How to keep stimuli up while competing at events like MLG Anaheim
by, 06-26-2013 at 04:22 PM (3488 Views)
How do you stay up (alert and focused) when there can be an hour or more between each match? Possibly more than a few hours if you attend a tournament such as Dreamhack?
You're either getting flown out on the team's money or your own dime, who wants to put up a big goose egg (read: 0) because they felt drained - or maybe the opposite, they were too aroused (read: mentally focused).
Now for some players who have competed in sports, or have gamed with success - they have a routine that they'll tend to stick to. It's that normalcy that keeps them in the moment, that tediousness that triggers their brain into, "Okay, now it's time to bear down and focus."
For professional athletes, this happens all the time. The proverbial light switch that gets flicked on.
Now for some - and usually those who may be experiencing their first LAN tournament but this can happen to anyone - they'll get too "amped up", aka their arousal level gets too high. An analogy would be a soccer player whose arousal level is so high that he doesn't see the other team's defender in that path of his pass to his teammate. This can also be known as tunnel vision. Starcraft players experience this often, such as when you're so focused on an attack that you don't realize there's a drop happening at your 3rd.
Now in that video above, Thorzain mentioned he has issues with warming up, playing his matches, and then having that down time... cooling off, and having to get up again to play a highly competitive match. He's not the only one.
Why would having your arousal level low be bad for a Starcraft player? Well typically when it's low, it allows the player to take in many different stimuli... however, if it gets too low that can become too much for the player to handle to the point where it's affecting the amount of things he can process in front of him - thus making his reaction time slower. In a game puts an extreme emphasis and decision making and speed, this can be killer.
For the most part this needs to be addressed in practice. I would suggest establishing a set routine before sitting down to play a set of games to get your brain focused. Everyone can have their own thing, but perhaps spend 10 minutes alone or in a quiet place, talk to yourself on what you want to do. "I am going to execute my build orders correctly today. I am going to out-harass my opponent." This positive self-talk goes a long ways in helping you get to a good mindset. Then go out and play your warmup games. Maybe you go for a quick walk around the venue to clear your mind and get ready for your matches after the warmups, or maybe the 10 minute talk before warmups was enough. But now your mind knows that after this happens, it's time to get serious and you "flick the switch."
Now no matter if you have to wait another two hours or not, you do the same routine so that your brain knows that okay, it's time to get serious now. It's time to focus. It may seem silly, but every professional sports player has some routine that gets them in the zone and they know it's time to execute what they've been working on. If you want to perform at your very best, you better find out what works for you to get you in the zone.
For the player struggling with downtime, for two to three times a week (or perhaps more if he really struggles) he could warm up quickly in the morning, play a few games, then take a two hour break. Then repeat the routine so that it isn't a big shock when it happens at a tournament. You've experienced it before, practiced it enough, and it's now not a very big deal.
For those that experience too high an arousal level, one technique that works very well is concentrating on your breathing. Try to inhale and exhale slowly, focusing on each breath at a time. By slowing down a physiological response, your other anxiety responses will also slow down.
During practices, focusing on cue words to help break you from the tunnel vision can also help. Something meaningful, or as weird as saying "banana" every time you notice yourself start to become too amped up can help snap you back to the here and now and focus more appropriately.
Lastly, music can be a great way to help keep your arousal level low (or high), depending on the music.
Hope you all found this to be valuable information. Wish I could be out there but I've got a baseball tournament this weekend ^^.
Good luck to CompLexity and NonY and all you other random faces.