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The Loadout: Building Your New Esports Team

The Loadout is a series of articles with a wide range of industry perspectives for esports entrepreneurs who want to create or purchase their own teams or team organizations.

Part 1: Burnout

So you’re starting an esports team.

You have a name. A cool logo. Some great players. But have you thought about the team’s culture? The team’s mental and physical health? There’s more to a team than just raising money, signing the best players, and having Instagram-worthy facilities. We’ll definitely talk about all those things in future installments of The Loadout, but before we even go there, we need to ensure that the core of the organization starts right. This core is the players, and players are people too. Often, they have needs that are not being met by current major team organizations (your competitors).

These unmet needs become risks that can threaten your investment and your team’s success.

To kick off The Loadout, we’re going to talk about one of these risks: burnout. Why are esports athletes getting burned out with the games they love to play, but football players can play for decades? Let’s take the esport of Overwatch as an example. Every few weeks players–some of them top players in the League–jump ship to play other games such as Riot’s new title Valorant. ‘Overwatch is dead’ memes aside, why are professional players abandoning one esport for another?

On July 26th of this year, Dr Doug Gardner, a Mental Performance Coach in traditional sports and esports, tweeted out in response to a tweet of a player retiring:

“Player after player succumb to mental & physical toll of a 29-week season, where most teams have played roughly 16 games. Months of preseason practice & endless days of scrims while isolating. Gotta be a more humane way. “

This sparked further conversation on reddit from the Head Coach of the Atlanta Reign, Brad “Sephy” Rajani. He talked about how practice schedules don’t line up with the number of games they are playing. “They will have about 30 hours of scheduled practice alone, so not counting all the ranked ladder on their own time, to play a single game vs a single opponent, and when you lose, it feels like a gut punch. Now imagine you go through that every week, for like 7 months almost continuously, and you start to understand why players are quitting left and right.”

Not only are these players practicing for a single match 30 hours a week or more, but they are also going home and playing more of that same game. Here is a critical point: as a new team owner, you and your staff NEED NEED NEED to help the players do things other than play their esport. Patrick Mahomes doesn’t go home after every practice to play more football. Sure, he could be going home to watch film or play some Madden, but he isn’t going home to put the pads back on and play a game against the Baltimore Ravens every night.

Team activities that aren’t gaming-related, time for mental health breaks, and giving players the tools they need to get personalized help can go miles to prevent player burnout. Some players may be resistant, but as a new owner you must ensure that your front office staff are there to show players the benefits of taking breaks, to set the expectations of downtime, rest, and recuperation. New team owners who start with this approach will create long-term advantages in team performance and ultimately increase the value of their investments.