Practicing under pressure
This is a topic I've touched on before, but I think it's one that needs more attention. I can't count the number of times that I've seen or worked with teams who go into competition, shit hits the fan from one thing or another, and the team collapses.
I hear things like, "we would have been fine BUT....." or "these T.O.'s are awful, they......" or "WOW unlucky. RNG was shittttttt". And honestly, all those things are probably true. Everything a team is saying that happened is out of their control and most likely negatively impacted their performance that day.
To me, though, that's not good enough. I'm not ready and willing to surrender my team's performance based on the uncontrollable chaos that happens in competition. I want to find ways to prepare a team for that chaos and to squeeze out the top-tier performance DESPITE those things. The million-dollar question becomes: how do we prepare for something that we have no control over and can't predict?
The approach I've taken is summed up with James Kerr's idea of, "most people have the will to win; few have the will to prepare to win"; practicing under pressure. When I'm working with a team, practice isn't about winning. I don't want to sit there and watch my team obliterate another team during scrims and I don't want my team to be playing for a "peak performance".
I want scrims to serve a completely different purpose. My view is that scrims should be a time for me to pressure test my team, to make them uncomfortable, and to throw curveball after curveball at them so that they learn how to adapt. I don't care as much about seeing them play flawlessly or being the best version of themselves. I want practice and scrim time to be so uncomfortable that they learn to adapt to every possible unpredictable thing that could happen during competition. That way when competition day comes, then they are ready to hit that peak.
When other teams are complaining about the desk height, the temperature of the room, the nerves, the tournament structure, and any other issue, our team has already adapted. They've said to themselves, "this is shit. But remember when ____ happened during scrims and we were did ____". They can do this because they didn't practice under "optimal" conditions or to slaughter their scrim partners or to showcase how good they are. They can do this because they trained under pressure and they prepared their mindset for adapting to the chaos.
If you train under optimal conditions, you can only compete in optimal conditions. And competition is rarely going to give you that gift. Practice under pressure.