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March 8, 2019

whimp's wrap-up - February: "We were more relieved of not losing than proud of winning"

Jonas "whimp" Svendsen

Last weekend I watched the nerve-racking documentary 'Free Solo', which follows professional rock climber Alex Honnold in his quest of achieving greatness by free soloing (climbing without ropes and safety gear) the 3,000 ft. high wall, El Capitan.

The achievement in itself is truly remarkable and amazing, but when Alex Honnold explained why he is free soloing, that’s where the movie really struck a chord with me.

Alex Honnold is not pushing the boundaries of climbing because he has a latent death wish, Alex Honnold is pushing these boundaries to seek the highest level of performance from himself, perfection.

When he is on the wall there is no room for error, there is no room for hesitation or fear - there is only room for a "zen state" where his mind and body is fully dialed on every minute detail of his own performance. The level of focus, physical and mental preparation needed in order to complete this climb free-solo is second to none, and this is truly inspiring.

So why am I talking about a rock climber when we are in esports?

The reason is simply that at the EU Minor and the Minor Play-in we failed in the same areas that Alex succeeded in, but fortunately we were not left on a wall without ropes and safety gear. So what can we learn from Alex Honnold?

Preparation
After our Christmas break the team returned to practice with a new boost of energy and excitement about the upcoming season. Going into the EU Minor we felt prepared and confident, but, in our opening game against Windigo we got punched in the face, which shook our confidence. In hindsight this told us two things:

  1. The confidence from our practice games was elusive
  2. Our final preparation before each game was heavily focused on the opponent and not our own game

During Alex Honnold's final preparation he practiced different "solutions" to different pitches of the climb, in order to find the most successful gameplan. He spent many hours visualizing this gameplan, picturing exactly how he would climb each difficult pitch, focusing 100% on his own performance.

This is how we shall approach our preparation, with the aim to become 1% better at practicing every day - forcing ourselves into specific scenarios that expose weaknesses and strengths within our game. We can then make sure that our confidence is never elusive when playing official games, now spending the final preparation before an official game visualizing our gameplan, and making sure that the focus is on our own performance and not our opponent's.

"Performance Anxiety"
Looking back at our performances and listening to TeamSpeak recordings from Katowice I am left with the images and emotions of a team that played afraid, hesitant and disorganized. Even after the games we won, I felt that we were more relieved of not losing than we were proud of winning.

This is largely a result of our preparation and the way in which we won and lost games, but going forward we have to figure out how we individually can find the right headspace before a game. This headspace will be a mental state where each player is excited about performing and dialed in on the gameplan instead of being nervous and afraid to fail.

I acknowledge that in order to achieve this, the team needs the right kind of leadership, so I also have to look inwards. This will definitely not be easy, but we can learn from Alex Honnold, overcoming his fears with practise, visualizing his every move, so that each pitch, no matter the difficulty, sits within his comfort-zone. As the saying goes, we want to be able to "practice hard, and compete easy".

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