How to develop a strong competative mindset.
Players often put a lot of time into trying to get good at smash by playing smash, but a very overlooked part of smash is the kind of mindset you need to develop to become a top player.
I've written a bunch of points which I think are vital into developing that mindset, so lets go!

1. Its not a sprint, its a marathon



I've seen it time and time again, new players will show up, they'll try really hard, they wont get very far in a few months, they get frustrated and disheartened and then they quit.
"It's bullshit I tried really hard but I just didn't get any better." If you are a new player showing up to try and make your mark on the smash world you need to understand that many people have
years of experience that you are trying to overtake. Getting good at smash, and I mean REALLY good, takes a long time, its not a quick and easy journey, its a struggle. Its hard work, it can be frustrating and its certainly not easy,
If it were easy however, what would be the point? Theres no other way to get to the top then to grind it out, if you feel you arent getting anywhere just keep going, there's only one sure fire way to fail to make it to the top and thats to give up, so if you never give up sooner or later you'll get there. Don't try and rush to the top, you wont get there, take the slow path that builds upon itself and creates a strong foundation for you as a player.
It can be frustrating if you dont do as well as you'd like in your first tourney, or your second, or your third, or your fourth and so on, but remember even top players in Australia like Waveguider and Earl didn't start out the best, does anyone remember their first tourney? Or their second? Does anyone remember or care about the tourneys I won at the start of 2015? No, if you are aiming for the top you need to keep in mind that the only place you can start is at the bottom, and as long as you reach the top who cares how you did in your learning stage tourneys, or your getting good stage tourneys, or tourneys you played in 6 month's ago.

The phrase "It's not a sprint, its a marathon" is something I got from Havok, who was one of the best Brawl players in America during his time and an amazing teacher and smash coach, he wrote a E-Book on developing tourney skills which I have found very helpful time and time again and he elaborates on this point very well, I would recommend it to anybody reading this article who wants to improve, its also super cheap (who doesn't have $3?) and he's the OG smash homie- http://www.amazon.com/Your-Introduction-Esports-Making-Tournament-ebook/dp/B00O82F8VC






2. Losses are the stepping stones to success




Continuing on from above, who cares about your losses? Well you should, but not in the way you might imagine. Getting frustrated and getting salty happens to everyone, we live in a society that shoves success in our face and tells us to never fail which is ridiculous and has left many people with a strong aversion, if not outright fear, to failure, but being afraid to fail will not get you very far. If you take nothing else away from this whole post, take this one quote "THE most valuable tool you have when trying to improve is the data you gather from your losses."
Something you need to realize is that there is nothing wrong with losing, everybody loses, I lose, you lose, Waveguider loses, Earl loses, everybody does. When you lose, you just get right back up again and keep going - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LstIgtkEe50
Its easy to get caught up in the could-have-been's when you lose, "man if only x happened, I would have won, DAMMIT!" we've all caught ourselves thinking that at some point, and its ok to be frustrated dont get me wrong, but dont let it take over your thinking. Ok I lost, why did I lose? what did my opponent do that beat me? What could I have done to stop that? What did I not do that I should have done against my opponent? What mistakes did I make? Do I have a weakness that got exploited? Where do I need to improve? This is the kind of thinking you need to embrace after a loss, rise above the salt, rise above the frustration, find a path out of the hole you are in and follow it. Sometimes you lose and you have absolutely no idea what you did wrong or how you could have played better, in these situations going back and watching the match if it was recorded can help a lot (watching replays actually helps even when you know what you did wrong), so you should try as much as possible to get videos of tough matches, people love to save videos of them winning or doing some cool sick shit, but saving videos of your losses is also super important and its rarely done from what I have seen. What if it wasn't saved? Try asking the person who beat you why you lost, maybe they dont have an answer and they'll just shrug it off, but maybe they do have some advice for you but wont give it to you unless you ask because giving advice is sometimes seen as a little douchey and they dont want to frustrate you further. Sometimes you just get blitzed, there is no video and your opponent has no advice for you, in these situations I think all you can really take away is "my opponent was too far above me and I am not ready to play at that level yet." - strong emphases on yet.

In the smash community the idea has formed that the better your opponent is that you play against and the harder you get beaten the better practice it is and the more you'll learn. I dont think this is strictly true, playing a really good player can help you realize all the little openings and lazy habits you have that dont normally get punished by lesser players that are now being punished, it'll help make you aware of those so you can try tighten up your game, but playing someone that just wrecks you over and over again isn't really very good practice. Below is a chart based on the ideal conditions to achieve "flow", keep in mind flow is not what we are talking about here so this chart isn't totally relevant but it helps illustrate the idea that when trying to improve, your ideal opponent is someone thats challenging for you without being too hard, better than you but not heaps better then you, keeping it in the 'flow' region helps you to be able to lose whilst still having a good idea of whats going on and why you are losing. Obviously it goes without saying that wrecking people far below you doesn't really help you improve much either, but it can be a good way to help practice movement and combos. So the idea here is to play someone Challenging regularly, and try to play as many different challenging players as you can, but kind in mind playing under as many conditions as you can is also very helpful, and by conditions I mean try to play as many different people as you can, people that are challenging, people that wreck you (dont make a habit of playing these people but playing them every now and then to widen the range of types of people you play against is helpful) people that you wreck, match ups you know, match ups you dont, the more variety you have the better prepared you'll be for tournaments.




Another picture that helps explain this concept


Again I cannot stress the importance of learning from your losses if you want to become a top player, even when you reach the top the losing never stops which means the learning never stops, yay what fun!
If you find you cannot stay calm, accept a loss and learn from it, then you need to find a way to vent or deal with your frustration.


3. Poker face
Taken from urbandictionary.com "A face on a person that shows no emotion, often called poker face because in the game of poker it would be foolish to show any emotional traits that might screw the game for you."


Storytime! I used to be a Security Guard, when I was still pretty fresh I started working at the Canberra Hospital, if anyone's worked at a hospital before you know its pretty rough, lots of crazy shit goes down on a daily basis, some of the more fun things I witnessed in my short time there; a naked psych ward patient escape and run down a busy road; 2 Russians threatening to kill everyone in a waiting room; a giant of a man headbutt a wardsman and be held down by 6 big men whilst the sedatives he was injected with kick in, it wasn't working and he ended up being injected with so many that they'd reached the legal limit they could give him before the amount becomes life threatening; a man attack a helicopter, lots of fun stuff. Whilst I was working there was a domestic that erupted outside the methadone clinic (a place where junkies can come to get a drug that helps ween them off drugs) the staff freaked out and called security in. I arrived first and since they other security were taking their sweet time I stood off about 50 meters away from the domestic just watching, and waiting for another guard because I had no clue what the hell to do. The junkies noticed me and yelled something at me which I didn't respond to, and the longer I just stood there watching them the more nervous they got, the more nervous they got the less they wanted to keep fighting, and then calmed down, apologized, begged me to not ban them because they needed the methadone in the future, and then left. The whole time I had been standing there bewildered desperately trying to figure out what the hell to do and didn't say or do anything, but they didn't see that, they saw a poker faced security guard calmly watching them and not getting fazed by anything they yelled. If I had approached them and challenged them I am certain I would have got caught up in the fight and fighting with junkies is a risk you really dont want to to take. By now you might be starting to wonder what the hell this has to do with smash, well I learn an important lesson that day that not only helped me a lot as a security guard but believe it or not has helped me a lot as a smash player. The human mind has a pretty crazy imagination, and when you dont give people any information to go on they often will imagine the worst. I'm being confronted by somebody, he is screaming abuse and threats at me, I am not responding in kind I am just standing there calmly with a poker face. Inside my mind I am freaking out, charged with adrenaline and wondering what the hell to do if he actually attacks me, but he doesn't know that, all he sees is someone who is calm and not getting pulled into the screaming and threatening game. Because he has no idea what I'm thinking and I'm not saying anything or giving him any body language to work with his brain will subconsciously try to fill in the blanks, to him I obviously know something he doesn't which is why I am so calm and not getting scared by his screaming, I clearly am an experienced fighter who will wreck his shit and am so good the thought of him attacking me doesn't faze or worry me at all, so I am definitely someone not to be messed with. This might sound super dumb but it is actually a very effective conflict strategy, especially if you are a big strong looking guy like me, and wearing a security uniform which has its own psychological effects on people.
So how does this relate to smash?

Have you even been playing a tense important match, and your opponent gets mad or frustrated and is visibly shaken, starts making mistakes, starts swearing or yelling things at the screen 'COME ON I PRESSED SHIELD.' I'm sure you've seen this in friendly's but in an actual important tournament match have you ever had your opponent get mad like this? How did it make you feel, did it fill you with confidence? It should have, you know he is screwing up and that you are getting to him which will make you much more confident. Letting your opponent know you are frustrated or having trouble is a HUGE confidence boost to them and thats EXACTLY what you dont want them to have. Have you ever played a tourney match against a completely silent player, no matter what happens they dont lose their cool, thats a very scary thing to face and instead of gaining confidence from their obvious frustration, you are losing confidence because you cant break this players concentration no matter what happens.
Now a completely silent and calm opponent might not being calm on the inside, in fact they almost certainly are not, they are probably freaking out, super frustrated, not sure what to do, but you dont know that because you have 0 information to go off, and so as above your brain will try to fill in the gaps and your imagination will make them seem better or calmer than they in fact are.
I've gone into matches against newer players looking totally bored, shake my players hand before the match and wish him good luck as if he isn't a threat to me in the slightest, and thats inflamed that player. They are looking to make their mark and to them I am so bored looking and unthreatened that they think I am sleeping on them and they think "man he's totally underestimating me, I'll show him, when I get started he'll learn to worry about what I can do" they get all fired up to prove themselves to me and then we start to play. They might play really good, in fact the better they play the more this will work against them "I am playing so well why does he still look so bored, why isn't he getting scared?" Their own confidence can turn against them as no matter what they do it doesn't seem to affect me in the slightest, they'll get worried and start making mistakes and destroy themselves from the inside. Now I WASN'T sleeping on them or underestimating them, but the poker face gives them nothing to work with and so when met with a blank wall their confidence wavers. This might seem a little cut-throat but all I did was have a poker face, its not really my fault he freaked out, he wasn't mentally prepared and caved in on himself. Going into battle taking your opponent seriously is important and seen as a sign of respect, and so if you want to take your opponent seriously and give them your all, the poker face is a very important part of your arsenal.
Don't let them know when you are frustrated, dont let them know when you are scared, dont just give away vital information to them and never let them know whats going on inside your head.
Internalize your frustrations, yeah you tried to shield that but for some reason shield didn't come out, it sucks I know, but dont blurt it out, dont break the pokerface illusion, keep in inside, dont let them know
they are getting to you. Doing this can even subconsciously help you to stay frosty which is very important.
Staying frosty is simple in theory, just stay calm, dont let your mistakes get to you, you will make mistakes, accept it and move on and keep concentrating on the moment, dont let those mistakes distract you and make you start thinking in the past. Don't be super hard on yourself and dont freak out when you make a mistake.
Simple in theory but can be very hard to actually do this in practice, but the better prepared you are, the better you'll be able to do this, which leads me to my next point.


4. Preparation is the key to victory




This is it, its all about preparation. I recently beat Earl at SXC, just to recap SXC was a big major that happened in SA recently, Earl is Victoria's top player, considered by some to be the best player in Australia, and was the favorite to win SXC, but I beat him. Does that mean I am a better player than him? Well actually, no it doesn't. I dont think I am a better player than him, I wasn't even the better player in that one moment where I beat him. So how did I beat someone who is better than me? Because I was the more prepared player. Going into SXC I tried to get as much sleep as I could, I studied a lot of players, watched their matches and took notes on their openings and habits, I ate well on the day and stayed hydrated, I went into the match with Earl worried but prepared and stuck to my game plan I had come up with. Speaking with Earl later I learnt that he had flown in that morning and was pretty tired and off his game. I wasn't the better player but I was the better prepared player and that made all the difference. Skill is very important to winning, but so is preparation and I personally think that preparation is MORE important that skill. That doesn't mean you can win off prep alone, think of skill as your tools and preparation as how well you can use those tools on any given day. No matter how prepared you are you cant get much out of shit tools (or no tools at all.)

Prep comes down to a lot of things, lets talk about skill prep first.
A lot of players once they get good, will mostly only play in tourneys and then maybe friendly's at meets often or semi often but wont really do any on their own practice. Spending time in the lab is never wasted, and practicing basic tech can help a lot. Every player experiences pressure and high tensions matches, no matter how good you get you dont get to a point where you dont feel pressure anymore. And something I've noticed time and time again is when the pressure kicks in players start making a lot more mistakes than they usually do, in particular they make a lot of tech errors, things they could do 100 times in a row normally they are now messing up in the heat of the moment. When the pressure kicks in you will fall back onto your level of practice, thats a quote I remember reading somewhere sometime in the past and I stand by it. Drop shield turn around grab is a pretty simple tech, but maybe in a high pressure match you tried to do it but messed up and grabbed in the wrong direction, got up smashed, died and lost a match you could have won. Very frustrating "man if only I hadn't made that one tiny little error that I never normally make fuck this game" is a pretty normal reaction for that situation, and it IS frustrating and disheartening, but there is a way to prevent this kinda thing. Imagine if you did weekly or even better daily tech practice that included things like that. If you practiced drop shield turn around grab on a daily basis, then when the pressure kicks in you fall back on your level of practice which in this case is enough to prevent you from making that mistake and now you get the grab and win instead of flubbing and losing. We all flub and make mistakes and get frustrated, but how many of us do regular basic tech practice of the kinds of things we sometimes flub to prevent those flubs from occurring?

So you can see that even though its frustrating and you 'should' have won that match but didn't because you made a tiny mistake and lost, it also means you didn't prepare enough, you didn't do enough practice.
I'm at the point now where if I lose a tourney I know its because I wasn't prepared enough, I didn't do enough practice, and so I need to go and practice and be better prepared next time, I feel as though whether I win or lose a tourney is decided before I arrive at the tourney, if I've prepared and practiced enough I will play well enough to win, and if I haven't then I wont, simple as that. So to anyone who feels as though they've hit a plateau and cant seem to improve, how much work do you do on the things you already know? How much preparation do you put in? If you arent winning or getting better, then you probably arent putting enough in. Practicing basic things, advanced things, just putting in hours working on things is important. Look at sports, how often do you think a pro athlete will do drills and practice on a basic skill he can already do, probably a lot right? Thats why he's good enough to be a pro athlete.

One author, Malcolm Gladwell, once wrote in his book outliers that it takes roughly ten thousand hours of practice to achieve mastery in a field.
Thats a lot of hours, and whether or not he was correct about the amount doesn't change the point, practice beyond practice is necessary to be the best.
How many of you have put 10,000 hours of practice in? And I dont meant 10,000 hours of playing the game, I mean 10,000 hours practicing alone honing tech, labbing, trying new stuff, working on weaknesses and problem areas.
Hell I doubt anyone's even put in 100 hours let alone 10,000. The bottom line is simple, practice and prep makes a world of difference.



Lets talk the other side of prep, you can prep your skill all you want, but you need to be able to draw it out on tournament day.
This prep is pretty simply but often overlooked, but here it is.
Sleep, a well rested mind will perform much better.
Eat, eating the right foods gives your brain the right energy to function at a high level throughout the day, because your brain has to do a LOT of work at a tourney. 8 hours or so of intense concentration and focus whilst trying to find opponents patterns habits and weaknesses is very hard work for your brain, so it needs fuel, and the right kind of fuel, to be able to function correctly over an entire day of tourney matches.
Exercise, regular exercise has been scientifically proven to help improve cognitive function and concentration, if you get up early enough maybe try going for a run before a tourney and try to stay active and moving around between matches.
Your brain is a muscle like any other, I've started doing brain training and neuroplasticity to help improve my brain. Imagine if I as a player were suddenly able to start thinking faster, reacting faster, being able to concentrate more and for longer, what an amazing boost in performance that would be for tourneys right? Time will tell if this will be effective training to help improve me as a player, and if it is I'll write about it, but as you can see your brain is very important to smash, and outside the box practice of things that arent smash can help you improve in smash, so get creative and find ways to prepare.


5. courage is the magic that turns dreams into reality



This may sound a little campy and silly, but bonus points to you if you got the reference. (without googling it, googersing it is ok)
You must be sure of yourself, be confident, know that you can achieve victory. Don't make excuses and dont talk yourself down. "Man I suck at smash, there's no way I'll ever be a god like Waveguider or even ZeRo because I just dont have any natural talent."
Lets address this one once and for all, talent means nothing at the top.
Its not about how quick you can climb, its about how high you can climb, talent can help you climb quickly but it has nothing to do with how high you can climb and so why does it matter if you are talented or not?

Always keep m2k in your mind - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pKZmZfiIsto&t=10m56s (I couldn't find a shorter video of that quote, try not to watch the whole video until you at least finish reading this article)
M2k later expanded on that quote on Reddit.
"A nobody can become number 1, as long as you have the ability to learn and improve, or understand things. It's true, regardless of what you choose to believe." -Mew2king.


All you need is the ability to learn and improve, which you have, you dont need talent.
Sure talent can be a nice tool to have to start you off, but its a minor tool its not the be all and end all so people need to stop treating it as if it is. If you want to be at the top but you know you arent good enough, you need to stop and realize you are good enough. All you need to reach the top is to want to get there, and to work hard to get there. You can reach it, have confidence in yourself.
No if's and no buts, I dont want to hear it, if you want it and you work for it you can get it, simple as that.
Even science backs me on this one. Here's an excerpt taken from wisdom group's blog.

"In the early 1990s, a team of psychologists in Berlin, Germany studied violin students. Specifically, they studied their practice habits in childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. All of the subjects were asked this question: “Over the course of your entire career, ever since you first picked up the violin, how many hours have you practiced?”"

All of the violinists had begun playing at roughly five years of age with similar practice times. However, at age eight, practice times began to diverge. By age twenty, the elite performers averaged more than 10,000 hours of practice each, while the less able performers had only 4,000 hours of practice.

The elite had more than double the practice hours of the less capable performers.
Natural Talent: Not Important

One fascinating point of the study: No “naturally gifted” performers emerged. If natural talent had played a role, we would expect some of the “naturals” to float to the top of the elite level with fewer practice hours than everyone else. But the data showed otherwise. The psychologists found a direct statistical relationship between hours of practice and achievement. No shortcuts. No naturals." - http://www.wisdomgroup.com/blog/10000-hours-of-practice/


As they said, natural talent? Not important.
So if you arent talented, if you are a nobody, but you want to be a somebody, if deep in your heart your yearn to be the best but you haven't tried because you dont think you can make it, if you keep making the excuse that you arent talented, if you keep putting off doing the hard work to get there, learn from m2k's example.
Anybody can become number 1.
You fit the definition of anybody so embrace the struggle, work hard, have confidence, believe in yourself, and show the world what you can do.

by Atyeo 12/13/2015 00:00:00

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