Today, the majority of the teams in esports use the services of a sports psychologist to improve the overall performance of the team. And from a parental point of view, within the staff supervising the team, the psychologist is a very important actor for the well-being of your child.
I asked a few questions to the psychologist of the MAD Lions team who introduces you to her profession and gives some advice to young players who would like to become professional gamers.
Can you please introduce yourself and your background?
My name is Martina Čubrić and I am 25 years old. My passion for sports and competition comes from a 18 year long semi-professional career in basketball where I learned about sacrifice and what it takes to reach success and overcome losses.
My career took a sharp turn after my first knee surgery and it ended after a third knee surgery. I have decided to move on and prioritize my studies so I could return to competitive discipline in a different role – a sports psychologist. After finishing 4 years of undergraduate studies in psychology, I have continued with specialization in masters of sports psychology. During my last year of undergrad and an academic year of masters, I have been working as an intern in MAD Lions with different teams we had back then: CS:GO, Fortnite, Clash Royale, FIFA and of course, League of Legends. During my internship, I was soaking up knowledge of esports sector as it was something new for me and by the end of the internship period, I knew that I had what it takes to continue developing in a field and stay with MAD Lions.
Now I am a full-time sports psychologist for 5 teams: MAD Lions LEC, MAD Lions SLO, MAD Lions CS:GO, Toronto Ultra and Toronto Defiant. I continue learning, attending workshops, seminars and adapting sports psychology to esports needs daily. My next goal is to finish masters in cognitive psychology so I can obtain more tools to use with players and staff.
Tell us about your job and the work you do at Mad Lions.
There is a lot of observation, listening and taking notes before I jump into action. My primary focus is on prevention of burnout – mental and physical exhaustion, by introduction of daily habits and teaching tools to better cope with stress caused by the pressure of a competitive scene. I aim to raise awareness about emotions, interactions and mental processes that go unnoticed in order to identify strengths and weaknesses of an individual/a team so we can modify/correct/improve them and become a better player/person during the process.
All this needs to be previously agreed upon with coaches, managers and sports scientists to make any sense because we all need to be on the same page if we want any changes to occur.
My job is quite a complex one because it includes a lot of open communication channels, feedback and follow-ups as well as the creative process of coming up with different activities and ways to send a message in an adequate format.
What is your typical work week?
I am currently working with 5 different teams in 4 different countries and 2 different time zones. Needless to say, it is very dynamic… Usually I take mornings for learning, creation of material, coming up with ideas and setting goals for the day/week. This is my only time when I am assured to have ‘a peace of mind’ without distractions because esports world has a natural late clock 😊
Around 11:00 is when meetings start: team sessions, staff meetings, individual talks, etc. I have team sessions every 2 weeks with each team and 1on1s every 10 days approximately, so I can be well informed and track the progress of players as we continue working on objectives.
Some days end up very late as there are always players who prefer to have 1on1s after their scrims, so I usually adapt to their needs. A working week also contains observations of scrims (focus on communication) from time to time and problem-solving with each team staff on a weekly basis.
What are the main difficulties that the players encounter?
Some of the frequent difficulties are: resistance to change, cognitive anxiety (worry, fear, overthinking, …), taking care of themselves (nutrition, physical exercise, disconnection time), communicating their needs timely and adequately, sleep hygiene, routines and responsibility. As a matter of fact, we are working the most on these factors and in return they give us a competitive edge as soon as we manage to implement solutions properly.
How do you help the players?
There is not a specific one-key solution for all the difficulties, but there is a factor that is crucial to reach success: discipline and consistency. We are not working on quick fixes, tips and tricks, rather on a stable and steady upward progress where we notice and analyse bumps on the road and develop strategies for how to better handle those same situations in the future. We are sowing the seeds for these young people so they can come up with solutions themselves soon enough. We want to encourage autonomy and help them be equipped for any adversity that might come.
Do you have some advice for young players who would like to join a professional team?
Young players need to understand that being an esports professional requires lots of sacrifice and discipline. I did not say hard work on purpose because I believe that it is turning to be ‘smart’ work more each day. I suggest to all young players to take care of their physical and mental shape, expose themselves to different kinds of experiences, especially ones that include going out of their comfort zone and learning and to have a schedule. Esports clubs are evolving and they are not only looking for ‘superstars’, but also for good, organized team players that fit the working culture that is established from within. ‘The grind’ is not everything…
Do you have a funny story with Olivier or other players to tell me?
I have been working with Olivier for over a year now and there are lots of stories to tell. With him the communication is flawless so now we reached a point where we have time to make fun of each other, in a good sense. Last time I remember we had a 1 on 1 session and in the background, he saw my basketball trophies so he asked me to show him and after, in a minute or two, he made a meme.
They never fail to surprise me with their ideas.
There is a team example when, in our mindfulness meditation practice, it was so relaxing that one of our players, Flakked, fell asleep. He was so comfortable and in his own world that we had to wait for him after everyone finished to snap out of it. That was a good relaxation session. 😊
Can you tell us about your blog?
My blog is called Triple threat. Name comes from a basketball stance from which you can do 3 things: bounce the ball, shoot the ball and pass the ball. My ‘triple threat’ consists of my 3 passions: nutrition, sports/physical activity and psychology which are 3 topics that I am writing about on my blog.
I have always liked writing and this blog is an outlet to my ideas and a call for collaborators who want to share their knowledge about specific topics of their expertise. My blog is still really underdeveloped, but it is more of a hobby than anything else for me. No pressure, only fun and sharing with the rest.
I am looking forward to receiving any feedback, possible collaborators or editors that want to help me make it into something better. 😊
And for those that might be interested, some videos of Martina in spanish :