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Published on September 14th, 2011 | by Brawling Barista

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9 Tips For Derby Tournament Newbies

1. Plan ahead! Pick a sister teammate, get your tickets, and book early. Make your plans together and try to pick a hotel from the tournament suggested/discounted rates. Sometimes they’ll have quiet sections which you can request, or vice versa. Have a planning session and make sure you know what kind of traveler they are. Do they snore? Have night terrors? Like to smoke in bed? Are they going to snuggle attack you in the middle of the night? Find out these things ahead of time to see if you’re going to be cool with each other for a couple days. People willing to share a bed can save on costs, and it can be great for team bonding. Make sure you know what kind of traveler your buddy is, pick someone you can get along with, and someone you won’t mind watching out for at the afterparties.

2. Take a look at the schedule. Is there a bout you HAVE to see? Any teams you want to learn from? Make your plans around those bouts. If your league is newer, get some teammates to agree to sit with you to watch some of the bouts to take a look at strategy, team uniforms, etc. Write some notes on some things the teams did really effectively, questions you can ask your ref staff, or some items that you can bring back to your league. That way, your excitement can spread through your league, even if everyone can’t make it to the tournaments. When you’re watching the bouts, many teams like to try to give a designated area to meet up—think about it from the track’s perspective: turn 1, turn 2, and so on since you may want to consider sitting trackside for a better view. You may also want to bring a butt pad (no kidding) or a legless camping seat for comfort. Many leagues sell a sort of butt pad at their merch tables, so that’s something to consider too.

3. Be a good sport. Not everyone in the crowd is going to be a derby person. If you see a fan in the crowd who doesn’t know what is going on, help them to understand the game better. Luckily, announcers at tournaments are generally pretty awesome, but that sort of one-on-one can really turn someone from a blasé sports enthusiast to a die-hard roller derby fan.

4. Represent! Bring your league’s shirt/apparel to wear, and wear it. Bring a hoodie, a cell phone charger, cough drops, headache medicine, and a refillable water bottle. Just do it, because you’ll need all 5.

5. Plan for alone time or decompression/nap time, especially when you’re traveling with a large section of your team. Playoffs and championships are so full of activities, fun, nightlife, and awesomeness that it’s OK to miss a bout or afterparty here and there, especially if it means you’re not going to kill a teammate and make a necklace out of her teeth later. Many venues are large enough that you can take a quick walk around the neighborhood for a calm coffee or nosh in a local place. Always tell your teammates where you’re going, and be accessible via phone/text. It’s OK to want alone time, but you also need to not worry your friends. Be a good sister to them, and keep track of your sisters. Sometimes you can even also snag a disco nap somewhere up in the stands, or on the sly by pulling up your hoodie and resting on a teammate. Tournament season can be exhausting, even just for spectators, so get creative.

6. Visit vendor booths and sponsors. Plan on buying gear there if you need something- not only do you get a custom fit, and access to the people who know their shit, but you also get to do something that is often overlooked at bouts, support the people who support us. You know how those announcers keep talking about that one sponsor? Go visit their booth please, because if they warrant so many repeats from the announcers, they probably dropped some dough to get that to happen. They deserve our patronage, either financially through purchases or even if it’s just via “liking” them on Facebook or stopping by to say “Hey! Thanks for supporting roller derby!” You can also get ideas for your own merch lineup. Chances are, someone worked really hard to get that sponsor in that space, so you’re also supporting the volunteers who gave their blood, sweat, and tears to make this tournament happen.

7. It’s OK to be thrifty. Use Google directions in the walking function to see what is around the center. If you’re lucky enough to have a grocery store nearby, that is a great way to get healthy food without spending a pretty penny eating out. Bring food with you to consume at your hotel or in your car. Many times, eating delicious junky food can really put you in a bad mood, and make you sluggish to boot. Try to eat a banana or something not-fried during your day. Many times host leagues will offer a hospitality packet with local suggestions on where to eat (including where is vegan/vegetarian/meat heaven), drink, and party, so take their advice. This goes back to #6 about support, and if a local is telling you to go somewhere, I’m likely to believe that over Google any day.

8. Go to the sponsored afterparties and have fun! Network, exchange e-mail addresses/texts, and talk to leagues you could do business with in the future. Many tournaments offer a party bus service, that’ll take you to and from the sponsored afterparties and hotels, so go and have a good time with your teammates! If you’re going to be tossing a few back and tying one on, make sure your travel sister is there to be your buddy. Even in the company of derby friends and acquaintances, there is always a level of risk involved.

Just like on the track, make sure you have someone there to look out for you and vice versa. If someone from your league is getting way out of hand, causing trouble, or making a fool of themselves, get them out of there. No one wants to be remembered as “that girl/guy.” And I’m sure you would all rather be known for how well you play, not how much you can black out at a party. Remember the Sister System!

9. Sign up to volunteer ahead of time. This is still a DIY sport, and we’re all pitching in to make it happen some way or another through helping or ticket sales. This a great way to network, and get to know people outside of your league. It’s also a great way to find out how to better run your own events. Thank the volunteers and support staff. That’ll be easy because they’re all wearing volunteer shirts. They have SO MUCH to do, and it is such a time commitment, from the original conception of the tournament to the actual weekend, so tons of people are involved. They don’t get to hang out and chill like the rest of us—they’re working. I’m not saying walk around and shake hands like a mayoral candidate, but a friendly thanks to whoever is helping you is really easy to do, and goes a long way.

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