League of Legends [LoL] is a MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) game by Riot Games that has developed into one of the more popular eSports. In the standard tournament version, two teams of five players compete to destroy the others’ main structure before the opponents can do the same. Games typically last between 20 to 40 minutes and involve several informal stages. Rather than using a point system to keep score, momentum is hard coded into the game in the form of resources used to make a player’s chosen character more powerful. Prior to the game the two teams use a drafting system to choose their in-game characters, whose abilities are structured to counter each other. This draft dictates game strategy as there are over 89 unique characters.
League of Legends shares common characteristics with other sports. Examining how athletes mentally prepare for such situations can uncover methods useful for LoL athletes. Basketball and hockey are both five-person aside, continuous play games lasting roughly the same length as a LoL match. LoL and hockey also have system that can result in uneven play, such as 4 versus 5 players. Players in all three sports also engage in strategic roles during teamplay.
Enhancing teamplay in basketball and hockey can involve simple social activities. If a team runs with substitutes the method for choosing a starting lineup can cause friction, so trying to change the team climate and how players are motivated by their teammates is also useful.
Hockey and basketball athletes have to maintain good concentration through long game and also have sharp reflexes late game when they are performing set plays like free-throws or face-offs. Imagery training and emotional control (arousal) help with preparation for specific times when an athlete knows they need to be on their toes, but there is no long break in play to prepare. When a players mental toughness breaks down over the course of a long match, they can end up making errors that will be punished by the opponents.
Perfect play is impossible, so dealing with errors on the fly in basketball and hockey is necessary. Momentum is a powerful force for an opponent to posses and recovering quickly from mistakes mentally helps prevent the ‘domino affect’ of errors repeating themselves. Self-talk and imagery to control emotions are common tools used to focus the adrenaline from a big mistake into productive energy without getting distracted and making a second, easy mistake.
Flow state is often describe in sport as being “in the zone” or in a point of full immersion where instinct takes over and reactions just occur naturally. Many athletes claim to experience a transcendence of their normal awareness, a kind of out-of-body experience where they were not thinking, just acting. Achieving a flow state seems to happen most when athletes are confident, have a high level of skill, and are facing a strong challenge. Flow in team games can occur in a single person on the team, or in a group setting where everything just seems to “click”. Consistently achieving the requirements of flow state is usually done with strong awareness of an athletes mental and physical preparation before a match and their own optimal emotions for success during a match.
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