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How to prepare for a tournament Part Two

Part one of the blog was all about fuelling, both food and liquids. That Precision Hydration blog is a goldmine of info on what is going on with your calorie consumption and how to combat various ailments when competing. So now we have prepared, tested and found our refuelling strategy, we need to think about packing for the event. Paddle, shoes (read my blogs here and here), fuel, that’s it right. WRONG!!! In movies and theatre regarding personal props, there’s a maxim, “have one, have none”. Basically, if you don’t have a spare of everything, be prepared for the one you do have to break, fail or go missing at absolutely the wrong time.  I’m not saying you need absolutely everything in duplicate or triplicate but there are some key things you can double up. 

Paddles can be expensive and for many of us, we have our favourite paddle: having two identical setups is tricky (and potentially expensive). If you can’t carry two of the same, an old faithful as a spare is a great fall back if it’s still in good shape. Some players use a different paddle for singles as more offensive punch is normally required: this may be a totally different paddle or have weight added. This could also serve as a spare paddle. What is worth doubling up, as a minimum, are overgrips: you will sweat more than you think, you very well may not be able to dry the handle or your hands enough. Throwing on a £3 overgrip which is designed for short life and disposable will often be the better way of going: taking a pack of three or even a big roll is great.

if you’ve got a raw carbon fibre paddle, like the Diadem Warrior v2/Edge, CRBN, Vatik, Legacy, 6.0, Joola, etc, you can get a paddle cleaner. These remove the tiny ball fragments and dust from your paddle so the grit of the surface is optimised. CRBN do a specific cleaner, AliBaba/Express has some versions but I’ve used a rubber sanding belt cleaner block and microfibre cloth to great success. It’s also massively cheaper as my block is likely to last as longer than me, as it uses such a tiny amount with every clean.

Consider Tournagrip for sweaty hands and Wilson Pro Comfort for everything else when a little tack is needed. Diadem overgrips are almost identical in performance to Wilson at a much lower price, bulk buy or not. I also like Yonex Supergrap as they do a grip that colour matches my Diadem Warrior v2! But most of the time, I use a real leather grip so it’s only on ultra hot days I deploy an overgrip. A resin/rosin bag is also a great add on to dry your hands: it’s a bit like the powder used by gymnasts but in a less “dust cloudy’ form. I think it’s actually the same stuff but the bag has it contained inside the bag.

A spare pair of shoes is also a good idea but a broken in pair will be needed. Painful new shoes are not a good tournament option. Unless you’ve used a pair previously, they were perfect out of the box and you have bought the EXACT same make, model and size, you can’t wear new shoes without major risk. If budget or space doesn’t allow, make sure to have a spare pair of laces: if you can’t secure your shoe, you can’t move safely or effectively. The same goes for socks: you need at least one spare pair if not more. If you feet get sweaty, wet or clammy, you need to change them out.

Consider bringing a pair of slides or flip flops. If there’s a long break between matches, giving your feet a rest from the support of racket sport shoes by slipping into a slide is a little trick I love to use. The Oofos recovery slides are my go to but Skechers and Hoka also offer very similar options. You may stub a toe, break a nail or create a hole: having a spare pair allows you to manage this. A pair of nail scissors, clippers and a file are also a smart call as they can attend to any nail issues with hands or feet. Compeed, plasters or other things to deal with hot spots, blisters, cuts, etc are also part of your little first aid kit you should carry. 

We’ve dealt with the two things that make up the big part of your game: what you touch the ball with (the paddle) and what you touch the court with (your shoes). Now we need to consider what you are wearing: ALWAYS bring changes of clothes. Look at Tyson McGuffin, sometimes it looks like he’s been dunked in a hot tub! You may end up too hot, too cold, too wet, too itchy: be Goldilocks, be just right. Have enough spares and options: you may end up playing six, seven, eight matches in a day. Be as fresh and comfortable as you can and be prepared. I’ve started to embrace the Tyson tank top look as a hot weather option to keep me as loose and unencumbered as possible. Bring spare underwear too: anything that touches your body needs a spare in case of any mishaps or just getting wet through activity. Plus don’t forget a “wet bag”: an inexpensive plastic drawstring sack that are often given out at events can work for this or shoe/gym sacks for a specific solution for this.

Don’t forget sweatbands, head bands, hair clips, ties, clips, scrunchies, hairbrush, comb, caps, visors: anything that can prevent sweat travelling, hair getting in eyes, bring them along and spares as well. Glasses: don’t forget a cleaning cloth, maybe some wipes. Same goes for contact lenses: spares, fluid, eye drops. Any kind of brace, strap, support, bandage or tape: that’s going in your bag. I always need my Aircast A60 ankle braces, 2XU arm sleeve and some kinesiotape to be ready for any issues with my ankles, elbows or shoulder, plus scissors: tape is no good if you can’t cut it! Painkillers, essential personal medication, creams, balms (use code PICKLEBALL15 for 15% off), rubs, sprays: they need to come too. You should have a little wash bag full of all this stuff, ready for anything that crops up.  

And don’t forget a towel or two: we’ve talked about sweating so have a way to dry yourself off.  A little packet of Wet Wipes can also work wonders in some scenarios, the “festival bath” and a new top can be useful before a big match to feel fresh. Same for fragrance, deodorant or anti-perspirant, maybe shower gel if the venue has a shower and you have time to get fresh. The other towel to consider is a microfibre cooling towel. These are like magic: get them wet, pull them taught with a snap and they give an instant cooling effect. Two year ago, it was the tournament gift at the English Nationals. Mine ended up going to Florida with me on holiday!  

One more thing: you are going to need a big bag or two for all this stuff. Your shoulder sling you take to rec won’t cope with the amount you need to carry. At a minimum, grab a holdall for all the extras: I’ll probably end up taking my AMC Castore holdall as well as my large tournament paddle bag and a small shoulder/bum bag. Look out for those tournament suitable bags: they normally have space for up to twelve paddles but those spaces aren’t solely for that purpose. They often have shoe storage, wet clothing sections, pockets, zips, dividers and more. You might be able to get away with just that. For me, going loaded on my back and with armfuls of stuff is reassuring: you know you have everything you need so can focus on the task at hand.

So you may feel like you are packing for an expedition or getting flashbacks to carrying a changing bag for your children. Let’s be honest, this is a big thing and you may be at the venue for close to twelve hours on successive days. Don’t assume you can get what you need on site or nearby.  Part 3 in this series is all about what to do when you get there.  Stay tuned for the next update.

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