The Purpose of Film Study
The voice you just heard is legendary NBA Player Kobe Bryant, talking about the purpose of watching film, or re-watching your game. Reviewing game tape or film study has always been a foundation of the repeatable success formula in traditional sports. Whether it’s after a loss, a win or even just preparing for the next game. Coaches and teams have been reviewing games forever. Even if it was just on a chalkboard with some x’s and o’s. You can go to YouTube and listen to coaches explain in great detail how they KNEW their play would work based on things they had seen in the film room. When we see it for the first time, we may think it’s luck or just a great play. But the level of preparation is literally game changing.
eSports has identified the enormous benefits of film study and incorporates it at the highest level in all team games. Counter Strike, League of Legends, Dota, Starcraft, you name it. Individual players who perform at their highest level also incorporate film study into their practice routines. This incredibly powerful resource is an enormous tool for illuminating blind spots in your game, growing your game sense and understanding on a micro/macro level.
There are so many people competing in eSports, whose dreams are to make a career out of it. Spending hours playing, traveling, and watching. All over the world there are players who genuinely want to improve, but just don’t know how to. Who may not know how to take their ability to the next level.
So I’m going to help with that by explaining the power of Film Study, giving my advice on how to overcome the emotional aspect of it, and then showing you how to do it.
Let’s start with the power of Film Study.
Film Study allows you to transition from kinesthetic learning to visual learning. By giving you a different perspective on the same topic, it unlocks different parts of your brain. You’re able to see more than just the split decisions and outcomes. It can show you what leads up to them, and how they impacted the competitive environment in that game.
What makes learning and retention difficult is that during tournament or competitive situations your brain is focused on outputting at the same time as it is inputting. You can also factor in that your heart is racing, your adrenaline is peaked and that you are playing alongside your emotions. It would be like studying for a test while playing dodgeball.
Outside of micro adaptations and adjustments during a set, you’re likely unable to see all of the opportunities you have at that time. But by zooming out, you’re able to clearly see all aspects of your game, and how it compares to higher level play.
This gives you the ability to analyze your strengths, opportunities and habits. Make note of them, and then implement them into practice.
How it Effects the Mind
Film Study can give you insight into your mind as well. Raising the question to yourself. What was I thinking? Why did I do that? Is that what this person would have done? It tests your knowledge and understanding of the game that you are playing. There is a skill in being able to analyze replays. It’s one of the reasons why coaches don’t have to be the best players.
Lastly Film Study can really improve your emotional responses to wins and losses. It takes a level of resilience and grit to watch losing matches over and over. Especially if the match was particularly important or if you did something embarrassing that costs you. This helps you become honest with yourself, and ultimately that leads to an openness to improvement.
Overall, Film Study is critical to removing blind spots, and improving your performance rapidly. It allows you to separate your emotions, and learning from your competitive play. Which enables you to focus fully on performing, recognizing and implementing what you spend your time practicing on.
Now that we discussed some of the benefits, let’s jump into the recommended behaviors when Studying Film.
Reviewing film is a pretty simple thing to do. I truly believe that if you skip all of the things that I am going to speak about, you can still gain immediate improvement from just a few minutes of your own footage.
The hardest part about reviewing film is managing your own emotions. You immediately have to embrace the cognitive dissonance that comes from, what you know happens, what you believe should have happened, how you feel about your performance, and your overall self evaluation of your ability.
But I assure you, it gets a lot easier as you add it into your practice routine. And you absolutely should add it into your practice routine. If you spend 5 hours a week playing, 1 of those hours should be dedicated to reviewing film.
So if we really want to maximize the benefits of Film Study and add it to our practice routine, then let’s try to give it structure.
First – This is part of your practice, so you should focus as though you were playing. So if you spend an hour or two playing uninterrupted, then you should do the same for this. Turn your phone off, or put it away. Take it as seriously as you would if you were playing. To me this is one of the most crucial mistakes that we make. We don’t draw the line between entertainment (Watching others play) and practice (Watching ourselves).
Second – Go into your study with Intent. Identify what you want to gain from watching and set a goal. You want to improve, yes, but where? Try to remember the match before you watch it so that you can give yourself something to focus on, and not just the highlights or lowlights.
Third – Pause on both your strengths and your opportunities. You don’t want to break down the study to just, “I did that wrong”. Or “If I only did this”. You want to reward yourself and congratulate the behaviors that align with your practice and see consistent results. Maintaining what you do well, is up there in importance with what you need to improve. Try to form questions, and write those questions down during your pauses. “What was I thinking? What was my opponent thinking? How did this impact the game? What habits did I see from both myself, and my opponent. How could I have adjusted or adapted?”
4th – Give a grade to your decision quality. As you wrap up your viewing, break down each scenario and attempt to grade yourself and your decision quality. You can do it in any set of metrics you like. For example: My blank was a C my blank was a D etc. This will really help with the next step.
5th – Create and implement an improvement plan. IMMEDIATELY. Don’t wait until the next tournament to start working on what you observed. Your ultimate goal is to take what you learn here and use it in friendly sessions. This way you have the simulation of competition, while not having to combat the fear of losing. This effectively keeps your learning window open, and will reduce the feeling of going 1 step forward and 2 steps backwards.
We have so many resources available to us now. A lot of the consoles can automatically save videos, and even upload them. When I was first getting into eSports, we had to have someone with a camcorder standing behind us trying to record anything they could. There really is no reason to not take advantage of the powerful tool that is Film Study.
I would like to also leave a small tip. Re watch the same video multiple times. You’d be surprised what different perspectives you have. No matter what the context of the video; win, loss, horrible defeat. Watch it. It can’t hurt you, it can only help. I’ll leave you with a clip that highlights the need to watch film regardless of the context.