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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6 Best Pre-Game Practices to Win More Games in eSports

6 Best Pre-Game Practices to Win More Games in eSports
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Have you ever sat down to start a competitive gaming session and then quickly stopped playing because it just wasn’t feeling right? Or felt like you started on the wrong foot and just couldn’t bare the losses?

We published a post quite some time ago about a secret technique that improved performance. That technique being a pre-game ritual. We explained the importance of it, but never really gave too many examples. So in this post we are going to tell you the 6 Best Pre-Game Practices to Win More Games in eSports.

These 6 practices are guaranteed to help you see performance results and also make your sessions last a whole lot longer. The trick is to start on the right foot, and then trust yourself to see it through. Let’s jump into them.

1. Reflect On Your Previous Session – Then Let It Go

You have to reflect on your previous session before jumping into a new one. This way you are effectively walking down a path and not just playing at random. Not to say it will always be a progressive path. You won’t always have home run sessions. However, just being aware of your last session, and visualizing it, will help you in your next one. It keeps a pulse on your performance and allows you to stay within your optimal zone. The idea being that you ‘grow through, what you go through’. Most important is to then let it go. You shouldn’t dwell on your past session. Dwelling allows you to label it either good or bad and that information does not serve you in the current session.

2. Set Goals For The New Session – Macro and Micro

We have spoken in ad nauseum about goal setting. But that doesn’t change it’s importance. Setting goals is the fuel in your engine. It keeps you going and striving towards an end point. This will help maintain your passion and intensity throughout your session and draw your concentration back whenever it starts to wander. Focus on both macro and micro goals. Set overall big goals that revolve around a result of your performance. Typically in the form of wins and losses or points. Then set micro goals that focus on aspects of your performance. The micro goals can be more emotional and less trackable. Like wanting to execute what you’ve practiced. For example, landing combos or hitting more shots. They can also be trackable like kills and deaths, or creep score.

3. Visualize Performance and Concentration

Before you jump into a session it can be beneficial to visualize yourself playing. Consider this a moment to prime yourself for the next step. Visualize yourself playing the game without distraction and with a level of concentration that can’t be broken. If you do this correctly, it’s possible to convince your brain to stay away from things like your phone or social media during your session. By visualizing yourself playing and keeping those aspects out of your mind, you are less likely to gravitate towards them. Giving you an add layer of concentration that may not have been there prior.

4. Decide If It’s a Critical Thinking Day or A Performance Day

These differ entirely. Sometimes when we play, we are playing to ‘learn’. Meaning that we are allowing our brains to narrate things to us in a feedback loop as events take place. This is can be great for learning and making progress, but it doesn’t always net specific results. On the other hand, performance days are days where we tune it all out. Then we execute and worry about what happened later during our video review. Make the distinction and decision before stepping into your session. It will help guide you on managing your results and your emotional state.

5. Commit and Bring Intensity

You are primed from the prior step and almost ready to play. This is your moment to make a commitment to yourself. That you will fully concentrate and put effort into your performance. Too often we tend to merge our energy from one task to another but expect different results. Imagine if you brought the same energy that it takes to move laundry into whatever game you’re playing. Sounds silly, but it happens. Sure that energy is useful for moving laundry, but will it help you win? Same goes for browsing social media and other activities that don’t fuel a competitive mindset. After you make your commitment, bring your intensity. Amp it up! Think about driving in your car and listening to a song that you haven’t heard in a while but you really like. What are you going to do? You’re gonna reach down and turn it up! No effort required! So do the same here. Turn it up! Get ready and act as if you’re going to war.

6. Warm Up

Overlooked. I could end this point right there. It goes without saying how important warming up is. But false confidence can sometimes allow us to jump into a session expecting peak performance without us actually being there. Warm up, get yourself one step closer to peak. This will help you build self trust and confidence in your ability. Ultimately leading to less second guessing.

Wrap Up

Give these 6 Best Pre-Game Practices to Win More Games in eSports a try and see your improvement. Ritualization and routines really help to achieve that peak optimal space as an eAthlete.

 

 

Keep Your Eyes on The Prize – A Lesson For eAthletes

Prize eAthlete
Reading Time: 5 minutes

They say you should always keep your eyes on the prize. A phrase that is both powerful and difficult. In the realm of eSports, maintaining motivation can be a daunting task. This is true for both new players and veterans. Even more so for players and content creators who haven’t made it big.

The amount of time that is put into competitive gaming is massive for an individual. Especially for those who have a full time job and family. Not only is it a requirement for you to be skilled and maintain your skills, but as a competitor you are driven to. So you hop on every single day. Playing for hours, streaming for hours. Running discords and social media accounts. Just trying to make something happen. Then one day, you just stop. It just isn’t happening. The competitive fire dies, and although you want to keep going, the very thing that brought you so much joy and fulfillment is now a burden on your mind.

I don’t typically like starting off a post with a story filled with so much negativity. However having just watched this very thing happen with one of my players I felt it an important topic to discuss. Mainly the different types of motivation, and how to keep your eyes on the prize.

Two Motivating Factors

Motivation can be placed into two categories. Extrinsic and Intrinsic. (Note: There are more than just these two, however for simplicity we will stick to these.) Both motivational factors are incredibly powerful. Often overlapping with one another. But in their differences they hold answers to questions such as; Why do people or I keep jumping from game to game? Why do so many players quit? How is it possible to achieve what my favorite players have achieved? Especially when it’s so difficult for me.

Let’s take an introspective look into these questions and the difference between Extrinsic and Intrinsic motivation.

Extrinsic Motivation

reward

By definition Extrinsic Motivation refers to behavior that is driven by external rewards such as money, fame, grades, and praise. This is the ‘Prize’ that I was referring to in the title. It would be foolish to say that anyone and everyone doesn’t want money or recognition. Of course we do. However in the space of gaming and eSports, when you make it the sole reason you are competing, streaming, or creating content, it can create obstacles. See the issue isn’t in the desire for external rewards. It’s when you obsess yourself with the reward based nature of motivation.

Imagine only playing a game because it’s popular and has financial support. You don’t really enjoy playing it, but it feels like the only way to break out as an eSports star, or make money. Imagine boxing yourself in to a single game because it’s all you’re known for and without it you feel as though you won’t make any money or have support.

How much harder is it to take a loss? How much faster will you give up when you aren’t making progress? These are struggles that plague every type of player, new and old.

The Answer

The truth is, fully dedicating yourself to something because of a chance at an external reward takes an immensely heavy toll on your mind and will. You’re basically working at a job that may or may not pay you. No matter how many hours you work. This mentality can be a suffocating and it is a huge cause of burnout and forfeit. The scary thing about the mentality is how easy it is to slip into it.

You can’t really blame new players. They see all their favorite players and content creators doing it, and figure they can do it as well. Older players have other time constraints and responsibilities that plague them as well. So what can be done? How can you maintain your motivation? What is missing, and what can be regained?

Intrinsic Motivation

By definition Intrinsic Motivation refers to behavior that is driven by internal rewards. In other words, the motivation to engage in a behavior arises from within the individual because it is naturally satisfying to you. This is the biggest difference between the players who fizzle out and those who manage to keep going. It’s vital to enjoy what you are doing. To actively want to do it and seek out each obstacle that comes your way. Without finding your Intrinsic motivation you leave your longevity and enjoyment up to chance. Chance of feeling the rush of improvement, or chance of winning.

Now of course you have the ability to influence whether you win or not and can take the necessary steps to achieve those wins. However, even after those successes you will be craving more. That’s the natural response when your motivations lie solely in the outcome, and not in the experience. It doesn’t always start out this way. I’m sure even right now you can look back at your first discovery of the game you’re playing. How fun it was to pick up, and how addicting the feeling of improvement was.

But over time it’s common for those things to fade away. We get into a routine and a groove. Sometimes a good groove, sometimes a bad groove. While there we feel pressured to not play for our enjoyment or fun, because the definition of fun has changed for us. That right there is the key to finding your intrinsic motivation. Recognizing that your definition of fulfillment or enjoyment has changed and trying to rekindle your original efforts. Not to fully replace your desire to improve, win, or become something more. But to allow them to work along side each other, and overlap.

That is the key to longevity. Think about your favorite players and content creators. Could they possibly continue doing this every single day if they weren’t enjoying themselves and fearless of the outcome? Most of them are there, because they were never waiting on the outcome. They recognized a lack of guarantee and plunged in head first regardless.

A Lesson for eAthletes

Put forth the effort to become great. To improve wholly. Use the critical thinking and decision making required inside of the game, outside of the game. Actively remember your goals, your motivations and your purpose.

Never give your motivations an ultimatum. “If it doesn’t go well this time then  _____.” You remove all possibility of enjoyment and belief in the future. There are no guarantees, only what you can control. Tap into your intrinsic motivations. Think about the future and keep going.

 

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.

 

 

 

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–>

The Inner Voice (Managing Your Self-Talk in eSports)

Water Drops
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Throughout all of our blog posts we always try to maintain a core theme. That core theme being the act of focusing on what YOU can control. We know all of the variables that come with competition. Your independent learning curve, the wild nature of each game, your opponents, etc. So we write about Goal Setting, Benchmarking, and most recently Ritualization. However, something always occurs when you start to dial in on your own performance. You awaken The Inner Voice.

Everyone’s inner voice may show up differently, but the most common connotation is that of a negative one. Self-Talk is often the product of a reaction. On this journey of progress and improvement, it’s common to do more losing than winning. Which is why having emotional resilience is key. However, losing more so than winning, may always illicit this type of negative self-talk reaction. If left unchecked it can create a cycle of negative reinforcement that can derail progress from players of any skill level.

With these factors in mind, the Inner Voice can be an incredibly destructive presence to your performance. To remedy that let’s dig deep into what Self-Talk is, when it shows up, and how you can gain control over your Inner Voice.Continue Reading–>

Owning Your Performance (Accountability in eSports)

eSports Growth
Reading Time: 4 minutes

I would like to take this moment to be grateful for gaming as a whole. Among it’s many benefits, it is one of the few complex, time consuming activities that can provide you immediate feedback. In the form of tournament losses, game over screens, death timers etc.

Throughout our lives we participate in many activities that we don’t commonly see the result of. We can make what appears to be an inconsequential decision today, and see an explosive result from it a year from now. Alternatively, we can set forth on a triumphant journey and have it fizzle out without us knowing whether or not it impacted us. Either way, it’s hardly a 1:1 ratio, and the results we do obtain are usually ambiguous at best.Continue Reading–>

Lose The Battle, But Win The War

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Before you dive into this blog post, I would like to tell you something, that you may not know or may not have been told. YOU are AMAZINGSKILLED, COURAGEOUS, and VALUED.

Not because of your wins or losses, social stature or your expertise.  No, you are all of the above because you choose to compete. You go out and test your resolve; mentally, emotionally, and socially time and time again. Take this moment to reflect on all of your experiences. Think about those hard fought games, the ups and the downs. The way they made you feel during and after. Think about the way people reacted to those games. Really put yourself there again. Now think about the people you’ve met. Your training partners, your teammates, your friends.

All of these experiences shape you, and drive underlying motivations for why you compete. But there was a time before you had all of these motivations. However, you didn’t let that stop you from competing. So what is stopping you now?Continue Reading–>

Enhancing Your eSports Mindset

White Xbox Controller eSports
Reading Time: 5 minutes

In almost every blog post we have written, you will see that we always address the reader’s experiences in eSports, as a journey. Although, ‘trek’ might be the more accurate term. Finding a career in eSports is not something that will happen over night. Becoming the best at a specific game also, won’t happen over night. The truth is, becoming a professional in anything takes time, and effort. Unfortunately for competing in eSports, there is no traditional path. Every great player’s success story is different. For most of the G.O.A.T’s, eSports was still in pre-infancy. It wasn’t like it is today, with thousands of teams, broadcasts, and content to consume.

Luckily for us, eSports is getting to it’s prime position. Growing, evolving, and becoming more and more studied along side traditional sports. For us, we have the advantage of coming in with a different mindset. Unlike the previous greats, we are able to see the obstacles in front of us, light at the end of the tunnel and a small window into our dreams. Idols to look up to and emulate, and trophies to win. We have the assurance to know that our ‘hobby’ can become a career. All we have to do is go beyond a competitive mindset, and enter into an eSports Mindset.Continue Reading–>

Accepting Feedback

Wishing Well
Reading Time: 7 minutes

Up to this point we’ve dug pretty deep into the concept of Resilience, mainly focusing on the internal dialogues that are critical to our improvement, time management, and focus; in order to dial in on what it takes to really push forward and succeed, however difficult that may be.

In this article we are going to change it up and focus on one external factor that requires a lot of resilience, Accepting Feedback.

Feedback is critical to improvement because it illuminates the blind spots that hinder our maximum potential. Outside of incredible internal revelations, there aren’t many cures for blind spots other than feedback. When it comes to self-improvement in anything, blind spots are your worst enemy.

Blind Spots

Blind Spot

What are blind spots? Psychological blind spots are described as personality traits or behavior traits that we possess, but are unable to see. Similar to a physical blind spot in our vision. In eSports, I’d refer to it as a performance blind spot.Continue Reading–>