Nerves

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There are a lot of things that make us nervous, nerves are a thing every one of us has had to deal with at some point in our lives, and still have to deal with. For a lot of new and even veteran players, nerves are something they find to be a very significant hindrance to their performance. You see the question posted on boards all the time, “how do I overcome nervousness?” after players fall apart in a tournament setting, and the answer is that you sort of don’t. The key to “overcoming” nerves, if you will, is understanding what nervousness means in the first place and why it’s actually not a bad thing.

I’ve always been an extremely nervous performer, whether it was onstage, in sports, or just giving a speech to an audience, a cold rush would surge up and down my body, and my heart would thump against my ribcage like a jackhammer. It’s still essentially the same reaction to this day, and although it takes more to actually stir up my nerves, I know there will always be times when they will strike. One of my music teachers once told me something particularly significant which turned the tides on how I felt about the subject. I told him what everyone else does “I get really nervous and it makes me screw up, I don’t want to perform”, to which he simply replied “good, because if you aren’t nervous, it means you don’t care”.

Nerves show one thing, that you acknowledge the importance of what you’re doing. See, people think their performance is inherently worse when they’re nervous, but this isn’t exactly true. In a nervous state, your alertness and perception is actually much greater than when you’re relaxed, the main problem with nerves is that most people let this work against them. Make a minor flub in a friendly match? “Whatever, it happens”. Flub in a tournament match? “Shit I never miss those fuck why am I playing so badly shit fuck what am I doing oh God-” *end stock*. The heightened perception makes you far more conscious of your mistakes, but the reality is that you only become flub prone if you allow a single mistake to cascade in your mind into a nightmare.

So, here are some tips that hopefully help you out of Spaghettiland

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Even maestros feel the effects of nerves

1- It’s okay to be nervous. Maybe this is the first time you have a chance of making it out of pools, this is a big deal, this is to you what cracking top 8 at EVO might be to another player. Don’t try to suppress and fight the feeling of nervousness because it just won’t work. This is a big deal and you know it, don’t freeze up, don’t hesitate, just play.

2- Remind yourself that you know what you’re doing. Chances are as a competent player in the modern meta, you know your matchups, frame data, spacing, and setups/combos etc. You know how to play. That’s why usually when you play badly, you go “well that was a bad performance”. Just because you’re in a high pressure environment, doesn’t mean all the knowledge and ability you have disappears. It’s all there, and as long as you keep reminding yourself that you know what you’re doing, you’ll be able to elevate your baseline level of play (the most important thing for any competitor). If you’re a very new player then it’s a different story, but in your case just focus on doing your best and learning as much as you can from your games.

3- Focus your heightened perception on your opponent. Watching your opponent instead of yourself is one of the first things you’re taught when you enter competitive Smash, but when people get nervous, the heightened perception equates to being incredibly self conscious. Being self conscious just means you’re not watching your opponent, and if there’s any time you can read your opponent to the best of your ability, it’s when you’re at peak alertness. When you also have one thing to anchor your mind to, it makes it a whole lot easier to keep yourself together mentally.

4- Unless you can tell it’s a do or die situation, do NOT attempt something which you can’t pull off with a high degree of consistency in unpressurized situations. Specifically in Melee where a technical mistake can often equal a lost stock, be careful not to attempt playing beyond your limit when the risk-reward ratio isn’t favorable enough, a heavy punish is a massive morale and momentum killer, and we all know what happens from there.

5- Gloss over your mistakes and keep going. You have all the time in the world to analyze what you did wrong when the game is over, try to keep your mind on what’s been working for you and build from there. Of course this doesn’t mean keep doing the same thing since that means predictability, but you get the general idea.

6 – Stop thinking about technical execution. How do you know you haven’t mastered a technique? You’re conscious about performing it in a match. If you can do it, you can do it. It’s called muscle memory for a reason, your conscious attempts at your technical execution only serve to hamper it. Instead you should be focusing on the broader sense of what you need to do mid match, and your hands will do the work without your concentrated effort.

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The Caffeine Factor

Being a westerner, I’m inevitably juiced up to the eyeballs on caffeine. Well, not anymore actually, but to say it isn’t still a significant part of my daily life would be a lie. Caffeinated beverages are chugged down like water by gamers, but when it comes to a high pressure setting, lots of caffeine isn’t exactly the best idea. See, caffeine’s most useful trait is that it staves off mental fatigue, maintaining alertness when the brain would slowly be winding down. This doesn’t actually require a huge amount of caffeine, but constant intake in small increments. Unfortunately, the way most people go about it is to chug down 32 ounces of Monster in the space of a few minutes. If that alone didn’t give you jittery, clammy hands, the added stress of nerves will definitely tip you over the edge. Then you really are pretty screwed, so moral of the story is don’t go overboard with the caffeine because it really will work against you.

To sum up, a nervous mind is your mind being converted from a lame Prius to an F1 racer. Yes, it’s hard to control an F1 car, but when you actually learn how to do it, you zip round corners at 100mph instead of humming through the suburbs like Teri Hatcher.

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Gotta go fast.

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Posted on April 6, 2015, in Help & Guides, Smash and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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