How To Play Above Your Skill Level

eAthlete Summit
Reading Time: 6 minutes

Competitive gaming is an interestingly cruel and ironic activity. Think about it, in almost everything you do in life, the better you get the easier the task becomes. However to improve your skill level in gaming you have to be exposed to increasingly difficult obstacles.

For example, you have been going 2-2 at every tournament and falling just short of making it out of pools. You grind and grind until one day you finally make it out of pools. Your reward? A harder opponent in the next round! But that is where the beauty of competition comes in. That harder opponent is actually the best reward you can ever win.

 

“If you have a chance at winning it will be through fundamentals and the experience will force you to take your core ability as far as it can go. Removing any reliance on chance or gimmicks to secure a win and exposing you to your own skill gaps and those reliance’s.”

 

Outside of winning, the true benefit of going deeper into tournaments or improving your rank isn’t having a lower number next to your name. It’s gaining the experience against opponents that create a challenge for you to overcome. That is the key to accelerating improvement in skill level. Consistent challenges that are within reach but difficult enough to invoke emotion and critical thinking. When those moments arise it’s crucial that you allow your brain to fully absorb the experience. You have to put up a fight and even give yourself a chance to win. Otherwise the experience is over in a flash and any improvement can be lost. The only way to do that is to play above your skill level. Let’s look at how to play above your skill level regardless of your circumstances.

Understanding Skill Level

Above Skill Level

Before we go over the ways to play above your skill level, I think it’s important that we examine and understand skill level. We commonly associate skill level with the way a player performs. Typically grading it as good or bad. However skill level is simply a determination of where a person ranks among other players. Meaning a bronze player isn’t necessarily bad seeing as their is a chance they may not always be bronze. There are more variables that come into play. Time spent, game knowledge, skill and skill potential become a factor. It may not be that a gold player is better it may be that they know more or have more experience.

When you can zoom out and see it from this perspective, you understand why competing at skill levels that sit above yours can provide massive benefits and accelerate your improvement. They may have more knowledge than you, put you into situations you’ve never seen before or they may even just push you to dig deep and do things you’ve never done before. As stated above, to absorb as much experience as you can, you have to give yourself a fighting chance. With this out of the way, let’s look at how we can do that.

Focus on Fundamentals

The process of improvement is typically done through trial and correction. That often requires small amounts of experimentation. As you improve you will often be attempting to find a unique brand of play that best fits you and also works. Usually a combination of the fundamentals and some personal flair.

However when faced with an opponent that sits in a higher level than yours, it’s important to focus purely on the fundamentals. Focusing on safe but effective options that have the highest rate of success will keep you in the fight. This doesn’t mean you are rolling over or laying up. It just means that you are forgoing the experimentation and replacing it with consistency.

There are a few reasons this works as effectively as it does. First, your opponent is also in the process of improvement and will often look at an opponent who sits at a lower rank as an opportunity to experiment more. Allowing them to take more risks and make plays that may be suboptimal. This isn’t always the case but it is very common. Second, by removing experimentation you are capable of focusing on trial and correction as it pertains to current match. You are able to truly assess what is working and what isn’t and why, without all of the extra thought process.

Finally it allows you to assess your core ability against an opponent that may have more knowledge or execution around the fundamentals of the game. That very process allows a connection to be made in your brain between where you are and where you can be. Allowing it to be explored the next time you face an opponent that is on or below your skill level.

If you have a chance at winning it will be through fundamentals and the experience will force you to take your core ability as far as it can go. Removing any reliance on chance or gimmicks to secure a win and exposing you to your own skill gaps and those reliance’s.

Research and Observe

eSports Replay Analysis

To play above your skill level you have to know what it looks like and what it’s requirements are. That means universally used strategies and tactics. By understanding the expectations of being at the high skill levels you can properly set a path to them. Of course it isn’t as simple as just knowing them. It’s about understanding how they fit into the context of the game and of winning. Let’s use Dota 2 as a quick example. You can understand the necessity of warding for vision and that every top player does it. But that doesn’t mean you know where, how, or why.

The best way to truly understand this information is to observe. Watch less as a fan and more as an active participant. Analyzing and questioning the decisions being made and trying to visualize how it would impact your game. Not just replicating it because a top player is doing it. This will help project you into a higher skill level by preparing yourself for when that information becomes necessary. Effectively setting yourself up for your next set of trial and correction.

The most difficult part of this comes when you are attempting to translate the information that you are observing into your sessions. Remember that the environment that these players operate in can be different than yours. For example, have you ever played a game with someone that has never played it before? They are just hitting buttons and doing all sorts of random stuff, but it’s working on you every once in a while. That’s because you’re looking out for things that your opponent knows nothing about, leaving you open to things you aren’t ready for. Try not to discount what you observe from the higher skill level if it isn’t making an immediate impact on your games. Remember that it works and it’s possible that you either don’t truly know why, or it’s not the information you need to advance your skill level.

Have Courage

Lion

Believe in your own ability and the time you put in. Believe in yourself to manage both the game and the outcome. Remember that every opponent is just one more step in your journey and that ultimately you will come out on top.

Never fear or worry about who your opponent is. If you’re trying to improve, win the tournament or be the best in the world, you’re going to have to beat them eventually. Putting your opponent on a pedestal is distracting and doesn’t help you win the match. It only helps you justify it after the fact.

Wrap Up

Hopefully this information helps you understand the importance of playing above your skill level. How it can accelerate your improvement and expose you to the experiences you need. Most importantly always remember, the longer you stay in the fight the more achievable it becomes. Invoking emotions and motivations that you may not have tapped into yet. Don’t shy away from your potential and play above your skill level.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to Deal With Losing as an eAthlete

Broken mirror, Gaming, Losing, Reflection
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Losing is the absolute worst. I think we can all agree on that. Watching your rank points go down. Feeling your time spent for nothing. Having to stop playing because you’re out of the tournament. All just miserable things. It’s so universally agreed upon that a while ago we wrote a post titled: The Day After – Post Tournament Loss. That post focused heavily on the initial fallout after losing in a tournament. As well as the emotional consequences. It’s time to revisit losing. Look at it from a more general perspective, and teach you How To Deal With Losing as an eAthlete.

“You Can’t Win Them All.”

How to Deal WIth Losing as an eAthlete

Such a powerful phrase, with often such little impact. The above mentality is the most recognized perspective on losing. It’s just unpleasant. Normally we would avoid starting a post with so much negativity. However, if you relate to it then it’s important that you recognize your current relationship with losing. Emotional, dismissive, and heavy emphasis on avoidance.

Regardless of improvement, feeling that amount of negativity every time you sit down for a session is simply not good for your mindset. Your enjoyment of your session can’t be contingent on going undefeated every time. So to help you transition into a more positive mindset, and also help with improvement, there are two things you must identify.

  1. Losing is awful and you dislike it. (obviously)
  2. Like a shadow or reflection, losing is not going anywhere.

Put simply, losing is a part of the process. It’s even part of winning.

This puts you at a fork in the road. You can’t win them all. So you can either grit your teeth and live in the frustration every session. Or you can change your relationship with losing.

Changing Your Relationship With Losing

eSports Coaching

There is an incredible article written by Henry Rollins titled “Iron and The Soul“. The article talks about his relationship with weight lifting. In it he says “It took me years to fully appreciate the value of the lessons I have learned from the Iron. I used to think that it was my adversary, that I was trying to lift that which does not want to be lifted. I was wrong. When the Iron doesn’t want to come off the mat, it’s the kindest thing it can do for you. If it flew up and went through the ceiling, it wouldn’t teach you anything. That’s the way the Iron talks to you. It tells you that the material you work with is that which you will come to resemble. That which you work against will always work against you.” (It’s a powerful article, I recommend reading it.)

In a lot of ways losing is like the ‘Iron’ described above. Helping you and communicating with you just by happening or existing. It shows you how much better you can be and how far you can take the game. It illuminates where your performance gaps are and opens your blind spots. Losing brings you closer to yourself and your ego. Without losing, there would be no rush. No stakes in gaming. It would lose all of it’s depth. At that point you might as well play those cash grabbing, auto play mobile games(You know the ones). Changing your relationship with losing is about reframing the way you perceive loss. Without it, there would be nothing to play for.

Every Loss is an Opportunity

Doors

Becoming the best eAthlete you can is a 360 degree task. It isn’t just the way you play the game or the outcome. It involves emotions, perseverance, and a development of soft skills outside of the game. Losing creates a call to action to those aspects. It helps you decide who you want to be and how you want to overcome it. This can be done in a number of ways. You can watch your own replays, which is a skill of it’s own. Check your communication with teammates. Learn to accept feedback and manage your emotions. All of this comes from losing. It builds character. Think about your favorite players and their persona’s. Would they exist if they didn’t have a relationship with losing?

Making The Best Out Of Losing

I mentioned earlier that “You can’t win them all” is a powerful phrase, but has little impact. The reason I said this is because the positive message that comes from the phrase has been lost. It’s been turned into a consolation and it’s true meaning lost. The truth is, you really can’t win them all. Allow that truth to absorb some of the negative energy that is associated with losses. Remember that some of your opponents want it as bad or more than you do. This means there is always a chance that someone will out play you. Equally, this is why you have to learn how to deal with losing as an eAthlete.

When you can truly accept these facts, you can start to clear away the storm clouds that approach after a loss. You can work to see through the fog, and use each loss as a weapon or tool to help you improve for the next session, tournament or game. Although you won’t always find something useful in every loss, by being able to positively push through it, it will help you carry the deserved momentum into the next one.

It starts with changing your relationship with losing. Becoming curious with your loss. “How did I lose that?” “What did they do differently?” “What could I do differently?” Using it to find a level of humbleness, and recognizing that there is always something to improve upon.

If you can successfully do this, and remember that winning and losing are all part of the same process. You will not only improve your overall enjoyment, but you will see results. Try it for a little while, and then see how much closer you are to becoming an eAthlete.

 

 

 

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–>