We got an Esports team to peak performance in 10 days
Qallo x Sector One bootcamp
It was a so-so season and the Belgian League Country Finals was soon approaching. The Belgian League of Legends’ Sector One team needed to turn things around. They arrived at the Qallo facilities for a High Performance Boot Camp a tiny bit skeptical, but hopeful nonetheless. Whatever they were feeling, they needed results. After an intense week at Camp, amazing things happened–injuries were healed, scores improved, attitudes shifted–both at the individual & team levels. Guess who won and was crowned Belgian Champions?
In this 10-day boot camp overview, we look at the changes that led Sector One to victory. We analyzed the achievements and hope to inspire other teams and players to work on their overall health and performance.
About Qallo and High Performance in Esports
Simply put, Qallo’s mission is to empower gamers, streamers, coaches and Esports athletes to reach their full potential responsibly. That's why we are developing a range of high-quality, nutrition products backed by science. We wholly believe in nutrition’s capacity but know it is only a piece of the peak performance puzzle. Our holistic Esports Performance Framework uses data and best practices from both within the Esports industry as well as from other sports.
Upgrading your in-game performance is linked to multiple areas, as seen in the image below.
Since physical injuries and stress-related conditions are the top reason why competitive players end their careers early, paying attention to the factors listed above helps ensure better and longer play. Let's delve into these topics covered throughout the Boot Camp.
According to scientific research, it takes approximately two to three months to change behavior. So while we knew it was impossible for players to form new habits within a week, we decided to focus instead on creating a structured, supportive environment. We shared insight and techniques that players could experiment with at their own pace. We demonstrated how a clear and structured schedule that minimized unwanted distractions could also have a marked impact.
We launched our kick-off presentation at the beginning of the week. Everybody shared how they were feeling and discussed their current state-of-mind and expectations. We laid out a schedule and modeled a relaxed mindset with the credo to be open and have fun—the rest will follow.
Proper training requires the right environment. We equipped our performance center with powerful hardware, ergonomic chairs, controlled lighting and heating, plus a blazing fast fiber internet connection. Many teams underestimate the importance of using sound and light to train stage awareness.
Training requires a frequent review of your and your teammates’ gameplay. We built a small auditorium with a massive screen to VOD review own games or analyze the games of competitors. Doing this away from individual computer screens created an open environment to discuss certain decisions and tactics made in past games.
Qallo did not get involved with the in-game training in the ramp up to the Country Finals. We did, however, discuss training objectives with the team coach and analyst as they planned the necessary drills and scrims to prepare. With only a few days' time, we could not focus on building mechanical skills, so rather kept the focus centered on macro-tactics and team collaboration.
2. Sleep And Recovery
A good night's rest is crucial for cognitive performance and overall health. The body replenishes its energy stores during sleep. Due to the nature of Esports, it's harder to maintain a regular sleep schedule. Competition and training often go on well into the night leading to exposure to blue light in the early evening which makes it harder to fall asleep later. We found a few workarounds that can help players get a high-quality sleep schedule.
We invited Siebe Hannosset, a holistic lifestyle and peak performance coach. He shared several useful tips that could immediately be implemented to make falling asleep easier and ensure deeper sleep.
The two tips that resonated the most were 1) taking a hot shower 60 - 90 minutes before going to bed and 2) using glasses in the evening made to block out blue light.
The team also had the opportunity to test QSleep for a week, a plant-based food supplement that restores the biological clock, promotes falling asleep and sleep consistency, and delivers rest and relaxation.
Case: Increased Sleep Quality
Saviour, the team's support player, is an ex-professional full-contact karate athlete. Conscious about his physical and mental health, he uses an Oura ring to track sleep quality.
Although he had no major issues with sleep, Saviour did wake up numerous times throughout the night which affected deep sleep.
After using QSleep and trying the recommendations he received, he improved the quality of his sleep as evidenced by the Oura Ring.
3. Physical Exercise And Mobility
Sitting behind a computer screen for hours on end while only doing micro-movements is surprisingly taxing on the body. Being in good physical shape has an array of proven benefits and helps players maintain a longer focus and prevent injuries. We highlighted physical health throughout the week with a core stability workshop, a mobility & stretching workshop, and incorporating daily walks or quick exercise breaks (like a round of jumping jacks).
Physiotherapists Toon Hens and Sander Nuyens work with world record holders from traditional sports and prepared a custom training schedule for Sector One.
The players learned the importance of stretching daily to prevent injuries but also to increase reaction time. The team learned several neck, shoulder, back and wrist exercises as well as experienced the benefits of using a foam roller.
Toon reiterated that when dealing with an injury, a physician needs to be consulted—online advice for injury recovery or rehab schedules is not reliable.
Case: Practise's Shoulder
"We've realized amazing results with the team's ADC, Practice.
He had a blockage in his shoulder, preventing him from moving his arm above his shoulder, and a painful wrist, which kept him from playing for longer periods of time. By removing the shoulder blockage, Practice was able to resume normal movement.
He got a clear training schedule & should be able to completely recover from his injury."
Toon Hens – accredited Physiotherapist
Core Stability Workshop
The core stability workshop was hosted by personal trainer and lifestyle coach Arno Schurmans. He coaches & trains entrepreneurs and CEOs across the globe.
During the workshop, Arno explained the six primary movement patterns and exercises that support these movements. We discovered that several players had limited core stability, which is essential for injury prevention when sitting for longer periods of time.
In the morning, we incorporated regular walks outside, and in the afternoon we stretched outside for some fresh air and blood flow.
If the weather was bad, we stayed inside for some jumping jacks or push-ups. The team analyst signalled his commitment by also joining in the sessions and the players reminded one another to stay on top of the exercises.
The team shared their struggles with setting up a proper nutrition schedule. Although already aware of the importance and benefits of a good diet, the players had irregular eating habits with a lot of unhealthy snacks, sugary drinks and fast food. Though we did not hold a session specific to good nutrition, Qallo did offer plenty of healthy options throughout the week.
It turns out that the average human body consists of 65% water and even slight dehydration dramatically impacts focus. Drinking a minimum 1 - 1.5 liters of water per day is advised, preferably more (up to three liters). We stressed hydration throughout the week so the players drank more water than usual; we also kept the fridge stocked with delicious low-sugar drinks.
We selected low carb meals with lean, high protein meat and a lot of vegetables for the needed vitamins. In terms of snacks we provided cricket bars, nuts, fruit and low sugar popcorn and corn chips. Eating healthy for ten days in a row with fewer carbs, more protein and adequate hydration really impacted the team. Everyone felt more energized and engaged.
Case: Dibu's Diet
Dibu, the team's jungler, was an interesting case. When he served in the military, he ate healthily and got into top physical shape.But once his enlistment was over, he got into a pizza-based eating routine.
Dibu was so happy with the healthy food during boot camp that he decided to overhaul his diet for the long term.
5. Mental Resilience And Well-Being
Many Esports players feel heavy pressure before, during and after games from their teammates, management and sponsors. A lot is at stake so consistent, impressive outcomes are expected, however, most players are relatively young and lack experience in coping with sudden demands for top-level performance. We hosted a breathing & yoga workshop and led a positive visualization exercise.
The breathing workshop was hosted by sleep expert Siebe Hannosset. Siebe is a strong advocate and practitioner of Intermittent Living, where you regularly stimulate controlled stressors, so the body and mind gets used to coping in high stress environments.
Siebe explained how the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system worked, which fascinated the team. He then guided the team through hypoxia (to get an energy & focus boost) and induced hypercapnia (to calm down after a spike of stress) breathing exercise.
The players embraced this concept and practiced regularly throughout the week. They even incorporated some of the exercises at the Belgian League Country Finals.
The team also had the opportunity to test QFocus during the week, a plant-based food supplement that enhances focus and concentration, supports mental endurance and boosts your energy.
"So far I've been taking some of the QFocus supplements. So far as I can tell, I'm able to keep my focus in-game. I've played multiple games and I noticed even though the 'grind' was kinda long, I could just keep on going."
Jeroen 'Night' Segers - League of Legends player
We invited Nina De Man, a renowned yogi, to lead the team through a yoga session. Stretching usually comes first to mind with the word “yoga,” but Nina instead focused on the mindfulness aspect of the practice.
Yoga creates the space to connect and care for one’s self and the people around you. We managed to create some amusing situations as players twisted and bent their bodies into different angles, but the important thing is players felt calm and relaxed after the uplifting session.
6. Team dynamics
In order for the team to perform well together, unspoken frustrations between some members of the team had to be addressed. We opted not to hold a specific session on individual awareness and team dynamics, but rather create an open environment with a lot of positive external conversational sparks for dialogue between team members. A ping-pong table might sound gimmicky, but it was probably one of the best facility investments Qallo made for the boot camp.
The team played ping pong a lot, which boosted physical activity but also ended up fostering open conversations about what was happening in their lives and how it impacted player relationships and in-game performance.
The last dinner before the Country Finals also took place on the ping pong table. Key takeaways were not to take everything too seriously and even the simple, ordinary things can cause the most impact.
There is only so much you can do within a week, but Qallo was really happy with the overall results. Not only did we help support a team in winning the Belgian League Country Finals, but we also inspired players with strategies, tactics and techniques that can be applied over the course of their careers for the rest of their lives.
"The bootcamp helped us in getting the edge we needed to win the country finals, all of our players could use a change of pace and the Qallo guys did an amazing job accommodating us."
- Tibo 'Nissa' Nijs, League of Legends analyst/assistant coach