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The Comeback Mindset: The Basics of Mental Resilience

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In the first round of the EU LCS playoffs, team ROCCAT pulled off a seemingly impossible win, while 2 games down in a best of 5 series.  With all friendly turrets gone, and multiple inhibitors down, how in the world did they keep their cool, and hold their focus to eventually win that game?

Mental fortitude and resilience are not easy to come by.  For some, it can take months or years of mental training to solidify the skills necessary to stick with it when the going gets tough.  However, here are some beginner’s tips for gaining the Comeback Mindset.

Play the match you are in, not the match you want

We all would love to go into every game, where all of our teammates get ahead, and you can just coast through the game to an easy win.  The reality is that this is frequently not the case.  More often than not mistakes occur, making the match difficult and the outcome uncertain.  In this case, you have to learn to go with the flow.

A smart player approaches each game and objective with a plan, knowing both what they need to do and what their opponent needs to do in order to be successful.  However, situations arise in a game where you need to be flexible and change your plan due to setbacks.  It’s crucial that you do what’s best for the set of circumstances you are actually in—not the situation you were hoping for, and not what is fair, easy, or comfortable.  Only then are you playing with the Comeback Mindset.

Practice
Next time you are experiencing a setback in a game, take a moment to quickly assess what you need to do to account for the loss, and what you opponent will be able to do with their gain.  Once you have it in mind, say it out loud to yourself or type it in chat.  That will bring the change of circumstances to the front of your mind, and help you make the right accommodations for it.

Focus on what works

When things don’t go according to plan, a common tendency is for players to focus on what went wrong, rather than what they need to do next.  For instance, after a failed gank, a laner might say something like:  “Why did you think that would work?”, “Why are you building damage when we need a tank?” or the classic “Um…what?”

While it may be a nice way to vent frustration, time and attention are limited resources in a game that must be used wisely.  Asking your whole team to read or listen to you make a negative remark after a play is simply a waste of time and energy on your part and theirs.  Instead, you need to focus on what works.

Practice
  1. When you catch yourself getting frustrated or combative with a teammate, ask yourself if your anger will help to you win the game. Then conduct a Centering exercise to diminish your frustration and to get you focused back on the game.  You can find instructions for centering here.
  2. When you find someone directing anger at you, redirect their attention to a statement of fact (“Both enemy flashes down”) or a new plan (“I will place a pink in your brush to protect you from enemy ganks while you farm under turret”).  Continue to redirect until your teammate regains focus.

While keeping your immediate and long term goals in mind, pay attention to only what will help you achieve them.  If you have a thought that is not helpful, acknowledge the thought and let it go.  Remember to just go with the flow, and you will comeback from the misstep in no time.

 

Now, I know it’s no easy task to just go with the flow when it feels like the flow is taking you over Niagara Falls in a barrel.  But one way to help combat that feeling is to stop looking at going over the cliff as a bad thing.  I’m not saying it will be good for your physical health, but at the very least, we can lessen the burden on your mind by separating the facts from what you anticipate.  Besides, screaming at the barrel probably isn’t going to stop it from going over the falls.

Separate your interpretations and opinions from the facts

It is human nature to be extremely judgmental.  It is what helps us make fast decisions.  Instead of trying to seek out all the facts of a situation before making a choice, our minds take a few things that we observe, and then fill in the blanks.

Most of the time this works out for us.  However, sometimes we lose track of what is actually a fact and just what we assume.  This can lead to some faulty decision making in close matches.  To avoid this, practice speaking both to yourself and your teammates using only factual descriptions.

Practice
Unglue your interpretations and opinions from the details.  Describe only the “who, what, when, and where” that you observe.  JUST THE FACTS.  For instance:

  • The enemy jungler is on top side.
  • I’m currently down 27 CS to my lane opponent.
  • Next objective up in 45 seconds.

Let’s look at one of my favorite judgmental statements (that many players don’t realize is a judgment) to help make this clearer.

“I’m so behind!”

We are supposed to use judgements to make our decision making simpler, but using a statement like “I’m behind” actually makes things more complicated.  This is because it offers no facts about the situation to make a choice with.  Instead, it offers an opinion that could mean:

  • I’m on an early game champion going even in lane.
  • Please don’t gank my lane, because I can’t back it up.
  • This is hopeless, I give up—gg.
  • I’m not in a position to carry.

When communicating with yourself and your teammates, you want to leave as little up to interpretation as possible.  This is for 2 reasons.  First, it limits the amount of energy needed to get information, and allows more energy to be put in to executing good plays.  Second, it helps to keep emotion out of the picture, as players emotionally react less to facts than judgments.

Practice
The next time you are tempted to say something ambiguous like “I’m behind” look at the situation to find FACTS ONLY.  Try not to make any evaluation about whether or not these facts are good or bad.  Instead, just state them as they are.  For instance, following a failed 1 v 1, call out the new facts about the game that are related to making a new plan:

  • I’m currently down 15 CS to my lane opponent.
  • Enemy ultimate, flash and ignite burned. (It’s even better if you can include a specific game time that these will be back up)
  • Next objective up in 45 seconds.
  • 500g until my next item break-point.

For more information on using nonjudgmental language in game, check out Weldon’s self-talk series, where he more deeply explores how the language we use impacts our gameplay.

 

Learning to do just what is needed in a situation without clinging to what you want or what you think the facts might mean can be difficult at first.  However, with practice, you will find that adjusting how you approach games from behind will increase your chances for winning them, and lessen the burden you feel, win or lose.

Do you have any other tricks that you like to use to help keep you motivated in a hard, drawn out game?  Please share them with me in the comments below, along with any questions you might have.  You can also contact me directly at summer@mindovergamer.com.