – eating, sleeping, travelling. Keep your team culture in mind as you engage in the basics together. Have a team code of conduct – how do we become that kind of team? What will and won’t we tolerate? Have team goals – what do we want to accomplish together? Knowing these things makes team decisions about a million times easier because you all have a clear idea of what the team ethos is, and what you need to do to get where you want to be.
Whatever your team culture, it is super important to be honest about your skills, know what you do best, and know what challenges you. Being honest with yourself will help save a lot of grief when your coach makes decisions that you struggle with. It will help you to see what you can learn from your linemates each and every jam. If you can be honest and clear about your capabilities, it will open up the lines of communication within your team, and you’ll find that you end up growing and progressing together. Maybe you are way better at holding a jammer in the pack than clearing her. Maybe your linemate is a heavy hitter, but is a little shaky when it comes to staying with a jammer. Because you’re being honest about what you’re great at, BAM, you’ve got a strategy (you hold, she clears) and you’ve helped make line-planning easier for your coach. It’s a little thing, but honesty is the one tool that will help a team get through those rocky patches, break through plateaus, and become amazing.
Next, Have Game Goals. Before game day comes, establish both personal and team goals. Make them clear in your mind before the game. Personally, I find that positive goals: ‘I will break through that scrum start’ are more effective than negative ones: ‘I won’t back block while going through that scrum start’. Also, try to make your goals process rather than outcome based. The scoreboard doesn’t tell the whole story – achieving a personal best will often be a far greater reward than a winning score. Have team goals too – revisit them each jam, re-voice them at the half. It will help keep your heads in the game and bring you together as a team. A favourite team goal for the first season of TCRG’s Plan B (our new B Team) was to be better players in some way at the end of the game than at the start.
The Day Before the Game (Boutmas Eve). I think we should all identify as athletes and treat our bodies as such all season long. However, I know this is not always the case. I’m a trainer; I know to eat well, get enough sleep, and cross-train to support proper function and I routinely get a one out of three on those benchmarks. Nia Shanks has some good ideas about day-to-day nutrition. Regardless of whether you do it all the time (promise me, you’ll at least try to remember you’re an athlete, I’ll try too), the day before a bout make sure to eat clean. There’s no one perfect meal – try to eat things that are real food, will serve as adequate fuel for your body (a mix of complex carbs, proteins and fats) and aren’t unusual to your diet. The day before a bout is not the day to try a new food for the first time. The Tramps will often get together the (early) evening before a bout to get our heads together and to eat some healthy foods together (remember what Joy Collision said about shared biological events). It builds our team up, and gets us in a collective mental state for the next day. Columbia State University has an awesome article on sports nutrition here. Drink tons of water, prepare yourself mentally (dial in to those goals) and try to get a good night’s sleep.
Bout Day. Eat a pregame meal 3-4 hours prior to the bout – again, there’s no one right way, though starches will be converted to energy in a more timely way than fats and proteins. Make sure to be fully hydrated prior to game time – keep your water bottle with you and filled up. You want to average 2-3 cups of water every two hours leading up to the bout and another 2 half an hour before the game. Once your biological systems are in order, it’s time to get your mind right. Oftentimes skaters are setting up the track, running the door, coordinating volunteers and then skating a bout. That’s derby. If you have to do it, make it a part of your pregame ritual. Find the meditation in laying out a track or counting out tickets. Keep your focus on your goals, and delegate jobs to non-skaters if you can. As your league grows, your game-day responsibilities will lessen, but if you’re in a position where you still have lots to look after, try to keep your eye on the prize throughout.
With that groundwork laid, you are well on your way to an awesome game. This brings us to the warm-up, pep talk, and game time – which, as you well know, is a whole other post.