PokéPrep #7 The Real Solution To Overcoming Tournament Nerves

Hello Reddit, I’m Primitive and today I am here to present you with the next article of the PokéPrep series! This will (hopefully) be a weekly series of articles focused on providing simple, actionable tips that can be applied to improve your VGC gameplay but don’t involve actual in-game tips! Today’s topic will be providing you with a long term solution to tournament nerves.

The day I started writing this article is also the first day of Players Cup 2, and on Twitter I saw multiple people ask how to handle tournament nerves/jitters. Although there were a lot of people offering great advice the main issue I saw with these pieces of advice was the fact people were only offering short term solutions and not offering a long term solution that can eventually end most tournament nerves.

I have played VGC since 2012, and also played Hearthstone professionally at the highest level for 4 years, giving me a lot of stressful tournament experience and today I plan to give you the main steps I take to eliminate my tournament nerves.

Now let me first say that no matter what you do some people will still have some level of nerves the day of a tournament. This makes sense after all as you probably spent a lot of time and money in the case of the official circuit and you want to perform to the standard you have set for yourself. But if you do not start taking the necessary steps to begin eliminating these nerves you will always find yourself spending a lot of time and energy panicking instead of enjoying yourself and winning.

Disclaimer:

Ridding yourself of nerves is not a 1 step solution, nor is it something you can just do the day of the tournament. Ridding yourself of tournament nerves is something that will require you to take steps in your everyday life even when you don’t have any tournaments coming up. Any solution you have for tournament nerves on that big day is likely a short term solution and I’m going to help you begin your journey to long term confidence on that big day.

Confidence:

Confidence is a huge part in tournament success, although there are a lot of players who have highly negative mindsets that have done well in events, there are way more players who have done well that go in confident in themselves, their play, and their team.

I have written a more in depth guide on building self confidence which you can read here. But for this article I will give you a quick rundown and relate it to VGC.

Self confidence can also be seen as self trust. If you do not trust yourself to do a task, and do it properly you will lack self confidence. My biggest tip to building self confidence is to set yourself a goal, and follow through regardless of how you feel, or what your inner voice tells you. An example I like to give is if you set yourself to begin exercising then you show up and get exercising even if it’s just a walk NO MATTER WHAT. You want to do this everyday in some sort of facet in your day to day life. If you are able to begin trusting yourself to get the job done at a high level then you will be able to easily transition that confidence over to VGC and you play.

To relate this to VGC if you set yourself a goal to improve at VGC you should be setting aside time everyday you have available to play games, study teams, watch YouTube videos/Twitch streams, and try out new archetypes you may find online. If you fail to do this consistently then the day of the tournament you will have a lot of nerves due to lack of confidence since you know deep down you didn’t do all you needed to do to be able to succeed at a high level.

Start by setting yourself a goal, as an example I would suggest you give yourself 1 hour of practice every day you are able to set aside that time, and do it with 0 distractions. That means turn your phone off/leave it in another room, close out any tabs on your computer besides music, pokemonshowdown and a note taking app if you don’t want to take handwritten notes. Keep your full focus on the game and making the plays you feel are best, and regardless of win or lose make sure you take notes about how the game played to get something out of each game to improve your play or your team. Then you should review these notes by yourself or with friends and apply the knowledge to your next session of play.

Building self confidence is one of if not the biggest tool to rid yourself of tournament nerves. 

(I still highly recommend you check out my more in depth blog post linked above about building self confidence)

Nutrition:

What you eat plays a huge part in how you feel on a day to day basis. I highly recommend you eat healthy each meal everyday, but I know that poor diet habits are hard to rid yourself of quickly. However, if you are trying to rid yourself of tournament nerves you need to at minimum get your tournament day diet on lock. If your breakfast before a tournament are foods like sugar cereal, waffles, fried foods, or high sugar content drinks like Starbucks coffee then you are going to be putting your body in an un optimal state for controlling your emotions. Filling yourself with such terrible foods/drinks will not only drain you of energy later in the day making your tournament run worse than it could have been, but it will give you a jittery feeling before you even get to feel tournament nerves which will only compound to feeling even more nervous and jittery.

Now I’m not going to recommend a diet to you, as I know an optimal diet is usually a person by person case, but I well recommend some options.

For all meals during a tournament you should avoid the food that is served at the vendors there at all costs. These foods are overpriced, filled with sugar, grease, fatty oils, and most likely lots of fried foods. Every single tournament I have been to in my 10+ years of competing has had a grocery store near it, or at minimum a $10 Uber trip away. Not only will buying whole food groceries be healthier for you, but you will save a ton of money through the course of the weekend.

You should be eating foods that give high energy through slow burning carbs, proteins, and fibers. My go to tournament breakfast for example is scrambled eggs, Greek yogurt with blueberries, and some walnuts. And my go to lunch is a serving of protein either grilled chicken breast, or salmon, with a side salad, banana, and a protein bar with <1 gram of sugar. These may not be the most tasty meals in the world to some (although I love it) but keep in mind this isn’t just any ordinary day. If you are truly looking to do your best in a tournament you should be giving your body the best nutrients to keep your mind sharp throughout the entire tournament.

Nutrition is a huge part of success in tournaments for high level competitors like chess Grandmasters, NBA players, and Olympians and any research will show you that you shouldn’t be naïve and deny that nutrition doesn’t have drastic effects on your performance/mental energy. It breaks my heart seeing so many players before a tournament stuff themselves with fatty/sugary foods and then wonder why they are fatigued later in the day. Do your research, test out new meals in your everyday life and find the meals which provide you the most natural energy while keeping it tasty and healthy.

Preparation:

This kind of goes hand in hand with the confidence part and making sure you do what you need to be able to perform.

Preparation is key, if you build a team the night before a tournament that you wish to do well in you will most likely have nerves because you won’t fully know how your team works together, how to play certain matchups, or even what the ev spreads of your Pokémon are.

I know there are lots of players who claim to have built a team the night before a tournament and went on to do well, but this is a fabrication of the truth. Those players may have built the unique 6 Pokémon the night before but they will have experience with many members of the team and know how to use them, and how they interact with each other/opposing matchups. Don’t fall for people’s claims to make them seem like a Pokémon god and think you can just wing a team before every tournament and succeed.

If you want to alleviate nerves before a tournament make sure you are preparing properly. Give yourself a few weeks before the big tournament to begin testing, dedicate undistracted time to practice, and make sure you don’t pin yourself into one team/archetype too early and test around all teams you can find even if you “don’t like them” to ensure you find a team that is comfortable for you and you can pilot successfully.

If you are confident and comfortable in the team you brought and the matchups you have, then you will not be as nervous for a tournament because you will know what to do each time you see your opponents 6 on team preview.

Eliminate The Worry Of Names:

One big factor for tournament nerves is the other players in attendance. You may see previous regional, national, or even world champions at these events but the fact of the matter is that these players are just human. No player is perfect, and VGC is NOT a game of skill, it is a game of knowledge, and prediction, meaning if you put in the time to know your team and your matchups then all it takes is a few good plays and predictions to win the set and beat these players.

There are no players who win every tournament they play, meaning it doesn’t matter if it’s Wolfe, JoeUX9, Hirofumi, or your favorite streamer, they take losses in multiple tournaments preventing them from always winning. If you freak yourself out and get nervous over a player’s name then you are giving them the advantage before the game plays and a lot of veteran players can notice your body language and responses to turns and take advantage of this by going on the offensive to catch any potential misplays you may have.

This isn’t something you can just rid yourself of overnight, however if you can begin to build team confidence through proper preparation, you will begin to play more high level players in practice and begin to realize they are just humans who are good at a game, but not perfect and you can win any matchup you have. 

An opponent is an opponent, you should treat your random round 1 opponent like they are a world champion and treat a world champion like a random round 1 opponent and always give them the respect they deserve as a player. But don’t forget to respect yourself and your abilities, you are at these tournaments for a reason, you love the game and spend time playing it, just use that time wisely and watch yourself begin to take sets off of players you admire.

Attach Yourself To Growth and Learning, Not The Results:

The biggest obstacle I had when growing as a player was not looking for growth as a player, and instead only looking at the wins. I touch on this in my tournament day article which you can read here but you should be more focused on improving each tournament more than you should worry about winning.

Pokémon has random elements to it that can end a tournament run with you having little to no control over, and if you focus on only winning the entire event then you will obviously have a higher level of nerves because you will be anticipating that moment you can get crit, paralyzed or flinched to lose a game. However, keep in mind its usually very unlikely to lose a best of three set purely by being unlucky because you have other games to play making RNG elements much less likely to impact all games.

If you attaching yourself to growth instead of results you can use these losses to learn if you could have prevented the RNG by either leading differently/bringing different Pokémon in the back, or if your team is too passive and you should have had a better strategy for a Pokémon that causes RNG (like choice scarf Landorus-T rock slides) in the team building phase. Doing this will alleviate a lot of stress as you begin to focus more on learning as much as you can about the game and your mistakes instead of cursing the world for your “misfortune.”

Sometimes, but very uncommon to happen you will lose a best of three set specifically on lots of RNG. For example Round 1 of Dallas regionals this year in 2020, I got fully paralyzed 7 times in 2 games vs a thunder wave Grimmsnarl with one of the games my dynamax Pokémon being 3 of those full para’s and getting 0 attacks off because of it.

Yes I was slightly upset at losing round 1 of a tournament to that but I didn’t let it ruin my run or my mood, I talked with my group about it, jotted down the notes in my notebook, and was able to identify the team I brought didn’t have proper way’s for me to prevent these thunder waves from happening. Through this loss I was able to take that information and learn that my team was highly passive to this type of RNG and needed to find options to begins countering this tactic such as ground or electric types, lightning rod users, safeguard, or prankster taunt. After the tournament I began to look for fixes to the team alongside the other notes I took that tournament.

This mindset is much better and healthier for a true competitor in a game that doesn’t rely on skill as you will grow as a player much faster, and save yourself from lots of unnecessary anger, and disappointment by identifying that RNG is controllable to a degree and to master it you must continually respect in all phases of the game instead of complaining about it. It’s a lot harder to be disappointed with a loss that has given you ways to improve your gameplay if your goal is to learn and improve.

Video version of this article: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pdYgEso4RLU&t


Thank you for reading today’s article! If you enjoyed please give this post a share, or consider checking out my social media for more VGC improvement content. You can find my Twitter here, YouTube here and my Twitch channel here. If you have any topic suggestions for future PokéPrep articles please feel free to DM on twitter!  I hope you enjoyed and I wish you a fantastic day!

Published by Primitive

My name is Michael, but if you know my from competitive gaming you probably know me as Primitive. I'm a life long competitor in various card games, and turn based games who still has the burn to compete and work to be my best. I have been on a health and fitness journey since February 2018 and it is now one of my burning passions, making one of my new major goals to become a personal trainer to help others see the benefits exercise and nutrition can bring!

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