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How to gain the trust of players as a coach when you first join a team

How to gain the trust of players as a coach when you first join a team

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In this blog I will talk about the psychological benefits of gaming. To make these easier to understand, I will show how gaming produces psychological advantages on five psychological characteristics that are known to drive sporting success, known as the 5Cs: commitment, communication, concentration, emotional control, and confidence.

"Until the lions have their historians, tales of the hunt shall always glorify the hunter" – African Proverb


Online gaming has received constant media attention for its potential negative side effects. Unsurprising then, the research community in a bid to approve or disprove these claims, has prioritised research projects which seek to understand the mental health challenges of esports participation. Sadly, and as the opening quote alludes to, this heavy focus on uncovering mental health issues in the gaming community likely paints a distorted and rather incomplete picture of gaming participation as a one-way ticket to doomsville! Hence, in the spirit of fairness, this blog seeks to give the “lions” their “historians” and speak about the lesser-known “tales of the hunt”, those tales that share how gaming can provide excellent mental development for players.

The 5Cs psychological skills framework proposes the healthy psychological development of players in esports can be measured by the degree to which their participation in esports helps them to achieve five psychological characteristics. These characteristics are referred to as the ‘5Cs’ and are achieved when a young person can consistently reduce negative behaviours and show positive behaviours associated with their Commitment, Communication, Concentration, Emotional Control, and Confidence (Figure 1) (1). This brief overview aims to translate the research findings from two published papers that have reviewed the scientific evidence on the benefits of esports participation (2,3) to suggest how the psychological benefits of gaming can develop a player on their 5Cs. The review papers discussed are considered to have used a research design that would qualify the strength of the scientific evidence as moderately strong, therefore, these recommendations should be considered as tentative suggestions yet positive indicators of the role esport participation can have in the healthy psychological development of its players. 

Figure 1 – The positive and negative behaviours of the 5Cs. Adopted from (1).













COMMITMENTSelf-motivation that promotes learning and long-term playing.

Gaming can promote high amounts of self-motivation. To 'play' means to engage in activities for the fun of it without strict rules and is the opposite of practice – engagement that uses strict rules and is focused on improvement over enjoyment. Play builds self-motivation (long-term participation) because of a focus on promoting personally valued experiences such as having fun and being creative with one’s ability whereas practice can actually lessen self-motivation due to its focus on meeting external rewards such as as the pressure to meet certain performance standards. Games are designed in a way that promotes play more so than practice. For instance, players are encouraged to use their curious minds to explore the game, have fun, socialise, and use creative thinking and initiative to solve ambiguous problems as opposed to following a rigid set of rules. In addition, gaming is an unsupervised practice, meaning gamers play out of choice rather than being told to by an authority figure which further increases their self-motivation and responsibility taking.

Gaming can promote a love for learning and a strong motivation to achieve success. For instance, positive learning behaviours such as giving a high amounts of effort, learning from failure, completing challenges, taking onboard in-game feedback, and mastering a broad skillset are designed into the game experience to encourage players to master the game. These positive learning behaviours are all skills which Dr. Carol Dweck would say gives players a growth mindset - a positive belief that being good at something is down to one's ability to learn and practice (4). Adopting a growth mindset is linked to enhanced academic, workplace, and sporting success (4) and therefore gamers may become better learners as a result of their engagement in gaming. Gamers are also provided with a better learning environment than the classroom environment (2). Educational Psychologists have long proposed that people learn best when they do well on a task yet are constantly challenged to work at a level only slightly beyond their current level of ability. Due to advanced machine learning, games have been intricately designed to adjust the game difficulty to create a 'challenge sweetspot' for players were they face in-game challenges or opponents that are an excellent match for their current skill level (known as the matchmaking system) which is a powerful way to keep players engaged in their learning for a sustained period of time. Hence, through gaming, players will likely develop high standards, develop an excellent ability to learn and gain an appreciation for the important role self-motivation has in helping them develop themselves. These are all psychological characteristics known to drive sporting success.

COMMUNICATION — Great social skills that can build positive relationships.

Gaming can promote great social skills. Most games encourage players to work well together to be successful. Therefore, players learn that to become better at the game requires them to develop positive relationships with other players and that they have a duty to make other players better too. This increase in social motivation improves social behaviour which can mean gaming can play a vital role in helping players build relationships outside of gaming. Gaming also encourages players to learn constructive communication skills to improve their teamwork. Hence, gaming provides players with an excellent opportunity to develop essential communication skills (1). The HELPA acronym is a set of communication skills seen as vital for sporting success and are equally as important in esports (1). The ‘H’ stands for Help which refers to being able to deliver clear and understandable instructions to help teammates within their roles. The ‘E’ stands for encouragement which means to emotionally support teammates in times of difficulty. The ‘L’ stands for listening and refers to taking onboard information from teammates. The ‘P’ stands for praise and refers to being positive towards teammates in help build their confidence. Finally, the ‘A’ stands for appreciation and means to show thanks to teammates for their help. All 5 of these communication skills are consistently demanded of players to be successful when gaming. For instance, see below an example of these communication skills being reviewed by a professional Rocket League team to improve the quality of their team comms. On a final note, communication in esports is multidimensional, with text-based speaking and voice chat being used across a range of digital platforms. Thus, gamers must become digitally competent across different technological methods to communicate effectively. Being both digitally and socially savvy might give gamers an advantage over non-gamers in preparing for and adjusting to the technological advance nature of contemporary and future workplace environments (2). 

Figure 1 - RLCS Team communication review using the HELPA acronym.




CONCENTRATION — Places focus on the right thing in the right moments.

Gaming can improve our ability to control our attention and problem-solve complex problems. It is worth noting when discussing the attentional and problem-solving benefits of gaming that not all game genres have demonstrated this positive effect to the same degree. Currently, fast-paced, first-person shooters have accrued the strongest scientific support for producing such benefits, whereas other game genres have shown weaker or no effects of gaming on concentration skills (2,3). Our ability to control our attention is a mental resource found in the frontal area of the brain. Its main role is to manage distractions, sustain our engagement on tasks, and help us accurately understand different cues in our environment to switch our concentration successfully. Therefore, players who play FPS games may have a more well developed cluster of concentration skills where they are better able to be self-disciplined, focus for longer periods without fatigue, multitask, and switch attention quicker. Alongside improved attentional control, FPS games are also said to improve a player's problem-solving skills through improvement in mental flexibility. Improved mental flexibility involves quicker reaction time, and better reasoning skills, long-term memory, pattern recognition and spatial awareness, which improves a player’s intelligence and creativity. All these improvements have been noticed through positive neurological changes in the brain of gamers who play FPS vs. non-gamers (2,3). The leading hypothesis for why this is the case is due to the unique demands of FPS games. Specifically, FPS games require high amounts of complex thinking skills due to being fast-paced, requiring multitasking, and involves finding solutions to poorly defined problems. To become skilled in efficiently managing this complexity requires advancements in a player’s attentional control and mental flexibility. 

EMOTIONAL CONTROL — Can manage positive and negative emotions to benefit performance

Gaming can improve resilience under stress. At a young age, people begin to experience many different and quite complex emotions for the first time. Feelings of anger, anxiety, and guilt are some of the most difficult emotions to experience for young people. Indeed, as young people grow up, mental, hormonal, and social changes often result in these difficult emotions becoming more commonplace in young people's lives and require them learning helpful ways to cope with them. Fortunately, gaming provides a safe space for people to experience these negative emotions and experiment with different stress management strategies. The culture of gaming puts a heavy emphasis on managing “TILT”, a slang word used in gaming to remind players how important it is to manage their emotions under stress and pressure to perform at their best. Through experiencing the highs and lows of gaming, players learn the need to develop mental skills to control their emotions and find themselves becoming more skilled in composing themselves under pressure through using positive self-talk, relaxation techniques, goal-setting, reflection and seeking out support from others. 

This is where gaming has a distinct advantage in supporting emotional control over other stressful environments. The strategies used by psychologists to promote emotional control just so happen to be structured like the playing experience of video games. That is, emotional control is best supported by (a) simulating a safe but moderately stressful situation where managing the stress is vital to performance success, (b) allowing for trial and error of different mental skills to deal with the stress (c) reflect on which mental skills were most helpful and (d) repeat this process to fine tune the mental skills. In general life, very few structured opportunities are available for developing emotional control in stressful situations, let alone safe ones. In gaming, however, players are in the safety of their own home and are put under moderate amounts of stress because of the need to be challenged to succeed in the game, whilst the game provides players with repeated chances to try out different mental skills to overcome setbacks and succeed (e.g., start a level over again after getting oneself in a more relaxed state). In sport, you can't just start the training session again! Or at work, you can't redo that meeting you delivered, not at least till tomorrow, which is were gaming might be more beneficial for mental development than the the sport or work environment, as players have many more chances to engage in mental practice per time spent playing than others domains.

CONFIDENCE —  A positive belief that one has the ability to achieve success on their game

Gaming can create a ‘can do’ attitude in players. According to the 5Cs psychological skills framework, players who are strong on the 4Cs of commitment, communication, concentration, and control will, as a result, become more confident. Therefore, it can be suggested that since gaming can enhance the other 4Cs, a player’s confidence also improves. Aside from the improvement in the other 4Cs, confidence can also be enhanced through additional aspects of the gaming experience. Firstly, we gain confidence when we feel a sense of achievement from our activities. Gaming provides many opportunities for achievement such as players being able to master skills, complete challenges, improve their rank, move up leader boards, and receive accolades. Confidence can also come from having pride in one’s personal skill. Through video analysis, players can watch themselves outperforming other players or mastering their favourite skills. Games also record In-depth performance statistics which helps players work out their skill-based strengths. Being able to notice you are strong at a skill (e.g., in the top 10% of players) can provide swells of confidence.

Self-esteem theories suggest confidence is built from (a) receiving recognition and praise from peers on personal qualities (b) being able to attribute success to personal and controllable factors and (c) feeling successful in a range of life domains (e.g., academically, physically, socially). Gaming can achieve all three of these confidence enhancers. For example, players who can master skills to a high level or outperform competitors are often envied and singled out for praise by peers. In addition, players will likely attribute success to personal and controllable factors because the game provides performance statistics that allows them to accurately understand what skills they mastered to bring about their success.


Finally, confidence can be enhanced when we feel strong in multiple areas of our lives. Being good at gaming can contribute to this, but it also can also make success more likely in other areas of a player's life. The review studies discussed some interesting research that found that the concentration (e.g., sustained focus) and learning skills (e.g., setting challenging goals) picked up in gaming are highly transferable to other performance domains, and therefore, led gamers to achieve higher levels of performance than non-gamers in other performance domains. A great example of how transferable gaming skills are comes from simulation training studies. So successful has simulation training been to enhance real-world performance that it has become a central aspect of professional training in many careers (e.g., A Pilot need to record x amount of simulated flight hours to pass flight school). Hence, the skills picked up from gaming might also bread success in other areas of life, contributing to a players having confidence that they can achieve success in whatever they decide to put their mind to! 


(1) Harwood, C., & Steptoe, K. (2022). To excel in sport, take care of your 5Cs! Frontiers for Young Minds.

(2) Eichenbaum, A., Bavelier, D., & Green, C. S. (2014). Video games: Play that can do serious good. American Journal of Play, 7(1), 50-72. 


(3) Granic, I., Lobel, A., & Engels, R. C. (2014). The benefits of playing video games. American Psychologist, 69(1), 66-78. doi:10.1037/a0034857.

(4) Dweck, C. S. (2009). Mindsets: Developing talent through a growth mindset. Olympic Coach, 21(1), 4-7.


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