Emotions can play a big part in our ability to perform. Many times they can assist in pushing a person to victory and at other times they may be the reason why we lose. Properly handling emotions can be difficult both after a loss as well as a win if we are left feeling emotionally drained. A couple of examples of this would be during the World Cup when Brazil talked about how difficult it was for them to play the Dutch after the horrific loss to Germany. The other would be when Derek Jeter asked for the first time to sit out a game against the rival Boston Red Sox after he had the game winning hit in his last appearance at Yankee Stadium. The roller coaster ride that emotions give can happen in esports as well, and in watching the final TSM vs SK Gaming match in Group B of Worlds this year I wondered if it was an example of this phenomenon. Continue reading Emotions and TSM
Today I wanted to talk about a brief interview that coach Locodoco gave the broadcasting team during Team SoloMid’s matches versus Samsung White in the quarter-finals of the League of Legends World Championships. In case you are unable to watch the video, here is the statement:
“Going into the games our prep was, ok we win one game and then we’ll go from there. We didn’t think of it as a best of five, we took it as we have three chances to take off one game and then we’ll take it from there. We basically spent all our prep for this.”
Athletes strive to be the best. Whether that means beating others in competition or besting themselves, they are constantly training to achieve victory. At the end of the day, however, one athlete or one team is the ultimate victor. Coaches and other athletes examine the training methods used by the winners to determine what the best way to train is if they want the same result. Yet despite copying the same physical training methods as the best, a difference in performance during competition would sometimes remain. That is when the sporting world began to examine the mental strengths that make a champion and to create drills and techniques for improving mental toughness.
Mind games consulting recommends the Multi-Action Plan (MAP) developed recently and trialled relatively successfully with Italian Olympic shooters.1 The MAP combines theoretical elements from many previous successful models of intervention, notably the Mindfulness-Acceptance-Commitment (MAC) approach,2,3 the Individual Zones of Optimal Functioning (IZOF) model,4,5,6,7,8 and the Identification-Control-Correction (ICC) programme.9
What a week! Personally I’m happy it is over and that my favored team remains in the LCS. However as stressful as it was for me, it seems from how the players are talking it was immensely stressful for them. Several comments in particular stood out to my “sport psychologist” trainer side. One was CLG, commenting on why they had choked two weeks previous during their playoff matches, and the second was MRN explaining how they had practiced to win and then subsequently lost.
Doublelift actually talked a bit about his playoff-choking during the relegation post-match interview with Travis. He says that his anxiety level was far, far too high. I already touched on optimal zones of anxiety in a previous article so I’ll just leave that link here.
MRN’s blog post was a little more (depressing) interesting because it set my mind racing and I spent the day brainstorming ways to make practice a more effective training for competitive matches. What do I mean by that? Well there is a mantra that has been floating around since the LCS began to explain why some teams are expected to do better. It goes something like this, “They have more LAN experience,” or, “They have played more high-profile matches.” This is not unique to esports. It is a mantra commonly used to explain losses by newer teams in a plethora of sports.
So I wanted to break down what is going on here a little from my own point of view. First, to understand the phenomenon, one must recognize that mental skills are trainable (and not an inborn talent). That’s an easy step for most to make, since most people recognize that more experienced teams are mentally tough, which is something that is obviously obtained via trial by fire. So if one were to break down a high stakes match, they would find a whole host of mental skills that were necessary to win, and those are the skills being used and practiced in said match. The issue then comes when those skills are not necessary to be used in a practice scrimmage, and so they are not used and therefore not practiced.
For example, CLG competes in a playoff match which upon losing will knock them out of the professional circuit, forcing them to re-qualify. During that match they are practicing how to perform various mechanical skills, communication, all while under a huge amount of anxiety over whether or not they will be employed in three weeks time. When they were preparing for this match, they were playing scrimmages against other teams and practicing mechanical skills, but they were not under the same level of anxiety at the same time. That means technically they were not practicing for the same situation they would be playing in. Put this way it is fairly obvious why most teams who practice normally (for lack of a better word) tend to not do well under pressure until they have had enough actual game time under pressure (which served as practice on how to handle pressure).
There are ways to make it easier on oneself and induce during practices the kind of pressure and anxiety that would be present in a high stakes match. Professional sports teams do it all the time to help them prepare their teams for the game. Some of them are systematic approaches used by sport psychological trainers, but it is fairly easy to brainstorm up ideas that would work as well. Two simple examples: connecting real world rewards or punishments to practice outcomes, or agreeing as a team to role-play a certain tournament situation during a practice match.
If you have your own ideas, opinions and experiences, share them in the comments!
This past month marked the 6th season of the IEM world championships and brought many of the world’s best Starcraft 2 athletes together in Hannover to compete for the Intel Masters 2011 trophy. The finals were, in many peoples’ minds, a dream rematch of the IEM Cologne finals between the fantastic protoss player SK Gaming’s MC and terran player Evil Genius’s PuMa. In the first game MC came out with a strong, aggressive style that heavily punished PuMa’s expansion strategy. Down one game, PuMa showcased his talented micromanagement by winning the next two games with picture-perfect medivac drops while simultaneously defending his home base from MC’s massive assaults. PuMa’s precise and flawless play made it feel like a terran art piece. However, game four was a depressing turning point for PuMa fans, and brings me to the topic I want to discuss this week. Choking under pressure. Continue reading Throwing the game – how to avoid choking under pressure