1. Training specificity
How often every day do you play a real match?
What is the difference between a real match and a soloQ game? Living with the consequences. How do you act in a real match and in game? The best athletes in the world, they strive to make them equal. Practice how you play, so that you can play how you practice. Do you feel like re-queueing for another match just after suffering a frustrating defeat in soloQ? A game where you made a few mistakes? It’s a common emotion. You want to play another game. Get it right this time. Try again. The problem is, that’s not what a real match is like. After a real match you have to live with the outcome for days, weeks, months. Or sometimes for your entire life.
We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit. ~ Aristotle
Why do you choke? It’s not because the pressure gets to you. Everybody feels that pressure. It’s because you didn’t train to feel that pressure, yet still be able to perform.
So once a day, play a real match. Take 5-10 minutes before the match and get focused. Clear your calendar. Close down the internet. Psyche yourself up. Begin the match. Don’t visit Reddit during champion select. Don’t answer any texts during loading screen. Remember, you are on stage, playing the most important match of your career. Your phone is back in the locker room. The lights are beating down on your face. You’re sweating and your hands are freezing at the same time.
After the match, live with the result. Don’t try to avoid it. Re-queueing for another game is avoidance. Going and playing Xbox is avoidance. Do one of two things. A) review the game and take ownership of your decisions. Both your mistakes and your successes. B) seek solace in those people whose value of YOU is independent of the game. Just ask any world-class athlete. Their social support network is the single most important resource for overcoming crushing losses, and turning around to get back on the pitch.
Once a day at least, practice those skills. You’ll find it makes your in-game skills more potent.
2. Enter a game with workhorse-goals
People who go into a match to train are sometimes derogatorily called try-hards.
Obsessed is just a word the lazy use to describe the dedicated.
How often do you go into a match with a goal that is not simply winning? Often people ask me how to not choke or tilt, how to reach their full potential so they can play their best in a game. My answer is really simple.
Be so good they can’t ignore you.
People constantly make the mistake of looking at the person in front of them, and mistaking them for the opponent. They think that if they beat that person they’ve made progress. If you want to progress slowly, the most surefire way is to chase goals like beating other people who are just as bad as you. The fastest way to progress is to beat yourself. Every. Day.
Why go into a match with the aim of beating 1-5 random strangers at approximately your skill level? Is your goal to be the best? Then you don’t have time to waste. Several games a day — actually every game, but let’s be honest, it’s both a game and a passion so sometimes you just wanna have fun — anyway several games a day you should go into a game with workhorse goals focused on your own play. Here is an example:
Play a game on Janna. From 10 minutes to 40 minutes use my ultimate to interrupt an enemy ultimate in every teamfight 3v3 or larger. Flash-ult once in a skirmish to set up a successful kill/gank.
These should look pretty similar to achievements. If you don’t have much success making these you can take my free goal-setting class and learn how to stop working for your goals and making your goals work for you. Alternatively you can do this after a match. Look through the replay or your memory of the game and select two errors. In the next match, commit yourself to improving those errors in some measurable way.
3. Become aware: Self-talk and your beliefs
In sport psychology one of the first steps in almost any mental training is awareness. We call this meta-cognition, that is, thinking about thinking. The standard term is reflection. People are natural scientists. We observe, make assumptions, try out theories. If you become a scientist of your own beliefs and self-talk, you can make huge leaps in changing how those drive your performance.
To be a great champion you must believe you are the best. If you’re not, pretend you are. ~ Muhammad Ali
Play a match with two piles of pennies or paperclips on your desk. Every time you internally say a piece of self-talk that is productive to your performance, move a marker from one pile to the other. Every time you say a piece of self-talk that is destructive to your performance, move a marker the other way. If you want to learn more about productive vs destructive self-talk, check out my free online course.
4. Sort out controllables and uncontrollables
What are the elements of every match that you can control? What are the elements of every match that you cannot control? Men and women admire those great athletes who exhibit poise. Those who look unruffled on the brink of defeat. Those who clinch a championship, and only show emotion after the match is over.
Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible. ~ St. Francis of Assisi
Poise in the midst of struggle is gifted by the ability to focus on things within your grasp, that will ultimately affect the outcome. Do not worry, spend time, or expend effort on those elements which exceed your mortal power. Simply focus on those which you can affect, and expend every ounce of your strength to achieve perfection.
Take out a piece of paper and draw on it two, large circles. Label one “control” and the second “out of my control.” For a few minutes before a game, think of as many things as possible related to playing and winning in your eSport, and sort them into one of the circles. Do the same thing after a game while reviewing that match either mentally or by video.
5. Start Ashtanga yoga: Focus on the tolerance
This tip unfortunately has nothing to do with actually playing a match. But it has everything to do with becoming a champion. When examining how champions develop, researchers have noted that they often live, breathe, and eat their sport. When they aren’t on the pitch they are thinking of a drill. When they drive to practice they are reviewing a recent match. When they watch TV at night they are watching their sport played. When they relax mentally or physically they do so intentionally so they can focus longer or practice harder later.
I teach a class on the top 5 reasons players fail to become athletes, and one of those reasons is inability to tolerate discomfort. This is not an ability that is easily learned in-game. You have to go out there and experience mental and physical discomfort.
Did you know what it is that stops people from stretching out and reaching their toes? It’s the mind. The muscle could probably actually make that stretch. But the mind purposely clenches the muscle early in order to prevent perceived injury and perceived pain. What do you feel when you push against that clench? Pain.
As practitioners of yoga constantly push against the limit of their muscles, they train their subconscious mind that beyond that “fear” of pain, there is nothing. The muscles slowly condition to reach slightly farther, until the yogi is more flexible than before. There is no stretching out of ligaments (that’s actually injury). There is no stretching out of muscles. There is simply training the mind.
Ashtanga yoga is one of the best ways to train for eSport while living your life. Here are the TRANSFERABLE benefits of constantly practicing yoga, and training your subconscious mind:
- More flexible and healthy hips and spine after long hours of sitting
- Ability to tolerate discomfort in pursuit of a higher aim
- Ability to focus wholly on one objective, ignoring distractions
- Increased blood flow, and more importantly, learning how to create energy on demand (for example prior to an important match)
- Improved ability to practice mindfulness
The content of your character is your choice. Day by day, what you choose, what you think, and what you do is who you become. ~ Marcus Aurelius