Proper Tourney Planning

Our children’s tournament trophies take up three shelves and represent fond memories, glorious wins, tough losses and terrific tailgating. While I can’t come up with a definitive number of tournaments our kids have been to, I can count the number of total failures. One. That one was on me. Failure to prepare meant forgotten equipment, late arrivals and wrong rinks. To help you avoid pitiful pitfalls, I’ve teamed up with Brian and Whitney Harrington of Showdown Tournaments to put together this trustworthy tournament prep playbook for parents. 


Proper Planning

Before you hit the road, head to your pro shop to sharpen skates to get the cut right. My kids always liked getting a practice in on freshly sharpened skates before leaving for a tourney. Get the gear in order. Wash it, air it out and do a head-to-toe checklist. To help build independence and responsibility, have your player create their own checklist. (We strongly recommend they show you everything as it goes in the bag.)

To prepare for gear-malfunctions—a lost screw, torn skate lace or a lost mouthguard—a gear jump bag will do the trick. Make sure the screwdriver fits the screws you may need to tighten.

Don’t forget mouthguards, extra laces, tape and both jerseys. Knee hockey sticks/balls, pool toys, movies, a crockpot for team dinners and mini blender for protein drinks.

Make a plan. Much like a family vacation, plan what your family will be doing. Give your player a budget and stick to it. Hopefully you’ll know how much the tournament souvenirs will cost you before you head out. 

Prevent Poor Performance

Once you’ve landed at the hotel, be sure you know how to navigate to the rink. Upload rink directions. Do your hockey math. Figure out what time you need to be up, out the door and arrive to the rink at least an hour before game time. Add extra time for city rush hours. Don’t forget to factor in breakfast, coffee or gas stops.

Hotels may offer breakfast, but when you’ve got really early games, have favorite options ready to grab-and-go like granola bars, fruit and juice boxes. Pack up snacks to satisfy hunger pains between games. Bring your own water or sports drinks to save some bucks. Be creative with meals. Consider getting takeout portions and sandwiches from a local restaurant for a picnic at a public park. Coordinate with your team manager. If team meals are not their specialty, volunteer to organize them for your team.  Reserve a hotel conference room to host a team dinner and a mini stick tournament for some fun.  

Help your coaches by organizing a team outing like a museum tour or trip to the zoo. Keep the curfews on pool times and make sure no one is left out or behind.

Keep a positive attitude. A hockey tournament experience is not just about winning. It’s about having fun and enjoying the sport. What are your odds of winning in a four, six, eight, 10-team or larger division? There is only one champion. Don’t be discouraged with a lopsided game. No one really knows how any game is going to end. Encourage your kids to never give up until the whistle is blown.

Finally, when it’s T-time, (tournament time) remember the 5 P’s: Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance. 




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