Hey guys! I want to share with you another experience I had at this years EVO. This is about how I thought I was doing my best to prepare myself for my morning pool matches, but it seemed that I was over prepping myself far beyond what would have allowed myself to play comfortably in the moment. This is definitely still an ongoing process for me, as I’m still learning with each and every tournament I attend. I’ve yet to come to a stern conclusion about what it is exactly that I should be doing at every single tournament to feel the most mentally sharp, yet relaxed. No matter which tournament I attend, the game is always the same. It is always going to be Melee, but yet at each tournament, competing always feels different, even though I know that the game is always going to be the same game that I practice back home.
I was standing behind my pools station at noon sharp, day one of Evo. On my walk from our room in the Luxor to the Mandalay Bay, I had been listening to the song that I decided I would listen to if I had to face Chillindude in bracket. I drank a medium cup of coffee during breakfast, and I was feeling pretty pumped up and ready to get into my matches. As I was standing behind my pool station, a friend of mine from San Diego, (I’ll call him K.K), came up to me and we spoke for a few minutes before my pool started. He pointed out that I did seem very frantic. This was a shock to me. Apparently, from the outside, I must have looked very nervous, or like I was on cocaine or something, otherwise most of these points that he made to me probably would never have come up in the first place. I don’t remember the exact specifics of the conversation but we came to the conclusion that I was definitely on the upper side of the nervous scale. What the heck? I thought I was doing everything I could do to turn the nervousness into excitement to compete! I thought it was a bit ironic that I had been reading much on sports psychology, human performance, meditations, etc, and yet here I was about to compete, experiencing the feelings that I had been reading up on how to combat, though as if I had forgotten everything I read about up until this point.
I was definitely high. Not on any drug, (well, besides Caffeine) but high on expectations. I knew my best performances and my worst performances, how I could either play to my highest potential or blow it completely. The conversation I had with K.K kind of brought me back to reality. It brought me back to Planet Earth in a way. I remember the phrase “You know how to play the game” and the word “Breathe” being mentioned somewhere in the conversation. This is the exact kind of pregame advice I believe is the most effective, at least for me. These words had a much more powerful effect to me to get my head-space at the right level to compete comfortably. It wasn’t too over-hype, nothing like “Dude you’re actually so amazing wow you’ve beaten so and so before dude oh my god!!!!!11!!1!” to get me even more frantic than I was. It was real, honest, and practical. (Plus I knew he knew what he was talking about since he used to compete himself :P). A point I made to him was that in competing, and in many things in life in general, finding the middle-ground of the scale is always the most difficult thing. You can be on the highest side of the scale, feel completely nervous or excited to compete, or completely unmotivated and demoralized by your upcoming matches (or previous matches) and be on the bottom side of the scale. This sort of thing is why I believe we have to practice with purpose, trust in the practice itself come tournament day, and expect curve-balls and adaptations you need to make that you’ve never faced before while under pressure.
They say experience is the best teacher after all, and there is quite a big difference between reading about something, and actually experiencing it yourself, in your own body and learning how you naturally respond to it for real. Every single experience is going to be different. There’s no “How to cope with tournament nerves right after you break up with your girlfriend” article anywhere, at least to my knowledge. Life is always there, and we will always be humans playing the game. We can work to understand the game on a deeper level, improve to the best that we can to better our chance of winning, but honing in your focus to what is most important when you’re at a major tournament and internal and external expectations could be on the line is a completely different game.
When we invest time into something to achieve an outcome we prefer, the game changes. Winning is always desired, but we have to find a way to accept losing as an outcome and put the excitement to compete far beyond the fear of an outcome we do not prefer. It is difficult. I believe it can be done, and it is something I would like to keep practicing for as long as I have a desire to play the game.
Thank you for reading, keep competing.