What is Sport Psychology and how can be used to help those in esports?

What is Sport Psychology and how can it help?

Sport Psychology all about working out patterns of behaviour that lead to good and bad performance. It’s all about identifying what works for you (so you can do it more) and what doesn’t help your performance (so you can do it less). So, I’d like you to think about how you prepare for training, and about how you prepare for competitions. Talk about your expectations with each other, recognising that what works for one person might be totally unhelpful for another person, so you have to be mindful of doing what is best for you, and seeing how this might work for the team as a whole too. (I often have my athletes in a team prepare themselves in different parts of the room, then they come together to do the team stuff that’s necessary after that).

It's our responsibility to get our heads in the right place, and find out how we perform at our best, so we can bring that attitude and actions to when we compete as a team.

Team work – roles in the team play vs roles when not in team play?

Strategy – talks during play to set up? What’s in the content, and how frequently?

How much do the others talk? Eg Do you have good ideas about strategy but don’t share them? Don’t make it just one person’s responsibility to talk and encourage – all be responsible to lifting the team.

Team culture – what is expected of team mates

Does everyone know what is expected of them to be part of a team? Turning up on time, putting in 100% effort in training, listening when things are being explained, taking constructive criticism in the right way etc

Talk about the minimum expectations - create a list

Recovery from mistakes

How does your behaviour differ between when you are playing well (eg the way you treat others, the way you talk during play, how likely you are to encourage others, how likely you are to try some sort of risky play etc)

When under pressure, we tend to talk less and interact less – what can you do to swap out of this? Have a phrase you can say to get each other re-focused. Eg ‘You’ve got this!’

Techniques for coping with mistakes so they don’t build up and compound into more and more mistakes. Firstly, when you make a mistake you need to know what you did wrong, learn from it quickly, then move on to the next thing. Sometimes it isn’t that easy to clear the mistake from your mind, so there are a couple of techniques to try (and see which ones, if any, work for you).

You can use imagery to clear your mind so you can refocus on the next task

‘Line in the sand’ exercise – clear the head and mentally think of drawing a line in the sand and have (in your mind) a wave come in and wash away the mistake so it has no impact on you in the future. It helps if you build into your picture what it feels like to walk on sand in bare feet, and feel the sun on your shoulders, and hear the waves crashing in the background. In your mind, imagine yourself facing the ocean, with the mistake on the ‘ocean side’. Picture yourself with a stick in your hand. Imagine you can see your arm reaching out with the stick in your hand, and imagine you can feel it drawing the line in the sand…feel how there’s resistance from the sand as you draw the line. See the ridges on either side of the line. Now you hear the waves and a big wave suddenly comes right up to your line and washes the mistake away. Breathe out as you see the wave and the mistake recede back into the ocean. Look up to the distance, where the ocean meets the sky and say to yourself a key word like ‘refocus’ (insert relevant word here…it might be different for each of you).

Practice doing this before you go to sleep to get rid of the crap in the day. Make it a habit so you don’t need to remember every detail every time, and you’ll be able to shorten it to just thinking of a picture in your head of a line being drawn in the sand and saying the word ‘refocus’. That’s the aim…to get it to one image and one word, but you do this in times of no stress, then build on it during practice, then use it in competition with the aim for it to be automatic.

You can use a breathing technique to clear the head and calm yourself down

Most of us sit in chairs pretty badly. We’re slumped and not paying attention to really filling our lungs right from the bottom of the lungs (ie diaphragm) – usually we just breathe from the top part of our lungs. So practice taking some really deep breathes…in through the nose, hold it…then out through the mouth….then in again right to the bottom of our lungs so you feel your belly sticking out….then out through the mouth…. Don’t do this much more than 3 times because you don’t want to pass out!! Practice this one each day too. We don’t do enough of proper deep breathing (even if you need to stand up to do it properly). In a competition situation, if you (or the team) have just made a mistake, you can take just one big deep breath and let it out (and say the word ‘refocus’) to refocus your energy for the next stage in the match.

Don’t underestimate the importance of stretching arms, shoulders, fingers too, as well as neck muscles by moving head up and down and side to side.

Using a key word, or key image, or a phrase

Identify for yourself a word that stands for qualities that you want to take into a match. It might be ‘refocus’ if you want to make yourself pay attention to the next round about to start, ‘calm’ if you want to calm yourself down and chill, or ‘energy’ if you need to be hyped up a bit more. I really like the phrase ‘You can do it’ or ‘You’ve got this’…it’s something affirmative that gives you permission to do your best work. It would be great if you could develop a phrase that sounds natural that gives your team mate (when you say it to him) permission to really blitz the competition that day!

Recognise who in the team performs best when they are more hyped up (not everybody is the same, so you might need to prepare yourself differently to the others - it’s OK to mentally prepare yourself in different ways). Someone who likes to be really hyped up probably oughtn’t sit next to someone who likes to be very calm. For instance, can the chairs be re-arranged at a competition, or are there strict places you have to sit?

Other non-sport-psychology tips

Be well hydrated (water I’m talking about) and have eaten nutritious food to aid good decision-making. If you are dehydrated, poor decision making is a likely consequence. A banana, for instance, is a great snack food and has potassium and other great minerals to help with fast muscle movements.

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