Tournament Preparation: The Setup for Success


“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” – Ben Franklin

When preparing for hand-to-hand combat or athletic tournaments, everyone’s method has its own madness. Rituals range from obscure pre-fight meals to wolf-like howls.

Amid the excitement and angst surrounding match day, a solid routine and robust preparation plan for the night before encourages focus and performance the day of competing – a crucial first step to the top of the podium.

Ahead of The Elite Grappling Championships on October 21 at Baruch College, Manhattan, here are some tips to consider for the night prior:

Secure Your Gear

When preparing your checklist for items needed on the day, break your list into three categories: ‘bout essentials,’ ‘non-bout needs’ and ‘action items’. These should include, but aren’t limited to:

  • Bout Essentials:
    • Your Gi! (consider taking an extra to be safe)
    • Shorts and rashguards/t-shirts, two pairs each (for warm up and replacing damaged gear)
    • Mouth guard (consider remolding the night before for optimum comfort)
    • Stretch bands, yoga mat, foam roller (for stretching/warm up)
    • Wrap tape
  • Non-Bout Needs:
    • Energy-boosting snacks: protein bars, fruit,
    • Water/Gatorade (or sports drink of choice)
    • Candy and/or chocolate – a quick source of energy for some, a post-fight treat or consolation prize for others)
    • Music player, headphones, customized playlist
    • A towel and change of clothes for post-tournament
    • ID, wallet, printed confirmation forms, directions, etc.
  • Action Items:
    • Cut fingernails/toenails
    • Check body for sores, open cuts, and possible infection
    • Set alarm
    • Ideal breakfast: Oatmeal, eggs, a smoothie, etc.

Construct Your Pre-Fight Warm Up

Sticking to a disciplined routine will pay dividends on fight day. Too many times we’ve seen talented combatants caught in the web of excitement or intimidation during a tournament, both on and off the mat. You may feel anxiety watching others in you bracket compete, or seeing your opponent run through his or her warm up drills. Perhaps there’s a rival resorting to unorthodox mental warfare. By bout time, you might be beaten before ever setting foot on the mat.

To avoid this, think about your warm up methods the night before. Do you like to run short sprints to get your heart rate up? Jump rope for 5-10 minutes before a match? Perhaps you’re a fighter who prefers light drilling with a partner, or a warrior who quells their nerves in solitude with simple stretches and zone-inducing music. Whatever your preference, it’s smart to consider these questions and tactics ahead of entering the tournament venue. Having a pre-meditated pre-fight routine is a valuable stepping stone for optimum performance.

Finalize Logistics

The night before competition, make sure you know how to get to the venue, when the event begins and any other time-sensitive details. No one likes to feel rushed, and certainly not on the day they are going to fight multiple competitors. Create an itinerary to keep you organized. This might include a schedule of the day, snack breaks, stretch sessions, and so on. Get there early and know where the mats are, where you’ll weigh in and where the warmup area is so you have an accurate lay of the land.

Another great practice is to plan a meet-up time with your teammates and hold down a section of the bleachers or seating area. When you’re on the mat, having a section cheering you on offers added motivation.

Whatever your method might be, follow the path that breeds comfort and confidence on the day of competing. Preparation is the first step to success on this journey. Good luck, warrior.