While some people still claim esports athletes aren’t athletes at all, most gamers and esports fans know by now that being a pro gamers isn’t any less challenging than being any other type of pro athlete. Sure, players train by playing video games instead of chasing after a ball, but they work just as hard.
Here are 5 curious facts about esports athlete training that you may not have known about!
1. Esports athletes training is more than gaming!
It seems pretty obvious at a glance. Esports pro players… play esports games for a living. The reality is more complicated though – their training consists of far more than just playing games. For team-based games, for example, players need to hold strategy meetings to discuss how to work together, what to do in certain situations and how to make up for each other’s weak spots.
That’s just one of the several things esports players have to stay on top of. Fitness is another. At a glance, it may seem like fitness really doesn’t matter much, as long as a player can move their hands on a mouse and keyboard. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Many teams, such as FaZe clan, go so far as to hire fitness and nutrition coaches for their players, to help them stay in good shape. Back exercises help counteract bad posture from the gaming chairs, general fitness keeps up reflex speed, and so on.
2. Pro esports athletes training schedules are crazy!
While fitness, nutrition and sleep are important aspects to the pro life, they can be hard to fit around the training schedule of dedicated pros. Exact training hours depend on the team, game and individual players, but pros like the League of Legends team Team Liquid have confirmed that they practice as much as 50 hours per week, and many of them play even more than that.
Even on weekends, players will get rounds in – and it’s not just playing for fun, but repeatedly practicing specific moves, specific techniques, and particular strategies. Actual playing ‘for fun’ isn’t really part of the training plan most days, though many players still play in their free time.
3. Training intensity differs by region/team/game
Each team and each organisation has their own dedicated training plans and expectations from its players. Where many teams encourage their players to live together to make it easier to train their teamwork, others don’t expect players to leave their homes at all.
There are even differences by country – in South Korea, for example, one of the most prolific countries in the esports world – it’s not uncommon to see players training as long as 12 to 14 hours in one day, with only 4 hours of sleep. While that isn’t particularly healthy, players like SK Telekom T1’s Chae “Piglet” Gwang-jin and his teammate Kim “Fenix” Jae-hun have confirmed that they follow that sort of schedule.
North American and European schedules tend to be less punishing, but it’s still not unusual to see 8 to 10 hours of play in one day, and that for up to six days per week.
4. Pro players have to give up a lot of their time.
Using the example of Team Liquid’s former League of Legends roster, players have a few hours of free time per week at most. Where a 9-5 job will leave workers with their weekends off, the Team Liquid team trains 4 days per week, plays actual matches on the weekends, with only one day per week off – and many still practice in their time off, with occasional visits to friends and families.
Relationships often suffer because pro players have little to no time to spend with their partners, and even then, only for a few hours at a time. Trips or holiday are out of the question mid-season, and even outside of that, it isn’t easy to make time for what most people consider a normal part of their lives.
5. Not everyone can take the stress
The truth is that being a pro gamer is incredibly stressful. Most pros start their career young, and are only active for up to ten years, with a few notable exceptions, of course. There is pressure from all sides – the pressure to perform, to win, not to let teammates down, but also the pressure to keep up the rigid training schedules.
It all takes its toll, especially where factors like mental illness and similar problems come to play. For many aspiring pro players, this turns out to be too much. They often go a slightly ‘easier’ route of either staying at semi-pro level and competing alongside having a normal job or education, or devote themselves to streaming, for example.
These issues – in particular, the effects and impact of stress on pro gamers – are still being explored. Support for these problems has increased considerably, but it is still lacking in many ways. In recent years, the conditions for players have improved, for example when the Overwatch League drastically reduced the amount of matches that players were expected to play per season, thus decreasing the stress they were under significantly.