Managing Burnout in the eSports Athlete

We recently looked at what burnout is and symptoms to help identify it in players. While it is all good and well that we are able to say “hey, I think you might have burnout,” it is more important to have tools in place to be able to manage these feelings and emotions in order to protect the well-being of eSports athletes.

There is no one way to treat someone with burnout, since everyone responds differently to stressful stimuli. It is important to tailor your management of burnout to the player themselves. Identifying key causes in why they may be having symptoms of burnout is a good place to start, as you are able to address these individual issues.

When looking at the causes of burnout, we can target individual strategies to managing these aspects with eSports athletes

Problem: Feeling like you have little control over your team
Solution: Allow players to be equal contributors to strategy development and discussion, and give players individual responsibilities within the team so that they feel like that are key contributors to the functioning of the team

Problem: Lack of recognition or reward for good work
Solution: Commend and reward teammates on their improvements and their hard work. Acknowledgement is a big driver of motivation

Problem: Unclear or overly demanding expectations
Solution: Make sure that, when a new season, tournament, split or team starts out, that everyone’s goals are aligned. The expectations need to be realistic for everyone in the team. i.e. the goal is for everyone to rank up from Bronze to Diamond – while not impossible, it is certainly a more demanding expectation. Rather have smaller expectations and goals that you can constantly revise than ones that leave feelings of inadequacy when not met

Problem: Being part of a team that is unchallenging
Solution: Ensure that all members of the team are around the same skill-set, otherwise, make opportunities for players who improve to advance to a team of a higher skill set in order to keep them challenged

Problem: Working in a chaotic or high-pressure team
Solution: While it is nice to gather the best players for each role into a single team, it is unrealistic to think that all these people will get along. Ensure that there is a harmonious team environment, where all members respect each other

Problem: Playing too much, without enough time for socializing or relaxing
Solution: While structured team practices are important, it is also important to allow player to have their own social games, or games that they play for relaxation

Problem: Taking on too many responsibilities, without enough help from others
Solution: This is a particular problem among team leaders. Ensure that leaders have enough support from management and coaches, and that responsibilities are delegated among team members

Healthline, 2019

I took to asking a pro eSports athlete that I know, who was experiencing some burnout, what he was feeling and some of the reasons why he thought he was feeling this way.

I felt tired of playing the game. It was almost like I felt no motivation for the game at that moment of time. I wanted to play anything else than League, or even no games at all.

‘Peanut’, pro eSports athlete

What I have found to be an effective method of dealing with burnout in the eSports athlete is actually fairly simple.

  • Tell the player to take time off – I find that a good period to disconnect is about one to two weeks. This means total disconnection. No casual games, interactions with the team or being made aware of team issues on the ‘time off’
  • Make sure that the team understands – sometimes, members of the team just want to succeed. It is imperative that a team meeting is held in order to discuss the issues that an individual is facing. If an individual requires time off, then explain to the team why that is necessary
  • Re-evaluation of goals – personal and team goals need to be re-discussed and reevaluated. I always recommend that individual goals are small and manageable, so as to avoid feelings of inadequacy. Teams need to align their vision, whatever that may be, but everyone needs to be on the same page
  • Talking about feelings – while this may seem like a generic thing to recommend, it really is important. People struggling with burnout typically also struggle with feelings of inadequacy, lack of support or demotivation. Encouraging them about their abilities, talking about what made them pursue a competitive career or even just showing your support can help to curb burnout

Obviously, seeking professional assistance and help is also an option, but whatever it is that you choose to deal with burnout, it is an important thing to be aware of in the eSports sphere.