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tectonic's 'saiclone' on maintaining a good headspace for coaching

31 Aug 2018

Tell us a bit about your role in the OPL?

I’m the Head Coach for Tectonic. My role is split between working with my players to help them understand how to execute plans together, practicing executing those plans, and working with my coaching staff to have them help my players individually.

How did you become a coach?

My friends didn’t like me telling them how to play the game so I started doing 1-on-1 coaching to get it out of my system. I had a few years’ experience coaching trampolining at my club, so I built on the skills I’d learned there. People liked what I was doing, so I started some low-rank teams to try figure out how coaching a group works, and then just moved up through a few teams over the last couple of years.

opl headspace dream saiclone2

What are some of the things you do to keep yourself mentally and physically well training for League of Legends games?

I read a lot. Fiction to relax, and non-fiction to get new ideas for the team. I live separately to the team, with some people who don’t work in esports. I’ve found it helps my life feel a bit more balanced, and my team and I get a bit of time apart each day.

I exercise about three to four times a week, although when I’m stressed this tends to be the first thing that stops. I have done a mixture of bodyweight training, weight lifting in the gym, and running over the last year.

I also call my parents back in New Zealand about once a week, and I talk to my gamer friends online whenever I can after work.

I like to listen to music whenever I’m not directly working with my team, and I have a pretty long list of subscriptions on YouTube so I’ve always got something new to listen to. Mostly Electronic/Pop styles of music, but I often branch out. My favourite song is currently ‘2 cents’ by Emily Zeck.

How do you support your team around their mental health and wellbeing?

I encourage them to look after their bodies. There’s a lot of brain chemistry that helps you function better when your body is in a happy place. That means good food, sleep and ideally some exercise.

We also have a scheduled discussion every week for our first day of training called “Honesty Mondays”. We do a quick check in - how are you feeling right now out of 10? then go around the team and we share things we’re grateful for, or frustrated with that are specific to each person. The guys are usually a bit awkward the first few times we do it, but they warm up to it once they realise how much it helps to be able to say the things that have been bothering them.

Why do you think it’s important to maintain your mental health?

Your brain is the main tool you use to play, and it has limited capacity. If some of its space is taken up with negative emotions that haven’t been acknowledged, then it’s like having less RAM in a computer. It just doesn’t perform as well under pressure.

The other reason is our game involves a very large amount of practice time. There are very few activities where it’s considered normal for someone to spend upwards of 80 hours per week thinking about something, especially if those hours are all meant to be at 100% focus. You need to have a pretty good attitude towards the inevitable stumbles that come with practice and learning to not spend much time dwelling on it. Players who beat themselves up always end up burnt out, and their team environment suffers for it.

How do you balance your time in game and out of game?

My general rule is once I go home, I don’t think about work problems until the next day. If I have a long list of things to work on, I try to write them down somewhere to get them out of my head.

In terms of hours, I probably spend about 13 hours a day at the team house, and the rest at my apartment. It’s only a 10 minute commute, even in peak traffic. I have one day where I do nothing work related, and that’s spent either playing games myself or exploring Sydney with friends.