Tournament days can be looooong days. Whether you'll be in the gym from 7:00am to 7:00pm, or if you're only going to half-day tournaments, the time spent under the fluorescent lighting found in big warehouse gyms can take its toll on you.
As a coach, there are a few volleyball tournament essentials that, if forgotten, will definitely ruin your day. And even though it seems like a no-brainer to pack a water bottle, I can't tell you the number of times I've had to pay for overpriced water because I left my personal one at home (usually on the coffee table right next to the front door, of course).
To help you avoid long uncomfortable days surrounded by Fox 40's and cheering teenagers, I've created a comprehensive "Volleyball Tournament Essentials" list. I'm sure there are many more things you could pack, but these items are sort of like an entry-level package for your DIY tournament survival kit.
Volleyball Tournament Packing List
Full Tank of Gas
Ok, so it's not technically something you pack. But you will be sooooo much happier when you sit down in the driver seat and see the gas gauge go all the way to “F”! Remembering that you have 32 miles until empty at 5:50am when there's dense fog and you're already running late is not a great way to start your morning.
Car Charger/Charging Case
Similar to the disappointment you feel when you get into a car with no gas, is the feeling you get when you a) realized you didn't charge your phone the night before, or b) were on your phone too much during the day and may or may not have the battery to keep your GPS on long enough to get home. A car charger eliminates these worries. If you've thought it would be nice but never quite got around to it, just commit now and thank me later. OR if you’re on a your phone so much you don’t have time to wait for the car? Get a battery that helps protect your phone at the same time!
A Big Backpack
The good news: you probably already have one. I have a grey one which has served me well for the last nine years, and it matches every team I've coached because I can just tie a colored ribbon on it and viola! I definitely recommend a comfortable backpack though! No large totes or satchels, and I'd question the cheapo ones at Walmart. Not only does it need to hold all of the items that follow, but it often will double as a pillow/support during breaks. Get a soft one, not hard plastic.
Sure, it's easy to buy a water bottle at a vending machine or at the concession stand. But then you have the same water bottle as half of the girls at the facility and you quickly lose track of it after setting it down. I have a unique water bottle that my brother and sister-in-law gave to me a few years ago and I carry it around at all times. When you have a unique water bottle people will recognize it as yours, too. So if you're slightly forgetful at times, you'll have that working in your favor.
Ever have a tournament where you play at 8:00am, ref at 9:00am, play at 10:00am, and ref again at 11:00am before you get a break? Those days are the worst! It can be a little less stressful if you have a protein bar or two stashed away in your backpack though. These babies have gotten me through more than a few tournaments.
Whether the scorers table ran out, or you misplaced yours (yet again), having a few extra pens in your backpack can be a lifesaver. If you're an avid stat-taker like I am, this is non-negotiable. Pencils are another one of those items that always seems to get lost, so just bring a bunch (plus a pencil sharpener wouldn’t hurt either!). Use a fun pencil case so it doesn’t get lost, or just throw the supplies in a ziplock baggie.
Some coaches like clipboards, but I prefer a nice padfolio. It gives you a solid surface to write on while filling out your line-up or while taking stats. It also holds papers more securely than clipboards in my opinion and just looks a little more put-together. If there was something on this list that you could do without, this would be it. But it's essential in my bag!
You will probably have one of these that you keep practice notes in or where you draw up potential lineups. I like the normal notebooks which are college-ruled because I tend to be a bit wordy in my notes. But if you prefer drawing to scale you might like graph paper! Either way, it's nice to have a place to keep notes during the day or to write down reffing assignments the night before.
$10 in Cash
Depending on where you are or how long your tournament is, you may need a little more. This comes in handy for parking and concessions. In the Chicago area, they usually have pizza slices or Subway sandwiches for $4. Hopefully, that helps you determine how much you'll need.
(2019 Update: Most places are now advanced enough to accept debit/credit card, but I’d still recommend bringing cash! You just never know.)
Mini First Aid Kit
I go through so many band-aids it's outrageous. And don't even get me started on ice packs! If your club doesn't provide you with a first aid kit, I HIGHLY recommend packing around your own. Sure, there are usually athletic trainers on-site for the more serious stuff. But if you need a band-aid to cover up a small scratch, you don't want to send your outside hitter across the facility just before game time when you could take care of it yourself.
I got the Fitbit Charge 2 for Christmas and I HATE being at volleyball without it! I love checking my steps at the end of the day and it makes me happy to see the higher heart rate during tough matches. But it serves a purpose past just entertaining me. Aside from keeping time and using the stopwatch function, I love that I can turn notifications on and off for my phone, and I can get messages during matches. Now... I don't encourage checking your phone or messages during a match, but sometimes you need to. Any smartwatch will work! Make sure it’s CHARGED!!!
The last item that is definitely ESSENTIAL if you live in a colder region. A puffy jacket will keep you warm from the parking lot to inside, and will help you maintain a steady temperature throughout the day. Most gyms that I've coached in this year have been SERIOUSLY lacking in the heating department. Having a warm jacket can be a lifesaver during those long breaks off the court. Extra points if it's puffy and can double as a pillow during the really long breaks, and the smaller it can be bunched up the better. Because once you get warmed up, you don't want to be dragging it around all day! Just scrunch it up and put it in that big backpack.
There you have it, folks! My list of volleyball tournament essentials. Do you have anything else that you pack that you couldn't survive without? Let me know in the comments! Share this list with new coaches so they aren't left scrambling for pens and spare change at their first tournament!