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Elevating performance

in esports athletes

An independent collective of performance experts, helping you to push your boundaries and challenge your limits. It's time to get in the zone.

STORY mindset

Ready To Compete: Achieving The Ultimate Esports Mind

State Of Mind
High Performance
In The Zone
Mental Preparation
Extreme Focus
Burnout

Introduction

In this story, we’re going to dwelve into what it takes for an esports athlete to achieve the ultimate mindset for competing at their highest gaming potential. We’ll look at how we can cultivate the ideal conditions for a competitive setting, and understand how - from a sport psychology perspective - the mind of a winner is motivated, confident in their abilities, and uses these well trained-drilled techniques like imagery, self-talk and relaxation to handle pressure.
.01

Mental Preparation: The Key To Better Focus And Gameplay

In life, we are constantly surrounded by a multitude of distractions that, eventually, can deeply impact our focus levels. This isn’t helped by the fact that, as humans, we have a tendency to generalise our feelings by applying emotion to situations that would be better solved logically. This can not only create unnecessary anxiety, but it can have a profound effect on our attention span because being emotional over rational can lead to overthinking, deliberation and a lack of concentration. No gamer wants to be in this state of mind before an important match. Especially since gaming is one of the most mentally-affected sports one can compete in. Professionals often describe the mental factors of gameplay having 50-80% effect on the final outcome. 
Thankfully, this can be relieved through something as simple as mental preparation. Just understanding the difference between emotional and rational thinking as well as focussing on the right things instead of the wrong, can have a huge impact. For example, use this as a warm-up technique before a gaming session, and it will allow your thoughts, fears and worries to be put into context, processed, analysed and taken into consideration. The result? A clear and focused mind, which, ultimately, means better decision making and faster reactions: skills that all gamers want. 

So, if you want to up your game, simply practice mental preparation. It not only offers a better sense of control, but will enable you to keep a strong focus on what matters the most. 

Mia Stellberg

Sports- & esports psychologist

.02

Being In The Zone: Understanding ‘Flow State’

Also known as being “in the zone”, the term “flow state” refers to when a person performing an activity is completely immersed in a feeling of energised focus. As a result, they are usually unaware of time and any outside distractions, almost like carrying an air of invincibility. This extreme focus on the task in hand means they will be performing at a higher level as a result.

However, it’s important to note that there is no flow in new activities. The first, second, tenth or even hundredth time you do something, you’re not going to find flow. It’s something that comes with time, when you’ve done something so much it is almost second nature. 

Also, getting in the zone requires you to not be trying, not consciously thinking about what it is you’re doing. Instead, you’re just doing it. This is because flow only works when the subconscious takes over from the conscious mind. 

Focus is what truly drives flow state and you can improve your chances of achieving it through  mindfulness meditation and learning to ignore distractions and stressors. Some emotions will help you find flow; others will scare it off. Being passionate about the topic, and a deep, almost-religious conviction in what they are talking about are normally the common ingredients of those who find flow during gaming.

Mia Stellberg

Sports- & esports psychologist

.03

How To Achieve Optimal Performance & ‘Get In The Zone’

While flow state is rarely achieved, there are a number of things you can do to improve your chances of reaching it. Above all, however, is to try and learn how to perform at your best without being in a flow state and then it will serve as an extra bonus if or when you do actually achieve it. 

Before we get into the process of achieving flow state, be aware that everyone is different and so it’s more beneficial to look at what is limiting a player from getting there as opposed to what that specific player is doing when they are in the zone. 

The top three limiting factors include:
1. Being too aware of things around you: focus on you and the present moment.
2. Having a negative inner speech. Trust yourself that you are in your comfort zone - give your permission to jump in and enjoy it.
3. Being emotional. You won’t get into a flow state if you’re stressed, worried, irritated or not comfortable.

In order to work towards a flow state, you need to enable and eliminate the things that are standing in your way of achieving it. Research suggests eliminating all external and internal distractions because every time you get pulled out of your focus, you’ll be taken further away from flow state. You’ll only achieve it when focusing with undivided attention for 10–15 minutes, so try to protect yourself from disruptions. This will allow you to enter a state of hyperfocus, the most important element.

Mia Stellberg

Sports- & esports psychologist

.04

What Is Choking And How To Avoid It During Gaming

Choking - also known as the failure to act or behave as anticipated or expected - is very common in sports. It’s more likely to occur when a player is under intense pressure and does not happen because the brain stops thinking. In fact, it’s the opposite - when the brain concentrates too much and overthinks. 

We should always try and prevent choking from happening. When we choke we usually feel a lot of stress, worry and pressure and in that headspace there’s no tool or trick to get us out of it. It will take minutes and sometimes even hours to recover from this panic mode, and this can be the difference between winning and losing. 
Dodging this is all about preparation, for example, working with negative thoughts prior to a match and not during. To prevent choking in esports, it’s important that players are in the right comfort zone by having a good self-image, a positive inner speech, and are thinking rationally. These qualities are achieved through high-quality practice, the mentality to take the pressure and having realistic goals. If you have set a goal that is out of your league, you’re likely to choke. You need to be self aware and know your own strengths and limitations and thus where to focus your aim one step at the time.

Practicing under stressful situations to get used to the feeling will help. Your motivation and practise will then be what enables you to set higher goals further down the line. 

Mia Stellberg

Sports- & esports psychologist

.05

Why Do We Burnout And How To Prevent It

Modern sport culture is a breeding ground for burnout. Athletes of all sports usually endure high training volumes, year-round training and competitive demands. Having these stressors to deal with, alongside being under a lot of pressure to perform at a high level, constantly, can prove difficult and can lead to a whole host of negative outcomes, which results in burnout.

It’s the same story with esports. In this sport, the main stressor is that the player will feel constant pressure to perform to the best of their abilities at all times. Overtime, this can lead to anxiety and nervousness, a disruption of work-life balance and team issues like criticism, lack of confidence in team mates and lack of shared goals. 

These stressors are most prevalent prior and after competition (depending on outcome), and seem to be suppressed during competition. Other stressors include audience and criticism both online and at events, inadequate mental preparation and physical preparation, and the competitive environment.

Competing with these stressors weighing on your shoulders can be exhausting and eventually lead to a number of serious consequences, for example, linearity and unidirectional thinking, a breakdown of the thinking process, depression and low psychological well-being.

Mia Stellberg

Sports- & esports psychologist