Why are teams investing heavily in the psychological side of esports? I’m a sport and exercise psychologist who has worked with teams across Europe, and more and more we’re seeing top teams starting to take the mental aspect of esports seriously and bring in sport psychologists or mental coaches for their players. In contrast to many traditional sports, esports are generally less physically demanding, but can be just as, if not more, cognitively taxing which is why it's so important players have access this support at the top level.
The number one reason I find most teams want a sport psychologist, at the elite level, is for performance enhancement and general support. Teams are starting to see that if players have access to staff trained in psychological skills and mentality, they tend to feel more supported and can better handle the inevitable challenges and rocky road of professional esports.
So why is sport psychology so important in esports?
The way I tend to explain why sport psychology is so important here, is that at the top level, everyone is pretty much 10/10 on mechanics, game sense and strategy, but many people overlook the mind in their own training. For example, it doesn’t matter if you’re the best player in the world if when it matters most, you panic and can’t execute a skill, get too nervous before going on stage and forget your strats, or burnout and retire before you can even hit your peak. And generally speaking, this is where sport psychologists can come in and support. We’re here to help players access their most important skills when it matters most and help prevent burnout so they can have long rewarding careers, using evidenced-based practice backed up by rigorous certification processes.
In esports players can make thousands of decisions each match, this coupled with how long some tournaments can be, the intensity of training and keeping up with the meta, can make gaming at the top-level exhausting. Making sure players take adequate rest, are training efficiently with clear goals in mind, and maintain motivation whilst preventing burnout are all core reasons why sport psychology can be so valuable to teams.
There are of course many more reasons as to why sport psychology is so important in esports, such as for motivation, mindset, tilt, confidence, efficient training, emotional regulation and general wellbeing, so look out for more articles in future on these specifically.
It’s not just for the pros
Not only can sport psychology be extremely valuable at the professional level, but it can also help those at the recreational or semi-professional level. Whether you’re playing games to climb the ranks and hopefully get a shot a trialling for a pro team, or you just want to win your online tournaments, sport psychology can make the difference. For example, think how many times you might get frustrated in game at teammates, the game itself, or the current meta, and if we’re honest we tend to play worse when we’re in a negative emotional space. Sport psychology can help teach skills to manage these emotions and keep things as productive as possible when you’re playing, just as the pros do.
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