Sport psychologist reveals coaching steps to success for Tundra Esports’ TI-winning Dota 2 team

Tundra Win The International

London-based esports organisation Tundra won The International 2022 (TI 2022) just over a week ago, a sensational achievement in itself and a first for UK esports.

Tundra were not the favourites to win the tournament, yet they pulled off a dominant upper bracket run and a straight 3-0 sweep in the grand final versus Team Secret.

Now a sport psychologist who works with Tundra has revealed some of their performance coaching methods.

Daniel Abrahams, a former pro golfer, who specialises in psychology, coaching and skilled performance, and runs The Sport Psych Show podcast, revealed some insightful information in this Twitter thread, which has around 400 retweets and 2,000 likes.

Daniel said: “Tundra had worked tirelessly for six months with myself on five biopsychosocial pillars to give us our best chance to win. The five pillars we created were:

  1. Leadership
  2. Structure
  3. Values/Behaviours
  4. Deliberate Practice
  5. High Performance Mindsets

“The main remit from management for me was to help players be able to high perform under the intense pressure of a global audience of millions.

“All of the above contributed to this (the team had historically under-performed late in tournaments). I soon realised that for them to win – engagement across the team had to improve, they needed to be better learners, and only then did they need performance tools.”

Dan went on to explain each pillar in detail. For example, within leadership, he emphasised the importance of the coach and team captain ‘leading with clear instructions for final decisions’.

“Leadership isn’t leadership if strategy, tactics and process aren’t delivered in a clear, concise and confident manner with some involvement from all stakeholders, in my opinion,” he said.

Around the structure pillar, Daniel emphasised the importance of a daily routine, time together for social cohesion, and time to rest and recuperate for wellbeing.

“Esports players tend to over-practice and under-rest. Daily structure helped reduce the chances of burnout and increased a sense of cohesion (social and task) and horizontal coherence (in all they did) across the team,” he said.

Around values and behaviour, Daniel and Tundra came up with team values, like honesty and support.

One of the key things here – which a lot of organisations don’t seem to get right – was around ‘compliance’ – and the idea of promoting a respect for individual differences and raising the importance of contestation.

“Uncomfortable conversation and debate are great bedfellows in any high performing team. Our combined values and behaviours may have led to contestation but it also worked in servitude for certainty.”

Daniel Abrahams

Daniel also spoke about how scrims required ‘deliberate execution’ and ‘effortful attention’ with specific objectives and feedback. He tapped into the work of Anders Ericsson and aimed for Tundra to practice better than everyone else in this space, keeping practice goal-oriented ‘with attention to specific strategies we intended to use in a tournament setting’.

Finally, the high performance mindsets Daniel wanted to instil, and the ability for the team to notice a drop in any low performance mindsets.

“Individual and team mental frameworks became critical essentials in our search for excellence and subsequently in our capacity to high perform under the most intense pressure,” Daniel said. “This started by helping each player know their HPM.

“Mental techniques such as attention shifting, self-talk, and embodied solutions were utilised.”

Aside from all this coaching, let’s not forget Tundra did have that Eva Elfie buff as well.

Esports continues to place a greater focus on performance coaching and wellbeing. Earlier today, FIFA has announced that the sleep and meditation app Calm will be the official mindfulness and meditation product of the FIFAe Nations Cup 2023, as well as sporting events the FIFA World Cup 2022 and FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023.

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