eSports psychology in coaching

esport games

I went to study sports psychology to become a better coach, and everything that I learned in the two years I was studying, both in terms of exercise psychology and elite sport psychology, inform me that I was correct–that the best position in the world for sports psychological knowledge to be implemented onto a team and onto the players was from the coaching position. So in an ideal world, every coach would have a master’s degree in sports psychology. Right? But we don’t live in an ideal world, right?

So if you see the trend in elite sport–in traditional sport–you’ll see that sport psychology trainers are more and more being embedded in teams, instead of being in like an office somewhere and the team sends players to them and a bunch of different teams and a bunch of other players, and they talk for an hour and they leave. They’re showing up in the courts. They’re showing up in the locker rooms. They are looking at psychology in action. And I’ll give you an analogy.

Mindfulness: you train it in like a 15-minute sitting-down segment in the morning, you know, in your kitchen or whatever. But then the place that you actually use mindfulness is, like, every single second of performance. So real mindfulness training needs to happen in a game when you’re failing and losing and 2k gold behind, and you need to actually win. That’s when it’s important to be mindful. So–and by mindful, I just mean being able to reorient to the present, forget about past mistakes, and focus on what you’re doing right now. Right?

So with full focus. So it’s the same thing in sports psychology, like sports psychology doesn’t in the one-hour meeting that you have. It happens in the training environment and when you’re doing the wrong thing after training instead of the right thing, or when you’re talking to your teammate the wrong way. It happens in these little teachable, correctable moments, like, scattered throughout the day. And that’s the trend in elite traditional sport at these reviews.

If you look at the Olympics in Rio in 2016, what you see is a lot of–like, the sports psychology trainer for the U.S. men’s volleyball team–indoor volleyball–was, like, there on the court, right? Like, in between points, talking to the players. This is when the interventions that–I think it was she–she was doing, like, have real impact on performance in that moment.

So I think that sports psychology in esports is evolving in a really interesting way because we are differentiating–like, we’re having a trainer who specializes in that. But the difference is a lot of these trainers are being moved into the gaming houses, which is fantastic, right? Because then they’re in there, embedded in the players lives, and they’re operating in a 24/7 thing.

And what they need to be doing is learning as much as they can about the game and as much as they can about the team structure, so they can get into the play. I remember the first moment when I was coaching Copenhagen Wolves in 2014 or 15 when I saw an avatar movement around a tower, and I saw it tilt for the first time, like, reading it from the body language of the avatar. And I knew that all of my study of the game for the last three years or two years had finally gotten me to the point where I could see either choking or just being bad or, you know, excellent play being in the zone from the movements of the champions in the game.

And that’s kind of what you need to be able to see if you’re really trying to be, you know, in the lead as a sports psychology trainer. Yeah, so I have a 20-year plan and a 10-year plan and a 5-year plan. The 10-year plan is that amateur esport is going to be a thing, and it’s going to be local and it’s going to be live. And that, in that situation, if you have good coaches and good captains, you can have youth development. You’re going to have development through sport. It doesn’t matter if it’s sport or esport.

It’s a competitive environment. That’s the point. And that’s where you access kind of the pressure necessary to develop transferable life skills. That’s why kids do youth sport. That’s why their parents shove them on sports teams. At the very worst, the byproduct is you get a little healthier, but at the best, you have a really good coach and he teaches you all sorts of things about life.

So that’s the 10-year plan, but if I want to be in a position to affect that and produce, you know, coaches all around the world to kind of know what they’re doing, then I need to build a larger company and I need to have money. And so in the short-term, that means trying to find a successful business related to coaching in esport as it is today and build that up using my expertise. So I have expertise as a teacher and now as a brand from the last three or four years of doing brand work. And I kind of gave myself an accidental MBA as I was, like, staying up late at night learning about how to build a brand. And then, of course, from League coaching, and I think all those things combined is what my current endeavor is with League coaching. There’s probably maybe three things that I practice what I preach most, and that is, uh, gratefulness, which is to try to kind of orient my thoughts around what it is that I have instead of what it is that I don’t have.

Right? And that’s through a ritual that I do every morning, or at least significantly throughout my life. You know, throughout the day, that is.

Just thinking of the things that I have to be grateful for, so that I notice the things that most people take for granted, right? The second thing is probably mindfulness. So just trying to focus on the present and and not kind of let my emotions drive my behavior, but rather let my values drive my behavior. And the last thing is probably the idea of, like, be so good that they can’t ignore you. So the idea of working on long-term ambitions and goals and not being worried about kind of the short-term outcomes, but more worried about the religion of where I’m headed in 20, 30, 40 years and the legacy that I want, and having that be the thing that I work towards. And also, I try to outwork everybody that I know so that I can actually ask them to work hard, but that doesn’t always happen because I also sometimes just watch YouTube a little too much, you know, here and there but… so it’s not really practice what I preach.

But I do let people off the hook, right, when they need to slack off, because I know that I’m a huge slacker as well. So players should recharge… dependent on what they need, actually. So there’s two components to this equation: one is their ambition and their drive.

So, I mean, I don’t mean what people say that they want to do. Like, “I want to win Worlds.” I mean what people actually–what their ambition or their drive is keyed up to, like, internally as a metric. So how badly they are really driven.

Because the amount that you’re driven predicates the amount that you can sacrifice for that goal. So, I mean, this isn’t like what people say that they want, but it’s what they actually map to, right, when behavior maps to action. So then the second thing is… so, first is how much ambition do you truly, really, actually have buried in within you, which is a product of, you know, how you were raised and what you want and everything about your life. And then the second thing is, you know, how burned-out they are. And usually if you’re thinking in terms of sports overtraining–you get to the edge of overtraining, you detect it right away, you can dial back in three days and recover just fine.

And a lot of times that doesn’t mean you go all out. It means you dial back, you increase intensity, but you decrease quantity a lot. But if you, for example, actually get to the point of burnout, then it can be one to four weeks recovery.

TSM is still dominating NA because Andy, Bjergsen, Parth, Hauntzer, Svenskeren, um… should I throw some love on Double and Biofrost there as well? Yeah. So basically, when I went into the first week of the split and I had a meeting with Regi about the future–actually, this was probably even before then–I said the thing that I always put in my contracts, which is, I want to… I want to train myself out of a job, meaning that I want to create an environment, a culture, within the team that produces mental resilience and produces a system of analyzing the game that creates excellence.

And I want to create a coaching structure and a coaching kind of, like, group that does the same thing. And that’s what I aspired to do because of the amount that Regi sacrificed to bring me to North America, and to do that, I wanted to try to leave a legacy within the team that would outlast my work hours. And, you know, I didn’t want to, like, leave the house and then everything fell out to the floor, right, cause that’s not very nice as an owner, to pay a lot of money for something and then when they leave you, you have nothing, right?

So I think that because all of my actions the whole split were geared and oriented toward that, what we have is–you know, they didn’t just like, you know, throw out their whole coaching staff and their whole roster, as has happened many times in the past because of burnout, because of like, you know, whatever they’re trying to adapt and change. They, you know, they have a process Right?

So they were able to build from one split to the next split for almost the first time in TSM history. And believe me when I say that, like, I have a lot of respect for TSM, but one thing that I think that they were very bad at was building on past successes and, like, burning away past failures, because a lot of times they were they were super good at talent recruitment, right, and recognition. So then they would build stellar teams through talent recruitment and they would build a coaching staff, you know, through talent recruitment, but they couldn’t maintain it.

They couldn’t build on that. So I think now we get to see what TSM looks like when they’re actually building for a second year on success from a first year. And that’s terrifying for the rest of the world, I believe, because when you have that kind of drive and then you multiply it and you fail, and then you build on that failure, that’s a really exciting amount of motivation that you have.