Tournament preparation can make a huge difference in how you perform. We recently explored the reasons you might play better in practice than in tournament. With so many different factors to tournament performance, we decided to give you six very simple guidelines that will help you at your first tournament or even your 100th.
Avoid Staying Up All Night Playing
“Practice as much as I can the night before that way my brain will be fresh, right?” It’s an old method used before taking tests. They usually call it cramming, and where that sometimes works for small bits of information, it is far less beneficial for competition.
The truth is, practicing early before you go to sleep is far more effective. This allows your brain to properly reflect and process the information it has taken in for the day, giving you a far stronger memory. Sleeping will help you subconsciously visualize the tournament.
A good night’s sleep is impactful for your reaction times too. Moderate sleep deprivation has been known to create the same effect on your reaction time as drinking a single beer.
Overall sleep studies have come a long way to prove that adequate sleep has a huge impact on how we function. Our motivation, ability to stay calm and collected or manage our emotions are all affected by the way that we sleep.
Even if you just want to get that last game in…..put it down, and let your brain wind down. It may already be difficult to sleep, due to the anticipation of your tournament. Try not to make it any harder for yourself.
(Trusting yourself here will help with confidence and consistency)
The Right Kind of Fuel
DISCLAIMER: I AM NOT A NUTRITIONIST!!!! Okay, now that we got that out of the way.
Make sure you eat well the night before and the day of the tournament. The combination of sleep, and food plays a HUGE role in how well your brain functions during your games. The worst feeling in the world is being tired and sluggish before playing.
You should factor in the possibility that you will do well in your tournament. In fact, this should always be a belief that you have going in.This means that you will be playing deeper into the tournament. Meaning you have more matches, and more wait times. It’s difficult for the brain and the body to maintain throughout the ups and downs of adrenaline that you will be producing without sufficient nutrients.
Try to get a nice protein rich breakfast, and reduce the amount of caffeine intake throughout your day. Avoiding caffeine can be particularly difficult as the tournaments you go to can have energy drinks at the venue. Tempting as it may be, and though it can absolutely increase your alertness, too much of it can leave you unable to actively think. So you’re moving a million miles a second, but you lack proper decision quality. Not to mention the inevitable crash, mentally, physically, and worst of all emotionally. My rule of thumb is to drink about half of what I would normally consume.
When and what you put in your body is often overlooked at tournaments. So you should absolutely make it a consideration before you play. Not to mention being healthy is always a good thing.
Do Your Research
Without a doubt, studying your opponents, strategies and your own opportunities is the most important thing you can do, next to practicing.
It never ceases to amaze me how often people will just go to a tournament completely unprepared. Willing to drive hours, spend money and time, but won’t do a half hour worth of research.
Your research time should be spent reflecting on your goals, or studying opponents. Hopefully you are lucky enough to see your bracket ahead of time. It’s amazing to me that players will shy away from looking at their bracket. Don’t be afraid of it! If you are trying to be the best, then you’re goal is to beat everyone anyway. Being able to see your bracket ahead of time, is like having a map in a minefield. You can see your obstacles, and plan for them, especially now that a quick search online can find you almost anyone’s tournament footage.
If you don’t have such opportunities to study your opponents, then spend the time studying yourself. Take a look at your goals for this tournament. Ask yourself what your fears and concerns are. Try to boil it down to the immediate. What can I fix now? What will I be most comfortable focusing on before this tournament? If you struggle with situational knowledge, then look at that. Route running? Match-up knowledge?
This applies to teams as well. Communication, optimal strategies, back up plans.
Spend an ample amount of time developing a practice plan or an overall strategy for the tournament. The more prepared you are, the more open you will be to adaptation.
Get Your Warm Up
Besides practicing on the days leading up to the tournament and the morning of. You also want to get warmed up at the tournament if you’re able too.
You should never go in cold, no matter the circumstance. This isn’t a game of luck or superstition, it’s not BINGO. You want to activate your brain at the venue. It helps to get you accustomed to your surroundings while you play, while of course warming you up to compete. This is a good opportunity to get out all of your jitters, nervousness, and try to calibrate your mind into the competitive environment.
Try not to be critical or judgemental of your warm up games. Remember, you aren’t playing at your peak. Truthfully you shouldn’t even be focused on winning your warm up games, you should be focused on tying up loose ends in your performance.
It’s a good time to go over all of the things that you researched or identified in the days leading up. Somewhat of a mock run, if you will. If you find yourself making large mistakes, or repeating a behavior, simply make a note of it and commit to yourself that you won’t repeat it when the time comes.
Never condemn yourself, especially based on your warm up matches. Avoid saying things like “I’m not playing well today.” Confidence is key to going deep into a bracket.
Remember to Have Fun
Throughout your tournament experience you need to remember to have fun. I know this is called ‘6 Things You Should Do Before Entering A Tournament, but this is still an important one.
Socialize with fellow players, smile, really absorb the experience. Not only do we perform better when we are happy, but it also keeps our brains open in the event that we lose.
Try not to be too shy, or hanging out in a corner by yourself. Everyone is there for the same reason, and there is an entire spectrum of skill levels, and personalities. The best part? Everyone there has experienced the exact feelings you may be feeling. If you are anxious, nervous or anything, you can believe fellow players understand.
I have met some of my best friends from going to tournaments. I’ve also had the opportunity to coach a lot of players that I’ve met because they were willing to talk in between sets. Players will be more receptive to sharing advice or playing with you if you seem approachable. Those connections may just be what you need to find a training partner, or a coach. You never know!
Lastly, don’t get too hung up on projected outcomes, or the outcomes of the tournament. You want to improve, and be open and critical of yourself, but don’t down yourself and close your window of learning. The outcome of your tournament is just part of the journey that you are on. Losses are typically more valuable than wins, simply because you can gain more applicable information for your next practice sessions or tournament. Don’t fret over it!
This is a bonus and optional tip, but I personally utilize it before every tournament. Well to be honest, I utilize it before every major event in my life.
Visualization is an incredibly simple yet powerful too. I usually perform the macro portion of it, typically the night before, and usually before I sleep. (Since it’s hard enough to sleep as it is) I visualize the venue, the chairs, the players I might compete against. How I am going to wake up in the morning, and what that entire routine looks like. I visualize making it to the venue, and I visualize playing. Ultimately ending with what it looks like to win.
Doing this is really great for anxiety, and building the feeling of expectancy. It helps turn nervousness into anticipation, allowing you to stay focused on what matters. Such as getting to the venue on time, getting your proper food, and also your performance as a whole.
As for the micro portion of it. That is usually done while I am at the venue. I will play out sets and matches in my head for my up and coming opponents. Or if I’m unsure about who they play, I’ll look deeper into my bracket and plan for a set I am familiar with. Sometimes replaying the research that I studied the day prior, or my practice sessions. Keeping the brain active and alert is critical.
I also like to limit my social media and phone usage at tournaments as well. It’s good to eliminate distractions and stay dialed in. Something that feels more and more difficult to do these days.
I hope you enjoyed this, and found it to be useful.
Don’t forget to check out our most recent book as well! This book was written as a mental primer to gaining Immediate Results in eSports. Helping you gain results faster, and more confidently.