4 min read

How professional Players cope with Stress

How professional Players cope with Stress

Let's start our Sunday ritual - diving into gaming and esports with another episode of 'Gaming Science'. Enjoy. 🙃

Due to the competitive nature of esports, professional gamer are under high amounts of stress. In order to deal with stress, player apply various strategies in order to cope with the pressure. In today's episode, we'll take a look those strategies video game warriors use.

💡 Highlights
• Professional player are under high amounts of stress.
• Factors that cause stress are e.g., performance expectations, team issues, social media, and health issues.
• It is important to understand how athletes cope with stress.
• 33 players were interviewed.
• The three identified coping strategies were: balancing life, seeking social support, and sleep management.
• Looking out for one's health (taking breaks from gaming and practice self-care) are crucial for their health and performance.

Competitive gaming, or esports, presents an unusual environment for those who compete at a higher level. As we've discussed in earlier episodes, players face a multitude of stressors related to their hobby or job. These stressors include, but are not limited to, performance expectations, team issues, social media pressures, health concerns, and uncertainty about the future.

"Thus, [for players there is a] need to develop effective strategies to address screen time, physical activity levels, injuries, training environment [and many more] [1, 2]."

Multiple studies have demonstrated that utilizing coping strategies in competitive situations can have a positive impact on performance [3] and health [4]. It is therefore "critical to identify esports athletes’ coping strategies to enhance their health and wellbeing and manage stressors [1]."

In this previous episode, we discussed various strategies that pro gamers employ, such as intensifying their game-related efforts, using substances, or enhance self-regulation. However, it's important to recognize that individuals may utilize different strategies. The current study primarily focuses on those strategies and skills that contribute to players' physical and mental health.

💽 Method

To gain a deeper understanding of the subject, the authors conducted interviews with 33 players at various stages of their careers. The sample included 21 professional players, 6 semi-professionals, 4 amateurs, and 2 retired players. The age of the players ranged from 17 to 36 years old, and the sample was also diverse in terms of nationality, including players from Saudi Arabia, the U.S., Australia, South Korea, China, and other countries.

☯️ Results

First and foremost, the interviewed players highlighted physical and mental fatigue as stressors. As a result, players made an effort practicing self-control and developing self-management skills.

"As coping efforts/strategies, there are three key themes identified: Life Balance, Seek Social Support, and Sleep Management [1]."

The first strategy concerns balancing life. Players highlighted the importance of having a break from playing, using the time for a positive distraction. One of them mentioned playing the piano and working out as his secret to keep a good mental balance.

Another aspect mentioned was working on one's time management skills. This is especially important for those who are still in school or work a second job. One player emphasized the importance of maintaining a dual career in esports and studying. For these players, effectively managing time is a key aspect of maintaining balance.

"Seeking social support was also identified as one of the important coping skills for esports players to deal with stress and difficulties that affected their mental and physical health [1]."

Coaches, family members, friends, and members of their gaming communities acted as anchors for players during heartfelt times. Several players noted that their parents were not very supportive at first. However, over time, parents gained a better understand of esports and learned about the potential as they their son compete. With an increased acceptance and understanding, they became more supportive.

“In the end you might see it as I’m wasting time, I should be studying, I should be training, but I know in the end sleep is important, rest is important, you need to maintain your health and everything [1].”

The third major aspect players highlighted was sleep. Various players mentioned it as a "crucial factor for better performance and good health [1]." Related to this, one athlete named meditation as a key coping strategy for keeping up his mental health, particularly in the face of high-pressure competitions and intense training.

🤔 Implications

It should now become all so obvious to you why professional players use the stress coping strategies mentioned above. You've heard it a million times before, but maintaining your health is crucial in order to perform well in any domain. Interestingly, two out of the three themes (balancing life and sleep management) are problem-focused coping strategies. What lies underneath them is taking time off from gaming - sleeping, taking a break, focusing on other activities etc.

"As a result, they were able to keep pursuing their esports career and develop self-management skills to balance their life and career. [These strategies also helped players to] enhance their health and wellbeing as well as quality of performance] [1]."

First and foremost, thanks for reading! I hope ya'll have a great week. Cheers,

Christian 😃

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[1] Hong, & Connelly, 2022
[2] Pereira at el., 2019
[3] Nicholls et al., 2016
[4] Cumming et al., 2012

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