Esports has come a long way since a decade ago. The elite pro behemoths of the past used to climb the ranks due to their sheer raw talent at the game, and they weren’t challenged for these spots because they held the secrets of high performance in the game.
Fast forward to 2020. The development of players is starting to happen faster and the ceiling of skill is rising higher. This is happening because our understanding of the core mechanics of a game is getting deeper, and we’re creating training schedules around that understanding. It’s no longer a secret that a few of the elite pro’s know; it’s everyone’s knowledge now. This means that the skill gap between different pro’s is getting smaller, the skill of the average player is higher, and the level of competition is getting harder.
But, if everyone has access to the deep game knowledge and training plans, and if the overall level of competition is getting more intense with smaller skill gaps between players, how am I going to compete? How am I going to gain a competitive advantage and make any progress towards my goals in esports?
Mental performance is fast becoming recognized as one of the key contributors to success in esports at all levels. That’s because esports, regardless of the game you play, is almost completely a mental game. Every action we take, every call out we make, every strat that we follow; everything is being processed and accomplished due to fast brain computing power.
Sure, the players you’re going up against may have trained as hard as you and may be at an equal skill, that doesn’t mean the game has to be a coinflip. By controlling what happens in your mind, you can take control of the variables that might negatively impact performance, including: rage and tilt, lack of focus, communication issues, distraction, nerves, anxiety, and how fast you can make decisions.
So, if you only have 24-hours until your next big competition or you’re trying out for a new team, here’s how you can use your mental game to help you perform in-game.
Firstly, become aware of your emotions and experience. When stress and fear hit us, it feels like it’s hitting our entire body and it starts to shut down our brain. If we can identify what we’re feeling, the experience no longer is this large, overwhelming feeling. Instead, we know EXACTLY what we’re dealing with and then the task of managing it becomes so much easier.
Secondly, you might be getting nervous, anxious, and scared about what’s coming up. These feelings aren’t going to help us a whole lot so we want to shift the way we’re thinking. Everytime you feel your heart start racing and the thoughts of “oh man I’m so nervous, this is going to be bad”, force yourself to say “I’m so hyped. This is going to be nuts!” What we’re aiming for is a shift of perception of your experience. We want to associate these feelings with excitement and hype rather than with nerves and fear.
Next, feed your mind with constructive thoughts. Chances are, when you’re going into something that you’re not comfortable with, you begin to question if you’re even good enough, start wondering if you’re going to make a fool of yourself, and feel like overall you just don’t have what it takes.
If this is you, don’t worry! It’s absolutely 100% completely normal to feel it - I even experience it; we all do. The good news is, we can do something about it. When you’re thinking these negative thoughts, start forcing yourself to give compliments to yourself. Even if you don’t believe the compliments at first, you’re interrupting the negative thoughts with something positive. Overtime, these positive interruptions become your default setting and when you start getting nervous, you start pumping yourself with confidence.
Finally, remember to breathe. When you’re on stage, in match, or loading in, you may start feeling those nerves creep in. When that happens, your brain is going to start shutting down and causing mistakes. But, you can calm your body down with simple breathing techniques. Take a deeeeeeeeep breath in and slowly exhale. All you have to do is simply do this 4 or 5 times and then get your head back in the game. You know what, you can think of breathing as a way to hijack your nervous system. When you learn to breathe, you’re also learning how to calm down all those other systems that are going haywire because, conveniently, they’re all linked together! So, if you control one, you control them all.