What should I bring to an indoor volleyball tournament?

Playing in your first recreational indoor volleyball tournament, but not sure what you need to bring in your gym bag? You want to make sure you have the basics, but you definitely don’t want to bring too much – after all, you’ll be carrying it around all day! Do you even need anything different when you’re playing for a whole day instead of just one game? You bet!

As long as you remember the basics, you’ll be fine. But who wants to just be fine? Putting a bit of extra thought into packing your gym bag means you’re less likely to forget something essential, and it will make your day more comfortable.

Also, make sure you pack your bag the night before so that you’re not scrambling when you’re heading out the door in the morning!

Here’s a quick review of the essentials that you’ll need in your gym bag for an indoor volleyball tournament, plus some extras to add to the comfort and ease of your day. There’s also a printable checklist that you can print out and review quickly while you’re packing your bag.

Download the: Indoor Volleyball Tournament Checklist

Shoes

running shoes with ankle brace inside
Keep your ankle braces in your shoes so you don’t forget them!

Seems obvious, but make sure they’re in your bag! I was carpooling to a tournament once, and my teammate forgot her shoes. Luckily, she remembered before we got too far, so we were able to go back without losing too much time. There are some things you can get away with forgetting, but shoes are definitely something you need to have to be able to play, so it’s worth double-checking that they’re in your bag.

Uniform

If your rec team has uniforms, you’ll want to make sure you’ve packed yours. If you don’t have it, at best, you just won’t match the rest of your team. But, at worst, if the rec tournament league rules state teams must have matching uniforms, you won’t be able to play. Or you’ll have to switch with a helpful team mate when taking turns sitting on the bench.

Knee pads

Not necessarily an essential, but if you’re used to playing with knee pads, make sure you’ve got them. There’s nothing worse than being off your game simply because you’re missing a piece of equipment. And trust me, if you’re used to playing with knee pads, you will definitely notice if you don’t have them.

volleyball player jumping, wearing knee pads and ankle braces
Ankle braces are optional, but important if you’re used to them

Ankle braces

Whether you’re wearing them because of a previous injury, or for preventative measures, you’ll definitely notice if you don’t have them. Similar to knee pads, you get used to the feeling of wearing them on the court quite quickly, and it’ll get into your head if you don’t have them on.

Clothing layers

Playing a whole day of volleyball means you’ll have your fair share of sitting on the bench cheering on your team mates and waiting between games. You’ll be warming up and cooling down many times during the day. You’ll want to have layers of clothing that you can easily take on and off over top of your shorts, t-shirt, knee pads, and shoes.

A zip up top is a great option because it’s easy to put on or take off. For pants, think stretchy or baggy, or try a pair with zippers at the bottom which makes it easier to wear over knee pads and take off over your shoes (and potentially ankle braces). Believe me, you don’t want to keep taking off your shoes every time you want to layer up or down! Who has time for that?

Change of clothes

Two types of change of clothes here:

Change of athletic clothes: Depending on how much you personally sweat, you might want to bring a fresh top and shorts to change into during the day. Having extras is a great idea. It may also help out a team mate who happens to forget her shorts!

And don’t forget extra socks! Never underestimate how refreshing it is to change your sweaty socks halfway through the day!

Change of going out clothes: There’s a great chance that there will be après tournament social activities going on, whether they’re planned ahead of time or organized spontaneously. You don’t have to get too fancy here! After wearing the same sweaty athletic clothes all day, having a fresh change of clothes, even just a fresh t-shirt, makes a big difference in how you feel off the court.

Sweat towel

Not the most glamorous thing to pack, but you’ll be happy you did! You can bet that after playing volleyball for a full day, you’ll be doing lots of sweating! And having a sweat towel on the bench to grab during timeouts to wipe your face quickly makes for a great feeling.

Hand and face wipes

These are great to have on hand for a quick refresh between games. You’ll be surprised at how dirty your hands get while playing volleyball! And while having a sweat towel is great to wipe up fresh sweat, a moist face wipe helps you feel more refreshed between games by wiping away dried sweat.

Extra hair elastics and head bands

These aren’t just for yourself! It’s so easy to lose or break hair elastics, so having a handful stuffed into your bag is a great idea. They don’t take up much room, and you never know when you or someone else will be looking for a replacement.

Contact lens solution

If you wear contact lenses, it’s a great idea to bring a travel size bottle of contact lens solution. One of the grossest things I’ve seen is when a team mate’s contact lens fell out during a game – and she just picked it up off the floor and stuck it back in! Ugh. Being a contact lens wearer myself, I was appalled. Not just about the bacteria from the floor and her hands, but also the plain old dirt that would’ve been picked up.

It’s unlikely that your contact lens will actually fall out during the day, but if it does, you’ll want to be able to re-insert it hygienically.

Shower toiletries

The gym you’re playing at will likely have shower facilitates. Again, depending on personal preference, you may want to grab a quick shower after the tournament before heading out for drinks. You don’t need to pack enough for a spa day – just a shower towel and some soap or body wash for a quick rinse will do the trick! And maybe some flip flops.

Lip chap

Trust me on this one. You’ll be sweating, and gymnasiums are pretty dry environments. Forgetting your lip chap won’t mess up your whole day – but having it will definitely add to your comfort!

Whistle

Recreational volleyball tournaments are often organized so that teams who are sitting off between games are also refereeing games. This helps save costs, instead of having to hire credentialed officials. Often, the officials will come in to officiate the playoff games – when the tensions are high!

Instead of having to share a whistle with other players (yuck!) consider bringing your own whistle. It takes up hardly any room in your bag, so it’s nice to have if you end up refereeing.

Even if you’re new to the game and not confident on all the rules, consider helping out by refereeing. It’s really just about helping set the pace of the game, and most players will call their own plays anyway. And if there are any contentious plays, you can just call a re-serve!

A volleyball

While you don’t necessarily need to purchase your own volleyball, at least make sure that there’s enough volleyballs between your teammates that you can all get in a good warmup. Don’t be the team that stands in a circle and warms up with just one volleyball! That is not a good enough warm up!

bench with volleyballs, bags, and waterbottles
Label your volleyball so it doesn’t get lost

Gymnasium permits often don’t include the volleyballs, and besides, you’ll want to make sure that you’re using a decent volleyball, such as a Mikasa or Baden.

Bonus tip: if you do buy your own volleyball, make sure you write your name or another distinguishing feature on it in permanent marker. Teams often share volleyballs during warmup, so you’ll want to be able to find your own ball in the sea of volleyballs.

Nutritious food and hydration

Even if there is a snack booth setup at the recreational volleyball tournament, you can’t be sure that it’ll have nutritious and healthy options. It’s best to bring your own food and snacks, so that you’re eating the best options during the day.

There isn’t always a lot of time between games to grab food, so you’ll want to have snack sized options. Some tournaments are run with a scheduled lunch break, but most times the tournament just continues, and players eat whenever they can.

Water bottle

Bringing a water bottle that you can refill is essential, as you’ll probably drink 1-2 litres during the day. Also, because you’ll be sweating so much, you might want to consider a sports drink or coconut water to replenish electrolytes as well.

Having your own water bottle is way easier than lining up at the water fountain. It’s pretty unlikely that you’ll have enough time during timeouts or back to back games anyway. It’s much easier to bring and refill your own water bottle.

What to leave at home

Remember, you’ll be carrying around your gym and lunch bags all day, so you’ll want to leave valuables, like jewellery and too much cash and credit cards at home. It’s easy to lose items in the mass of bags lying around. I bring a small wallet with a bit of cash, a credit card, and my personal identification and health insurance information, just in case.

Now, if it sounds like you’re packing enough stuff for a week-long vacation, don’t worry. A good-sized sports duffel bag will hold everything that you’ll need. Do think about having a separate cooler lunch bag for your food and drinks, as it just makes things easier to organize, and you can keep your snacks chilled.

Click here for best snacks for a volleyball tournament

Having all these items on hand won’t guarantee your team wins the tournament, but it’ll help make your day much more comfortable. As you play in more tournaments, you’ll also think of things that you’ll want to bring. Add them to the printable list below, and you won’t have to think twice when you’re packing your tournament bag. And don’t forget to pack your bag the night before, so that you’re not running around the morning of the tournament.

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