What if I told you that your skills don’t really matter as much as you think? Of course you need to know the game and play relatively well. But to play at the top you don’t actually need to be the best.
For example consider the opposite. Imagine spending 10k hours grinding your skills in a game, climbing to the highest rank then spending another 5-10k hours slowly inching your way up the leaderboard until you’re considered one of the best in the world. Then consider if despite all your skill and time invested, you never got picked up by a pro team. Well this actually happens a lot. Players at the top of the leaderboard can easily get passed up for someone who just has more experience playing on top tier teams, or winning certain tournaments.
And if you, as one player only make up a small portion of a multimanned team, then its easy to get weighed down by others despite all your hard work.
So, you can become among the best in the world yet still never make it onto a pro team. Yet those who are vastly less skilled can climb onto tier 2 and then tier 1 teams with ease.
Luckily for you, you can take advantage of this, and use a short-cut to get to the top. That shortcut is your team, more specifically the team dynamics you build into it.
Let me explain what I mean. Consider incredible rosters of all-star players that completely failed. Despite having tons of talent they just couldn’t seem to pull it together. Then consider the opposite, lots of underdog rookies thrown into a team with low expectations, who then blow everyone away. Or consider a third example. A player who makes their mark and dominates a game for years, but then when they switch teams or their roster changes they can’t seem to ever reclaim the glory they once had. What all of these show us is that the team and the dynamics that underly it are often more important than the skill level of the players on it.
But what does this have to do with your journey to the top? Well if winning, and racking up tournament successes is largely brought on by team dynamics then by focusing on building those team dynamics within any team you play on, you’ll be able to rack up more wins, build a track record of success and catch the attention of better and better teams.
So in this video I want to teach you how this all works and how you can take advantage of it to turn any team that you’re on into a powerhouse of win, pumping out victories and carrying you higher and higher to the top of esports.
Team dynamics might be the key to your esports career, but pulling a team together and keeping them together can be quite difficult.
Fortunately, Sport Psychology has given us fascinating insights into how extraordinary team chemistry is achieved.
If you’re not on a team yet then don’t worry, learning this information now critical for making it work. If you are on a team then I’d recommend putting each step into action right away.
Now the first thing to address is the thing that tears most teams apart and that is Toxicity.
Sport Psychologists have identified several informal roles and personalities within Esports, two of which are often the causes of toxicity (2). These kinds of players either need to be closely managed so that they don’t become too toxic or should be replaced.
The first is the player who tries to find any excuse to do as little work as possible. They will regularly skip training or team meetings by over exaggerating illness or injury and often play the victim.
The second kind are those players are typically very talented but lack the self-awareness to put the team first. They usually pick fights and stray from the game plan in order to risk it for personal glory.
If you’re in a position to pick your teammates its important to watch for laziness or a lack of self-awareness. While we usually pick for talent & skill level first, a highly skilled yet toxic player will destroy team cohesion.
If you’re already on a team with someone showing toxic behavior, they key is to help create a culture of self-awareness and work ethic. Consider even adding a step, during team reviews where everyone on the team analyzes their own plays and admits openly to their of personal mistakes and next steps to fix them.
2) Establish Your Team’s Vision
But by just solving the toxicity problem it won’t mean you and your team are going to be pulled together yet. Fortunately, nothing brings and keeps a team together like a common goal, that you’re all motivated by and need each other to achieve.
Previous videos on my channel have laid out the value of setting realistic goals in order to move up the ranks, but before you do that, I want to challenge you and your team to identify your vision.
Another way to think of this is what Leadership Expert, Simon Sinek calls your “Why”. To define your “why” you can begin by calling a meeting and asking your teammates; “why are we here? What’s the real reason we’re putting in so much time and effort into this?”
And I’d challenge you and your team to think beyond just trophies and prize money. Consider the personal reasons you each have, as well as the legacy you all want to leave for your team.
As an example the Rocket League team Sandrock Gaming set out not only to become one of the world’s most dominant teams, but to also pave the way for teams in the Middle East and North Africa to play on the big stage. As a result, there are now far fewer obstacles for teams from the MENA region to compete in RLCS events (7).
So when you consider your teams vision, consider what impact you’ll have, it could even be as simple as “Inspiring young players with your work ethic”, or as big as solving a major problem that’s holding the industry back.
But by just having a vision it will be a powerful motivator a reason for you and your team to keep pushing through difficult moments, and stick together as you battle towards the top.
3) Set Goals together
After establishing a motivating vision, the next step is to set goals for the team and each player.
Begin by asking everyone on the team what they think you should all work towards, when things will happen and how you’ll prepare. These goals can be specific tournaments or other milestones that demonstrate your team’s progress.
And once that’s done, spend time establishing each teammate’s individual goals. These goals must tie into the team’s overall goals discussed before. For example, let’s say that your team’s goal is to qualify for a major Esports event taking place next year. You’d then brainstorm what weaknesses each member of the team has which could result in losses along the way. One member of the team may have amazing reflexes and tactical awareness, but lacks the communication skills to lead your team through specific plays. He would then need to work on that communication & leadership ability.
4) Practical Training
And this leads us into HOW you practice together.
Now when it comes to what you practice the key is to be deliberate and purposeful. Too many teams just play the game repeatedly together and expect that they’ll suddenly get better as a cohesive team.
But your team’s performance starts with team practice.
During your practice you should create a clear structure of what you will work on each day and why. Then you’ll need to make specific time for scrims, drills, and of course VOD or demo reviewing as a team. Now this last aspect requires a lot of your focus, not only for discovering individual mistakes and weaknesses but for analysing where you lost effective communication or weren’t in sync with one another.
And you’ll learn a lot from this; from focusing on the team dynamics and team mistakes rather than just individual mistakes. But when you identify a specific situation that caused your team a problem, how do you then practice it?
Well in traditional sports you can just get on the field and setup a drill to simulate it. In some games you can do the same, you can setup a similar situation in a custom game and run through it again. Unfortunately this isn’t always possible.
But there’s a solution to this, one that most teams don’t even know about, but will help your team play better together. If you can’t simulate something in-game, then do so through a group imagery technique.
To better prepare for games as a team, simply sit together and have everyone in the team close their eyes. Then, your coach or team captain explains the scenario you want to practice for. He’d explain which map you’re playing, who in the team has been killed, the weapons you have, the status of your opponents, and so on. One at a time, you and your team can role play by visualising and verbalising what you’d do in that scenario. Walk through it slowly, communicating along the way so that you’re all on the same page. The coach or captain can then interject with suggestions on changing strategy, or can progressively make the scenario more difficult by adding in some extra information or variables.
While it may be a bit strange to try at first, it will be a great tool to help you and your team preplan your strategies, and collective decision making, far more than a basic VOD review. For more information on using visualization and why it works so well I recommend checking out our other videos on the channel about it.
5) Maintain Stability
Now, there’s one more key ingredient if you want to build a dominant team.
Sport Psychologist and author, Justus R. Potgieter (pot-geeter) writes, “When team membership remains the same over an extended period of time, the team is more cohesive and consequently successful. The relationship between cohesion and stability is reciprocal. The longer the team has been together and the more cohesive it becomes, the less chance of members leaving.”
This makes sense because if you spend a lot of time with your teammates, you’ll typically get to understand more about them. This includes their strengths and weaknesses in their game, their needs when under pressure, and how well you communicate with them.
But in esports most teams are constantly disbanding or turning over their roster. As a result they’re missing out on one of the greatest ways to create team cohesion and improve their odds of winning.
But this doesn’t have to be the case for you! A 2010 study identified several factors which reduce teammate turnover and therefore increase team stability (4). They found that regular communication between the team increased stability by 14% and 24% and that role clarity increased team stability by 25%. Factors which reduced stability were stress which reduced it by 16% and team conflict which reduced it by 22%.
What this suggests is that in order to maintain your team’s longevity, ensure that you’re always working on clear communication and role clarity through having regular team meetings. In these meetings, make time to touch base and make sure you’re all on the same page and know what to do to contribute. Then take it a step further and be there to support each other in times of stress. If conflict within the team arises, try and sort it out as quickly as possible. Be quick to forgive and always remember the bigger picture and vision you’re all striving for.
So while most players will focus solely on their individual skills and the solo grind to the top, you can be one of the few who take the shortcut. All you have to do is focus on being the glue of your teams. When you join a new team or build one yourself, ensure to always emphasize these aspects of team dynamics.
You’ll need to first root out toxicity, then set team visions and goals, continue to optimize your team practice and situation planning, and ensure there’s a culture of team stability. Once this is all in place, the rest will come easily. Your team will confidently face off against all-star rosters who lack the same cohesions. You’ll rack up with after win, building even more cohesion and momentum. And you’ll begin to carry each other towards the top of esports!