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How to Avoid Avoiding: 5 Steps to Mentally Break into eSports

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What is it that has kept you from pursuing an eSports career or persevering in ranked up until now?  Are you afraid you aren’t good enough?  Are you too annoyed and worn out from dealing with trolls?  Or do you simply not know where to start?  Fear, moodiness, fatigue, and not knowing what to do are all examples of things that get in the way of staying on task and pursuing goals.

So what do you do when you feel stuck, and don’t know how to go about pursuing your goals and dreams?  The first thing you need to do is…

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Go beyond “Great job!”: Make your praise praise-worthy

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July is all about esports coaching! Read on for some tips to help your players play at their best.

You’re watching your team compete. A late-game fight breaks out and your players perfectly focus target after target, leading to a clean ace that ends in a victory. As you meet up with your players, you shout, “Great job!” and give them each a high five.

What if I told you your praise wasn’t enough? That it was missing something vital?

As coaches and managers, we are constantly given opportunities to praise our players for what they do right. HOW we praise is essential for our players’ success.

In fact, it has been shown that praising in a specific way can build trust, show we are authentically interested, and enable our players to increase their future success.

How we usually praise

I’ve reflected on my time coaching lacrosse and realized that I was sending a strange message to my players about success and failure. If a player was doing everything right and succeeding on the field, I’d often tell him things like, “Great job!,” “Nice play!,” “Keep it up!,” or give him a high-five. If a player was struggling, or got beat on a defensive match-up, I’d say something like, “Make sure you keep your body angled to their weak side and drive at their hips to push them into a low-percentage shot.”

If you look at my feedback, I was demonstrating two things:

  • There was nothing to be learned from success.
  • You could learn a lot from failing.

Learning from a failure is a good thing. Thinking that you cannot learn from success, though, is problematic. By simply adding as little as one sentence to your praise, you can teach your players how to replicate success.

How to make our praise better

Example: Your team solidifies the first dragon of the game.

Ineffective praise: Great job on that dragon!

Effective praise: Great job on that dragon. The ward coverage you set-up beforehand made it easy to take the dragon risk-free. It was also great how bot lane rotated up immediately.

By pointing out the behavior that led to the success, you demonstrate that you know the effort that led to the positive outcome. Additionally, your players learn exactly what to do to succeed again. By simply adding an extra sentence or two, your players walk away knowing how to replicate what they did right. You also show them that you were truly watching.

At this point you might be thinking a good coach needs to invest in a serious set of pom-poms. That’s not at all the case! When you find something you’d already be praising, add an extra sentence to give your feedback more power.

Next time you review your teams’ games, try this:

  • Name 3 things the team could improve.
  • Add a sentence to each describing HOW it could be improved.
  • Name 3 things the team should continue doing
  • Add a sentence to each describing what actions led to the success.
  • Throw in a high-five … who doesn’t love high-fives?

Go make your praise praise-worthy!

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If you would like to receive tips like this on coaching/managing esports, as well as be part of a network of professionals looking to up their game as coaches, check out esportcoaching.net! You’ll have access to articles, video conferences with the pros, and other esports coaching content.

Please, comment with any questions or reach out to me on Twitter!

Navigate SoloQ Rage with these five cardinal points

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If you’re like me, you enjoy video games because they’re fun. I enjoy making plays that helps win a teamfight, or chaining my skills together for a well-executed combo. I get excited watching professional gamers’ brilliant display of skill, strategy, and out of the box thinking. I then try to do what these professionals do on my own, and I’m absolutely ecstatic if I’m able to pull it off. From time to time, this sense of enjoyment diminishes. There are various reasons to why this happens; the main culprit is anger.

There are numerous causes to rage including:

  • Unskilled teammates
  • Lag
  • Flaming/toxicity
  • Trolls
  • Losing

This anger can decrease our performance, sometimes giving us tunnel-vision, blinds us with rage, or perhaps we inadvertently put on our rage glasses. However, it is important to note that anger is neither good nor bad. It’s what you do with your anger that matters. Dr. Mitch Abrams writes, “anger can be harnessed and used as fuel to assist in performance. Can it interfere with performance? You bet! Does it have to? Absolutely not.”

In order to help you successfully manage some of the anger and negativity you might encounter, here are five tips that can help you navigate SoloQ rage:

1) Understand your rage

Recall a previous article on managing anxiety. Whenever you face a challenge, obstacle or a problem, the first step to success is building awareness. Managing anger works similarly in that you need to know:

  • What makes you tick
  • What happens when you feel angry
  • Times when you’ve played well with this anger

Once you’ve noticed your patterns or tendencies, you can work on controlling, harnessing, responding differently, or avoiding situations that make you rage.

Pretend you’re in a normal game and you call a solo lane before the creeps spawn. Even after you made that call, one of your teammates does not listen and goes to your lane anyway. Your teammate then competes with you for CS, messes up your rhythm, and even ends up feeding a kill. Let’s go through these points above and find a way we to use this information.

First, you identify what causes you to rage. In this case, it was an uncooperative teammate. What happens when you get ticked off? Do you flame your teammate? Do you stop communicating? Do you stop trying? Do you try harder? It’s important to know when your anger does not serve you, and could lead to a chain of negativity. At the same time, maybe some anger helps you play more focused or more aggressive. Maybe being mad at this disruptive teammate made you take it out on your opponents. You decide to roam and help your team secure map control with some great ganks.

2) Control or redirect your anger

Remember that anger is neither good nor bad, and that it can be harnessed. Have you had a game filled with negativity and hostility but you still found a way to play well? What might have happened was you redirected that anger towards the game. Maybe you were motivated to destroy the other team, prove a player wrong, or you were just fed up with your teammates. See this video as an example:

The runner in the video, Heather Dorniden took an unfortunate fall and ended up flat on her face. She took a moment to get up and appeared to have harnessed whatever anger she had to finish the race. Note her reaction at the end of the video. Her teammate came to greet her, but Heather looked like she was still in her ‘beast mode’. She appeared still upset from the fall, and it took a moment before it finally sunk in that she had won.

In one of her workshops, XTERRA (off-road triathlon) champion Lesley Paterson called an event like this “finding your f-it moment”. Lesley had a terrible start to the 2013 XTERRA World Championships. She had gotten a flat tire not once, but twice and was behind six-minutes. She felt like giving up, thought the race was over and had numerous negative thoughts come up. Eventually she found her ‘f-it moment’ where she stopped caring about the results and just raced. She even notes that if it wasn’t for this bad start, she might have never had one of her best performances. (Start watching around 7:40).

Again, anger is neither good nor bad. There are times it can be good or bad, and what matters most is what you do with that anger. I encourage you to think about rage like a double-edged sword. Just make sure you’re swinging in the right direction.

3) Reset: Know when to retreat

Another part about controlling your anger is sometimes stopping yourself. Imagining you’re tower diving to go after an enemy. A successful tower dive would result in a kill, but sometimes dives might not work out. (e.g., enemy teammate TPs in, opponent jukes very well, you miscalculated your mana). In these situations it is helpful to realize when you are going in too deep and need to back up before you feed.

Apply this to dealing with anger. Recall in the first key point that you need to first identify your anger. You notice you’re getting upset, you have the urge to criticize or flame your team, you feel like pounding or kicking your desk, you’re going to go YOLO and probably feed, etc. Before letting your anger get the best of you, you still have time to back up. Like in the in-game scenario where you retreat from a tower dive, you could catch yourself before your rage becomes detrimental. In both the in-game scenario and dealing with rage, there is a fine line between making the right choice and or going in too deep. Once you cross that line, there’s no coming back.

One way to reset is to have a preplanned statement you say to yourself in these situations. By having these statements ready, you can draw on them in times of need. You might say to yourself, “it’s okay, I’m still in this”, “don’t worry about the team, just focus on yourself”, “calm down”, or a statement you find personally meaningful. Also consider combining your statement with a deep breath, where you’re absorbing good vibes with your inhale and letting go of our rage with your exhale.

4) Find your best course of action

At several points in a game, you may need to adjust your strategy, skill builds, and item choices. The game can be very dynamic, and a number of factors can influence the flow of the game. Having the flexibility to adjust your strategy, mindset or playstyle can increase your effectiveness.

Let’s say you’re in a game that doesn’t quite go your way. You find your rage creeping up on you, and know if the rage is left unchecked, you could end up playing worse. At this point, you might to stop and think “is this helpful?” Should I respond to a teammate who’s being hostile? Do I tell a teammate off for making a mistake and then getting defensive over it? Do I stay mad because RNG did not work for me?

Once you’ve decided that some of your responses may or may not be in your best interest, take it one step further and ask yourself:

  • What is my best course of action right now?
  • What is my strategy?
  • What do I focus on?

Is it working on communicating with your team? Focusing on farming? Telling your team what the strategy is for the next fight? Even in a situations where you might not end up winning, there is likely a best course of option. Often, this action is within your control.

5) Focus on what you can control

Let me start by sharing a quote:

Where your focus goes, energy flows. – Darren Hardy

Are you focused on the problem or the solution? Are you focused on an unsuccessful gank or going back to the jungle to continue farming? Are you focused on your teammate’s mistake or moving on to your next objective?

What I often tell my clients is that if they’re focused on one thing, they’re not focused on something else. What happens if a bad play happens and you stay fixated on it? How might that impact you physically, mentally, or emotionally? How will that impact your gameplay moving forward? It’s important to focus on the right things, and often those are things that they can control.

Here’s a short exercise that you might find helpful. In that list, what are thoughts that come up of where your focus goes? How many items are in each list? Are there any adjustments you might want to make to where you put your focus?

Navigate SoloQ Anxiety with these five cardinal points

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Imagine you’re sitting at your desk, hovering over the play button. You check your friends list, and see nobody online. You hesitate to press play. You start to worry if you’ll have a good experience. Maybe

  • you won’t have someone who can play support, or
  • your teammates aren’t as skilled, or
  • you will get players that refuse to play as a team.

Sometimes players might experience these feelings of anxiety that affect their gameplay or stop them from pressing the play button. The good news is you have options to deal with this anxiety. Each person navigates their anxiety with a different path, but we can all use a common compass. Here are five points you can rely on to guide you through SoloQ anxiety.Read More >

Got Grit? A Farewell to the Frag Dolls

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Do you have what it takes to be the best?  Are you prepared to work hard and stay focused, even through the inevitable setbacks on your journey to the top?  Can you dedicate yourself year after year to becoming the champion you know you can be?

Let me put it to you this way…

Grit is a personality trait that lends itself to “perseverance and passion for long-term goals.”  Scientists say that if you have it, you are more likely to do better in life.  To us, it means you might have a better shot at going pro or excelling in ranked.  At the end of this article, you can test yourself to see how gritty you really are.  If you score low, don’t worry.  We have a solutions for you there too.  But first we want to show you what true grit looks like. 

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Taking off the Rage Glasses: How to Stop Anger from Losing you Games

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In my last article, I introduced the concept of two mindsets. A growth mindset allows a person to steadily increase their skill. To review, some of the hallmarks of the growth mindset are accepting criticism, seeing obstacles as challenges instead of threats, and embracing that the success of others is not a threat to ones’ own success.

Today, I am going to discuss how to build on the concept of mindset and utilize some strategies to reinterpret rage and regain focus on the game. Ultimately, rage doesn’t do anything to increase your chance of winning, so why bother?

Let’s first take a look at why we rage.

Some typical triggers for rage in solo queue are feeling threatened by an impending loss, receiving negative feedback from teammates, and seeing someone on the enemy team stomp one of your teammates. All three of these triggers are EVENTS. How we interpret them (our belief) is entirely up to us. Additionally, our belief or interpretation about an event causes us to experience an emotion or reaction.

Why does this matter?

We can CHOOSE to interpret events differently to experience a different emotion or reaction. Think of it as if you put on a pair of glasses every time you press play. If you put on your “rage glasses,” every event will be interpreted as an attack on you – leading you to rage more. If you put on your “growth glasses,” you will be more likely to interpret obstacles as challenges, criticism as valuable, and your opponent’s success as something to mimic!

For example, if your teammate loses lane, you can think two things. If you’re wearing your rage glasses, you might think, “This guy is the reason I’m losing.” While if you’re wearing your growth glasses, you might think, “I can learn something from his lane opponent.” Look at the chart below to see how this plays out.

carter_soloq_rage_chart

It can feel tempting in the moment to let the rage pour out into /all chat, but ask yourself: “how does raging in chat get me closer to climbing the ladder?” If you instead put your energy toward constantly improving every game, you will get better.

How to do it

Admittedly, it’s not that easy to immediately counter the thoughts going on in our head. Sometimes, we need to give our brain a little help.

One technique we can use to regain control is called centering. It involves five steps:

  1. Take a deep breath from your stomach/diaphragm. Inhale (count to 5). Exhale (count to 5).
  2. Notice 3 things you can see.
  3. Notice 3 things you can hear.
  4. Notice 3 things you can feel (physically).
  5. Take another deep breath, inhaling and exhaling to a count of 5.

For example, I can currently see the Word document I am typing, a book I’m reading on my desk, and my water bottle on top of my computer tower. I can hear the hum of my computer fan, the music in my ear buds, and my cat chasing a toy. I can feel my feet on the ground, the keys under my fingers, and my arms on the armrests of my chair.

You are welcome to include sights/sounds from the game you’re playing, too!

Events are going to happen every time we play that we can interpret as harmful. By changing our interpretation and centering our mind back on our goal (getting better), we can reduce how much we rage. Ultimately, we all have a decision which “glasses” we wear when we play.

Take off the rage glasses and embrace a mindset that will lead you to success!

Wrecking Ranked Rage – 3 Steps to less anger in soloq

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When I first started playing video games I didn’t think of people raging beyond my brother’s efforts when he played Call of Duty.

The amount of console controllers that met their demise are innumerable, along with the rants that were laced with colorful language as my parents banged their feet on the floor as a reminder to him who lived in the basement that others occupied the home as well.

It wasn’t until I began to play League of Legends that I saw a similar amount and frequency of anger and the experience gave me the opportunity to consider why raging happens, how it worsens your performance, and most importantly, how to fix it.Read More >

3 Keys to Ranked Mindset: Face. Figure. and Fight.

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Did you know that holding a pencil between your teeth could make you a more confident player?  Or that your posture could be contributing to increased stress while you play?  We have all heard the phrase Mind over Body, implying that you can better your physical being or performance by having mastery over your mindset.  But if you have a mind as stubborn as mine, then you need a trick (or 3 tricks) to get your thoughts on track when you are feeling nervous before or during a match.

Although it is vital to motivation, self-improvement, and performance that you communicate with yourself in a productive way, it can be really difficult to do when you are feeling anxious.  This is because productive self-talk requires a degree of calm and rational thinking that is often inhibited by intense emotion.

By manipulating your body and behavior you can lower your anxiety and make it easier to maintain a productive mindset.  With just 3 little F-words, you can use the power of Body over Mind to become a more successful competitive gamer in the face of stress.  All you have to remember is…

Face | Figure |Fight

FACE your fears by changing your facial expression to a content one.

Fix your FIGURE by relaxing key parts of your body and sitting in a confident position.

Get in the FIGHT by taking action instead of avoiding.

How can body language improve my mindset?

A smile goes a long way

Now I know what you’re thinking:  “How in the world is smiling at my computer screen going to make me play better?”  Well believe it or not, a smile really does go a long way in terms of making you happier and a better performer in the long run.  My good friend Weldon Green told me a story not too long ago, about how a smile a day got him through a truly tough period in his life:

“In 2009 I was very depressed. For some reason I was in a really bad place mentally and I hated my job. Every morning I had to get up and ride the bus in for 35 minutes and then work through a horrible and depressing work day hating every minute. I decided it needed to change. After all, it was spring time, the sun was shining, and when I was riding to work the entire city and world was bustling with happy people full of life. So I forced myself to smile.

Every day from the moment I stepped out my door until I arrived at the office I forced myself to smile non-stop. And when I noticed I wasn’t doing it I quickly corrected. The result was that for the next few months I arrived at work happy instead of depressed. I had more productive work days, happier students, and I was more satisfied with my life. After a few months I was done with that job and able to move on to something I was much more passionate about, but the lesson stuck with me and I use it all the time to fix my low energy or my negative evaluation of a certain life situation.”

In this story you can clearly see that just a simple change in facial expression was able to have a positive effect on Weldon’s mindset.  This positive outlook allowed him to turn a negative situation into an opportunity to follow his passions in life.

Is your passion in life to become a better competitive gamer?  Something as simple as smiling could help you become a champion.  So why not try it?  Let’s look at some ways you can try it yourself to lower your anxiety when you play.

So How do I do It?

 “Tiny tweaks can lead to big changes.” –Amy Cuddy

FACE your fears by changing your facial expression to a content one.

Pencil Smile:  An awesome life hack is putting a pencil horizontally between your teeth.  This activates the same muscles you use to smile and decreases stress.  Try doing this during the load screen of your next game.

Facial Relaxation:  Another trick is to focus on relaxing your face and neck muscles one part at a time.  Start with your forehead and work your way down to your brow, lips, cheeks, jaw, and so on.  It’s like progressive relaxation for your face!

After your whole head is relaxed, gently upturn the corners of your lips.  Your smile doesn’t need to be visible.  Just do it enough so you feel it.

Fix your FIGURE by relaxing key parts of your body and sitting in a confident position.

Willing Hands:  A key indicator that you are not accepting a situation is when you tense your hands and have them face down.  A quick way to get your mind on the right path is to turn your palms face up and relax your fist and fingers.  This is called “willing hands”.  The next time you have a 60 second death timer, and the enemy is approaching your nexus, just sit back in your chair and use your willing hands to keep calm.

Power Posing:  If you really want to boost your confidence before a game, try using a power pose.  Sit strait up with your chest out, your hands on your hips, and with both feet spread and flat on the floor.  Hold this position for 2 minutes before each game, maybe while you are waiting for the queue to pop.  (Hint:  You could also do this standing.)

For more on power posing watch this video on Amy Cuddy’s research on using power poses to increase confidence:

Game Changer: Amy Cuddy, Power Poser

Get in the FIGHT by taking action instead of avoiding.

Just Do It!  Sometimes when you are really feeling the fear, there is just one thing left to do:  Do what you are afraid of doing!  The natural inclination when you are afraid is to avoid the situation.  Get out there and prove to yourself that you really can succeed.  More importantly prove to yourself that you can tolerate the possibility of negative outcomes in your games.  You can even tolerate the negative outcomes themselves.  So avoid avoiding, and get in the fight.

Why does it work?

As stated above, stress can inhibit your ability to think rationally.  This is important to note because your rational line of thought is where your self-coaching stems from.  So to stay in a productive frame of mind, you need to be able to moderate the degree of arousal you experience.  Weldon has put together a series on the role of your body’s arousal to your success in eSports, and has offered large scale relaxation techniques to help mitigate anxiety.

Another approach is to moderate your mind’s interpretation of the excitation your body experiences when you are feeling nervous.  You do this by first recognizing what you do naturally when you are anxious, and then doing the opposite.  It’s that simple.  Here’s how it works:

face_figure_fight_steps

So to sum it up, the way you feel impacts the way you express yourself, and the way you express yourself consequently impacts your mood.  When you express yourself in a way that is in line with how you are feeling, then the emotion intensifies.  If you act opposite to your instincts, then the emotion will diminish.  Pretty easy right?    Try it in your next few games and tell me how it went in the comments below.

 

For more on overcoming anxiety in solo queue, check these articles out!

 

References

Beaumont, L. R. (n.d.). Fear: Imminent Danger. Retrieved May 9, 2015, from Emotional Competency: http://www.emotionalcompetency.com/fear.htm

Brinol, P., Petty, R. E., & Wagner, B. (2009). Body posture effects on self-evaluation: A self-validation approach. European Journal of Social Psychology, 1053–1064.

Buck, R. (1980). Nonverbal Behavior and the Theory of Emotion: The Facial Feedback Hypothesis. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 811-824.

Carney, D. R., Cuddy, A. J., & Yap, A. J. (2010, October). Power Posing: Brief Nonverbal Displays Affect Neuroendocrine Levels and Risk Tolerance. Psychological Science, 1363-1368.

Ekman, P., & Friesen, W. V. (2003). Unmasking the Face: A Guide to Recognizing Emotion from Facial Clues. Los Altos CA: Malor Books.

Kraft, T., & Pressman, S. (2012, August). Grin and Bear It: The Influence of Manipulated Positive Facial Expression on the Stress Response. Psychological Science.

Linehan, M. M. (2015). DBT Skills Training Manual. New York: The Guilford Press.

Perkins, A. (2012, January). A facial expression for anxiety. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

Soussignan, R. (2002). Duchenne Smile, Emotional Experience, and Autonomic Reactivity: A Test of the Facial Feedback Hypothesis. Emotion, 52-74.

Strack et al. (1988). Inhibiting and Facilitating Conditions of the Human Smile: A Nonobtrusive Test of the Facial Feedback Hypothesis. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 768-777.

Learn to Press Play: How to Worry Less and Grow More!

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You are staring at the post-game lobby.

Your team’s Caitlyn fed the enemy Katarina 6 kills.

Katarina spiraled out of control and dominated your entire team.

Sitting there, demoralized, you wonder what the point of playing solo queue is.

Will it ever get better? Why bother playing?

How you reflect on our wins and losses dramatically influences your growth as a player. In fact, you can start to make a deliberate choice before we play that will uncap your potential.

Adapt a mindset to embrace solo queue as a challenge instead of seeing solo queue as a threat.Read More >

Five steps to rev up your soloQ rewards — and motivation!

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Using rewards to keep yourself motivated.  It makes sense.  You do something well, get a pat on the back for it, and then you will want to do it more…right?

Well, I have a sneaking suspicion that you have tried something like this before, and it didn’t quite work out the way you wanted it to.  Oddly enough that’s pretty common.  Most people know that rewarding yourself for a job well done is a good thing, but few know how to do it effectively.

By taking your rewards through these simple steps, you can rev them up and get more bang for your motivational buck. Here’s what you need to do:

Step 1:  Make the rewarded goal difficult but attainable

Step 2:  Plan ahead to feed your anticipation

Read More >