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Rugby Tip of the Month – How Do You Prepare for Game Day?

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As a high school athlete preparing to take the next step into college rugby, one of the biggest challenges I hear from college coaches is having new players show up unable to manage themselves without a parent to help. There are many aspects to this, but one of the most obvious (and frustrating) areas that student-athletes don’t prepare for or know how to prepare for is simply making sure their game day preparation is solid and consistent.  Here are my top tips to help you show up in college ready to play:

The Night Before:

1. Pack your kit bag – This includes ensuring you have all your essentials like apparel (jerseys, shorts, socks), mouthguard, and water bottle as well as necessary extras like tape, scrumcap, foam roller, etc.  Check the weather forecast for the next day and make sure to bring appropriate pre & post game wear (warm ups, windbreaker, hat etc.). Even better, think through the entire day/weekend. For example, if your team plans to do a formal team dinner, make sure you also bring a change of clothes, and a towel and your toiletries if there are showers available.

2. Include easy-to-digest snacks for quick fuel. You should always be prepared for potential delays and that includes making sure you can take care of yourself if you have a huge break in your game schedule. Pack some granola bars, GU, trail mix etc. for these unplanned moments. 

3. Pack extras! –  I can’t tell you how many times I have seen athletes rip their shoelaces, tear their socks or shorts, lose a mouthguard – the list goes on and on. Always pack spares in your bag so you are never left hanging. Also, if you happen to wear contacts – bring saline and spare contacts. At least a few times a year, I witness someone losing a contact on the field. PRO-TIP – make a check off list of everything you need and put it in a clear sleeve and keep it in your kit bag. That way, you can simply refer to this list before each game day and not have to re-think everything!

4. Make sure you take a look at GoogleMaps ahead of time so you know how early you need to leave to arrive at the match on time. I always add an extra 30 minutes to that time for "Just In Case" emergencies (you never know if there will be accident or something else happens that slows you down!). Better to be prepared!

Game Day: 1. Eat a solid meal. Ruck Science has a much more detailed plan on what to eat on game day, but the bottom line is to eat something that will sustain you and give you the right fuel for the game (or games!) ahead. One of the easiest ways to spot players who are unprepared are those who show up to the pitch with a bag of McDonald’s in their hand. Not only will these foods take too long to digest, but the extra fats, salt and other additives will only slow your performance. When every inch is worth fighting for, this is an easy part of your game day prep you can take care of.

2. Review your game plan – Do you keep a journal with notes on areas you want to focus on  or what your team strategy is for this week (e.g. focusing on defensive alignment)? If not, this is a good time to start. All high performance athletes keep a running journal to track their goals and what they need to do to attain them. Once you have your journal, you can review this on game day to refresh yourself on what you need to do today.

3. Watch this Sky Sports NZ feature following THE HIGHLANDERS’ Aaron Smith on game-day as the southern men prepared to take on the Force in Dunedin. I love seeing how he shines his boots on game day! It shows pride in his craft and on another level, gives him time to examine his equipment.


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