The Natural Learning Process as an eAthlete (Pt. 1)

Kid Natural Learning Process eSports
Reading Time: 5 minutes

When it comes to peak performance, the measurement of success for most is consistency. It’s one thing to win a major tournament and then disappear. It’s another to win several major tournaments and always be in the top 8. Likewise, after a sports team wins a championship, we almost fully expect them to win another. It’s well known that true adoration of players comes from their ability to maintain their level of performance. The second they slip, we are the first to be disappointed and sometimes down right angry. So how do they maintain such a peak performance? Luck? Skill? Or is it the Natural Learning Process they go through as an eAthlete?

 Why do all of them have such unique styles despite all being so optimal? How can you increase your skill and maintain it? The answers lie deep inside of us, in an almost primal fashion. Let’s help you rediscover your Natural Learning Process as an eAthlete. By breaking down the Natural Learning Process, we can identify opportunities in your performance and help you become a better eAthlete.

The Natural Learning Process Through The Lens of an eAthlete

eSporst Practice Competition Training Learning

The Natural Learning Process is something that we are born with. It’s one of the many fascinating aspects of human existence. You can see it in infants. How they learn to walk, grip objects, and cry in times of need. No one teaches them to do those things, nor does anyone critique the act. It’s something that comes naturally.
It’s a lot like the first video game you ever played. Take yourself back to that experience. Remember the joy you felt when you overcame each obstacle. For most us our parents didn’t understand how to play the games, or how to help us. This meant we were free to figure it out. Win when we won, and lose when we lost. No critique, no tutorials, just trial and correction. Not trial and error. This form of progression is attributed to the Natural Learning Process.

The same can be said about our first step into competitive gaming. We all remember the moment where we went from playing casual to taking it seriously on a competitive level. Our ability and confidence to jump into that ranked setting, or tournament setting comes from our pre-established Natural Learning Process. That first time feeling is something a lot of players chase. Their “glory days” if you will. It happens because that first competitive step came naturally. It didn’t have any motivations other than showing off your skills and competing. You didn’t have to force it.
However, something in life changes as time goes by. Something that alters The Natural Learning Process that we inevitably bring into our lives as eAthletes.

Introducing Self 1 & Self 2

Yin Yang, Cofee, Self 1, Self 2, eAthlete

Imagine if you will that you have two different versions of yourself working in tandem while you are playing. We will call them Self 1 and Self 2. Take yourself back to a competitive game that you were losing in. Let’s say a ranked ladder match, or a tournament set. When you made a mistake, or your opponent got the better of you, what happened in your brain? What did you say to yourself, in your head or out loud. For example “%*^$ I need to hit my shots!” or “COME ON THAT WAS GARBAGE !”. For some it can even be directed towards themselves like “You need to play better, tighten up, stop being so stupid.”. That is an example of Self 1 in action.

Now think about a game that you were winning in. A game that you would describe yourself as “being in the zone” or “playing out of your mind”. Remember how focused but relaxed you were. There was no judgment, no fear, just execution. That is an example of Self 2 in action, without Self 1 trying to take over. A form of ‘flow state’ if you will.
Self 1 is a representation of your ego. It’s the intellectual side of the process that spends it’s time instructing Self 2 what to do. However, the issue is that Self 2 often doesn’t need instruction. Especially in the way Self 1 is giving it.

Think back to that infant walking. Imagine now if you are that infant’s parent, and you are teaching the walking in the same way Self 1 communicates with Self 2. “Okay now extend your right knee and gently place your foot on the floor. Now apply a small amount of pressure, not too much pressure. Then lift that foot, and start to extend your left knee. DON’T PUT TOO MUCH PRESSURE.”

A little ridiculous right, but how difficult would it be for the infant to walk properly, with instruction like that. The truth is, Self 2 is very good at learning and understanding things without the help of Self 1. For instance, you grabbing your phone, or computer. Navigating to this website and reading this blog didn’t require any assistance from Self 1. Knowing where the buttons on your controller are, or the keys on your keyboard are all because of Self 2. Not Self 1.

Where Does Self 1 Come From?

Classroom, Natural Learning Process eAthlete

Self 1 has it’s roots in reward and punishment. From the moment we start to understand praise, and fear, Self 1 comes into existence(Teachers, Parents, Bosses, Friends, etc). When we do extremely well in something, and we feel the emotional rewards of doing well, we want to replicate it as much as possible. So Self 1 will tell Self 2 “Okay, do it just like you did last time. But make sure you don’t do that one thing you did. You’re doing it wrong. We’re never going to get where we were before.”

Suddenly you have a conflict going on inside of you that is actually hindering performance. You didn’t need that instruction the first time you succeeded, why need it now? Self 1 as stated before is a form of your ego. It wants all the credit for everything Self 2 does, because reward is fed directly to Self 1. The same goes for punishment and fear. Fear of losing, fear of letting others and yourself down. It all stems from the same place, and can create that internal and subconscious dialogue.

A Simple Experiment for Self 1

If you want further proof of Self 1’s existence. Take something fairly complex that you perform in your game every day. Some tech skill, or specific play. Now try to demonstrate that tech skill to someone while explaining it. Can you do it? How many tries did it take? Or try to teach it someone and listen to the way you explain it. Think about it, you do it perfectly every game when you’re not talking about it, yet when you attempt to show or teach it, you struggle. That’s because Self 1 is telling you how to do it for your audience. As opposed to Self 2 just doing it because it knows when and how to execute.

Wrap Up

This post was intended to introduce the concept of the two selves that coexist inside of you. To show you how Self 1 is a trained behavior that can be disruptive to performance. Both Self 1 and Self 2 need to work in harmony to achieve peak performance.
In our next post we are going to dive into why quieting Self 1 is important to performance and improvement. How to regain trust in the power of Self 2, and how to utilize the Natural Learning Process to make you a better eAthlete.

Experience is Vital for eAthletes

Coach Czech, eSports, Experience eAthlete
Reading Time: 5 minutes

If you’ve read most of our posts, you know we focus on the improvement side of eSports. Trying to help eAthletes achieve their goals, and make a career in eSports. Often times we focus on the methods of improvement, and the required will it takes to get there. Although all of that information is important and can be the difference between winning and losing. It needs to be stated that experience is the most vital ingredient for eAthletes to improve. Experience has many different forms. Some effective, others ineffective. This may seem fairly obvious to most. You have to play to improve, but there are subtle aspects to experience that if overlooked can stop you from reaching the next level as an eAthlete.

Lose Until You Start Winning

Losing in eSports, FreeAgencyeSports

Have you ever heard the advice “The best way to get better is to get destroyed by a better player for hours.”? A lot of people live by this advice and there is definitely merit to it. The act of facing a player that gives you a challenge, that is outside of your reach helps the brain recognize small moments of improvement. Even if your opponent isn’t giving you advice. They are often playing in a routine fashion throughout the games. Giving you a chance to adapt and make small improvements that become recognizable. Even if you don’t flat out win, you improve. That’s the power of raw experience. This translates to any game in which you are facing an opponent that currently has the upper hand over you. Doesn’t matter if it’s team based or not, you will ultimately find yourself in situations that test your mettle versus a single opponent. This experience is quite possibly the most enjoyable, even more than winning at times.

A Youthful Example We Can All Relate To

When I was younger a group of friends and I would compete in all sorts of games. We would bet Pokemon cards over games of Mario Golf, or high scores on SSX Tricky. We would also play fighting games like Tekken or Killer Instinct. Most of the time I lost in the fighting games. But on rare occasion I had the chance to play with one of my friends older brothers. He would destroy me all the time in Tekken, but after a while I got better. After those small sessions, I became unbeatable to my other friends. I couldn’t explain why at the time, but it was because I was being challenged to do more, and adapt differently. Effectively increasing my skill level.

I would love to tell you that all you have to do is go lose to better players and eventually you’ll be a pro. But unfortunately this method has it’s exceptions.

  • You may not be ready to absorb the lessons being taught.
    If you’re just starting out in a game, or haven’t fully grasped the concept of winning. Facing someone at a much higher skill level can’t help you. In fact it could impede your learning ability because you will be attempting to emulate more than naturally getting a feel.
  • You don’t have the mental resilience.
    Losing typically isn’t fun. It can be discouraging and invite the idea of giving up entirely.

Highlights, Guides, Pseudo Experience

With the advent of twitch and YouTube it has never been easier to watch eSports. Esports are unique in the sense that most spectators are also players even if at just a casual level. There is a very small, almost microscopic percentage of spectators who don’t play. The difference between watching an eSports event, and playing a match on your own is much smaller than say, watching an NBA game and playing basketball at the park. Most traditional sports spectators don’t actually play that sport.

This creates a unique situation where eAthletes spend a lot of time comparing themselves to the professionals. Watching guides and tutorials to become better, or finding a favorite content creators to watch. I consider this a form of Pseudo Experience and it’s very easy to fall into. It can create this “Every dollar I make, you make” mentality but from an improvement stand point. Watching people be successful almost takes the position of working hard to become successful yourself. To some degree attempting to experience the success through them, and spending time on it as well. This is a hard concept to explain because it makes a lot of assumptions about your lifestyle. So to simplify it, I will say, if you spend more time watching other eAthletes be successful, and take nothing away from what you see to apply to your own performance, you are subjecting yourself to Pseudo Experience.

The outcome will not meet the expectation. The act can impede the natural learning process by putting more reliance on the intellectual portion of your brain, rather than the natural inclinations of your brain.

Experience Will Make You. If You Let It.

eSporst Coaching

Over everything else, true improvement comes from rising to every new challenge and overcoming it. The method in which you do that with can be found in all of our other posts. As I have said many times and will continue saying, just simply playing is not enough. Experience will only take you so far if you don’t do the mental work around it. Having awareness, reflecting, preparing, practice, resilience. It all goes into improving and becoming the best version of yourself. Inside the game and outside of the game.

I can confidently write these posts because of my experiences over my career in eSports. Living through your wins and losses creates an emotional connection to what you do. It helps you build character. It’s taking risks and chances on yourself and seeing them through regardless of the outcome.
You can watch others play for as long as you want to. You can listen to every tutorial and guide that you want to. The only way you’re truly going to reach your goals is to experience it. Without the rest of the noise, without trying to adhere to others standards.

Experimentation, implementation, your own brand of success. It all comes from the experiences that you allow yourself to have. Ever wonder why the players at the top are all seen as having a unique perspective on their game? They all look different? It’s because they have learned and grown through their experiences and maintained their own personal standard.

No matter the size or format of a tournament. Go play in it. No matter the level of difficulty, go explore it. Win or lose, just focus on improvement, and experience the process.

 

Why Am I Not Improving? (eSports 2020)

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Why am I not improving is a critical question that often isn’t asked by those who need the answer most. There are many reasons why the question never comes up. Pride and ego can play a huge role. Excuses and deniability are contributing factors. Fear and embarrassment. The list goes on. It also could be the fact that no one can really give you the answer. Watching guides and tutorials may only give you one side of the story. Most critically though, the reason ‘Why Am I Not Improving goes unasked is because most players believe that they can just simply will their way to more wins. By just simply queuing for the next match, and grinding at the bone. Eventually your improvement will happen, right? You will hit that next rank, and increase that win percentage. If you don’t, you’ll just haphazardly do it again the next chance you get. You love playing the game, you love competing so it’s only natural that you will jump back in. If this resonates with you, or you’ve found yourself in this position. Then let’s ask the question together. Why Am I Not Improving?

Not So Black and White

The beauty of competition and the mindset that goes into it, makes the answers a little complex. It would be nice if there was a one size fits all solution, but then there would be no true competition. No, the answers are more nuanced, and require exploration and reflection. That’s the beauty of competition. However, we will make the answers easier to digest by listing five reasons why you’re not improving.

Poor Evaluation or Benchmark

Often times as players we tend to over estimate our abilities. This leads to having a “should be” mentality. For example, if you are Silver Tier in your game, but you believe you “should be” gold. This mentality can lead to feeling like you’re “being robbed” every time you lose. Effectively clouding your vision and making improvement very difficult. Although you may actually be a gold player stuck in a silver bracket, you are contributing more to your own losses than you realize. If 100% of your mental focus isn’t devoted to your mechanical skill and decision making. Chances are you aren’t going to succeed at the high enough win percentage to get out.

This is very common. We want to be a higher rank, and play at a higher rank for whatever our motivations may be. However, it’s a hard pill to swallow to realize that our unstructured desires may be the reason we aren’t achieving them. It’s difficult to be honest with ourselves, but important for building the skills to succeed.

Take every loss, even ones you don’t deserve as a moment to learn. Look at your performance critically, always ask yourself if you could have turned it up another gear. Ask yourself if you were truly focused on winning, and your play, or if you were focused on variables around you.

Leaving It Up To Chance

Leading off of the evaluation or benchmark. We often approach things with a casual attitude, but expect grand results. For example, even if we don’t have a truly focused benchmark, we have a feeling. A feeling that we rely on for how well we are playing, or how well we can play. This feeling and comfort often results in us just playing to play. Not fully capitalizing on our talents, efforts or abilities. This is what I consider leaving it up to chance. If you don’t put forth your full effort then you’re relying on your team, or your opponents to win/lose the game for you. That is chance. Think about the last time you sat down to climb the ladder in your game. How truly focused were you on your own performance? How distracted were you? When was the last time you really tried?

Nothing should be left to chance. You should put forth the most effort every time you play, review your own footage, study others. Take full control over what is within your control. Play and improve with intentionality. If you only put half in, you’ll only get half out. The equation for a 50% win rate.

Stuck On A  Peak or In The Past

Remember that time you played incredibly well. Won like 10 games in a row? Placed high at your tournament? Although these are great moments and you should bask in them, they can lead to that feeling we spoke about earlier. It’s important to separate your peak from your average. Otherwise you can find yourself clinging to an expectation. It’s best to look at a peak performance as your potential, not what you should be doing. Sometimes stars have to align, and sometimes it happens when you least expect it. Peak and your every day performance are very different. The goal being to always increase your average level of play to get closer to your peak.

But if you are constantly comparing your best performance to your current performance, you can lose the motivation for learning. Opting to believe you don’t need it, and have proof of it. Further you can become overtly frustrated by losses, or poor performance because of your standard you have set for yourself, based on a previous peak.

This journey and struggle really is an internal one, more than it is an external one. Focus on what you’re doing to try to recreate that peak performance, instead of using it as a belief system. 

Following Cookie Cutter Information

Learning is an organic process. We all come to our conclusions at different times and in different ways. Often times developing a natural ‘game sense’ requires you to experiment, learn things, and then unlearn them. However, we currently live in a time where there is readily available “optimized” information. Although this information is valuable for improvement. It often can hinder our potential and enjoyment. The way it does this is by skipping the discovery process in learning. To put it pragmatically, learning and improving requires critical thinking. Allowing others to critical think for us, from the very beginning, weakens our ability to critically think for ourselves. Causing us to hit ceilings quicker, and then seek new information from external sources. Further, if you follow a very popular concept, it’s likely your opponent is aware of it inside and out. Not only does the common day content teach you how to perform it, but also how to counter it.

Develop your own individual style. Optimize it based on results and efficiency. The critical thinking exercises, and visualization that you have to do will improve your mental clarity. Following other people’s ways will never teach you how to adapt. Most content is developed to be easy to understand, but never give the full information.

Having A Poor Perspective

This is a very broad topic, and it can relate to many different aspects of your eSports performance. You may not have the correct perspective about learning. You may struggle with the concept of learning from losses. It can be as simple as you aren’t playing for the right reasons. Correcting your perspective on your own performance requires you to take yourself and what you do seriously. It takes the understanding that improvement doesn’t happen over night, and the steps you take now may not flourish until three months from now. You have to find a way to want it, and strive for it.

Take some time to reflect on this concept. Not necessarily my words, but the concept that I am explaining in regards to your perspective. Open your mind to your own perspective, and see if it aligns with your desires. 

Wrap Up

As always there may be reasons you aren’t improving that are missed. The world of self improvement, and eSports is incredibly complex. However these five reasons may serve you as a breakthrough to your next accomplishments. With every step you take on this journey, make sure to reflect on every footprint.

 

 

 

6 Week eSports Improvement Plan (Wk. 6)

6 Week eSports Improvement Plan
Reading Time: 4 minutes

In part 5 of our 6 Week eSports Improvement plan we honed in on the concept of outreach. We explained the importance of building relationships with players in your respective scene and games. As well as give you some tips on how to best find players to play with. Even if you were only able to secure one steady person or team to play with for week 5 it can be considered a success. Week 5 by far has to be one of the most ambiguous and uncomfortable weeks for most. However, those connections you build are key to elevating your game. Since the people you are playing with have a similar goal in mind, they will bring a different and more realistic level of competition to your practice. Which cannot be stressed enough. Just going at your practice routine randomly, with random people is a subpar way of reaching your goals. (Although if it’s all you got, it’s all you got.)

As always the 6 week schedule is below.Continue Reading–>

6 Week eSports Improvement Plan (Wk. 5)

6 Week eSports Improvement Plan
Reading Time: 4 minutes

In part 4 of our 6 Week eSports Improvement Plan we focused on the importance of experimentation. We also took a deeper look at the background skills you’ve been developing and how they are necessary to the longevity of your improvement. During week 4 you may have taken a hit on your win percentage and fell back a little ways. This was expected because of the radical shift you were taking in your play. Taking risks, changing characters, and even philosophies can be disruptive. However, the hope is that you took small bits away from the experience that you can use and apply to your current strategy.

It’s important to become comfortable in your discomfort as we stated before. However, it’s also important to be comfortable with losing when you’re pursuing a better understanding of the game, and yourself.

As always, below is the 6 week schedule.Continue Reading–>

6 Week eSports Improvement Plan (Wk. 4)

Reading Time: 5 minutes

In part 2 and 3 of our 6 Week eSports Improvement Plan we went over the Reflection and Measure weeks of impact. During those weeks we modified the amount of time spent playing and supplemented it with video review. During those two weeks you should have seen the most improvement. As well as developed a new skill in regards to replay review.

As we go through the last part of the 6 Week improvement plan, we will be covering week 4. With each week we add new elements to your training that go beyond just playing. These elements are important for continuing your improvement after the 6 weeks are over. They can easily be overlooked without a coach. Before we jump into what makes week 4 different. Let’s address these new elements. Continue Reading–>

6 Week eSports Improvement Plan (Wk. 2&3)

eSports 6 Week Improvement Plan Week 2
Reading Time: 5 minutes

In part 1 of our 6 Week eSports Improvement plan series we went over the initiation week. Week 1 can be one of the hardest parts of your improvement plan. Being that it’s the first time you’re really looking at your performance through this type of rigid lens. It’s also largely your benchmark week. So seeing large amounts of improvement can be tricky and unlikely.

However, weeks 2 and 3 is where you will start to see and feel improvement. During these two weeks you will be introducing new challenges and new tests. Not only will they test your resolve, but they will also provide you opportunities to see growth. As in our last post, below you will see a picture of the 6 week plan. Lets break down weeks 2 and 3 to see how they differ, and explain the progression. Continue Reading–>

6 Week eSports Improvement Plan (Wk. 1)

6 Week eSports improvement plan week 1
Reading Time: 5 minutes

For most of our posts we focus on broad aspects of competition. Mental fortitude, types of practice, and novel ideas that can help you improve. Although those things are necessary for improvement. They don’t always have the immediate practical applications. So for this post, I will be bringing you our 6 Week eSports Improvement Plan. This 6 week plan is a rough outline of a system I use when coaching players.

First I am going to show you what the 6 week eSports Improvement plan looks like, and then I’ll break down each week and the mindset you should take going in. This is going to be broken up into a few posts over the next couple of weeks.

Note: Weeks 4/5/6 are highlighted because the amount of time spent isn’t changing but the concepts are.

eSports Improvement Plan 6 Week
Click to Enlarge

Keep in mind that this is a guideline. Everyone functions off of different schedules and time restrictions. The days are interchangeable based on your situation. Most tournaments around me happen to be on Wednesdays, and so I wrote it as such. The recommended hours of play, can also be adjusted and my reasoning will be explained throughout this post. However, the core aspects cannot be changed. I recommend a rest day or break. As well as a 2 day gap between your tournament or challenge, and your unlimited session.

Note: These concepts work for any game. These values are recommended to improve your performance, however you will need more time spent to go pro.Continue Reading–>

Mid Game Self-Talk (The Inner Voice Cont.)

eSports Self-Talk
Reading Time: 7 minutes

In our previous post ‘The Inner Voice (Managing Self-Talk in eSports) we focused a lot on bringing awareness to your Inner Voice. How it can be affecting your mindset as a whole, and possibly blocking your potential. We introduced ways that you can take control of your Inner Voice and shape the way you approach every game. Having control over your pre game Self-Talk and your post game Self-Talk will keep you motivated and engaged in your performance.

For this post we are going to focus on a type of Self-Talk that is undeniably the most damaging to your performance. Mid game Self-Talk can manifest in many different ways. Each way changing based on the circumstances. For example if you are practicing online, which isn’t always ideal, it can rear it’s ugly face and fill your mind with quotes like “Oh this is so _____. If this was offline, I would be winning right now.” Likewise, “I’m better than this, why am I losing?” I’m sure you can remember many times thoughts like these have crossed your mind. The issue with having that type of Self-Talk is that it shuts out any potential practice you could be getting. Since your mental and emotional attention are focused on how you feel about what’s happening. Then your “practice” session turns into either a waste of time where you’re just playing to play and getting frustrated, or it turns into a session where you seek validation from victories. Either situation makes the time you’re dedicating unfocused and unproductive.

Continue Reading–>

How To Get The Most Out Of Your Online Practice (eSports)

Reading Time: 4 minutes

We all know that online and offline play can be radically different. So much so, that some players refuse to play online at all. Rather opting to practice in person, even if it is at a lower frequency. However, we don’t always have the opportunity to play people offline or play the right people offline. In instances that we are forced to get our practice online, there are adjustments that we must make to feel confident in our next tournament or LAN performance. Let’s go over a few things that can help you get the most out of your online practice.

Let Go

Let’s go over all the things that we hate about practicing online.

Lag

Varied Skill Level

Queue Times

Home Distractions Continue Reading–>