10 Things I Learned After Playing in My First Competitive Rocket League Tournament

Participating in competitive esports has been a life goal of mine for some time. Growing up watching professional Warcraft 3 tournaments, I distinctly remember thinking “I want to try that (competing at the highest level).” I’m also highly competitive when it comes to sports and games in general, so this isn’t shocking to me.

Last week, I took the first step towards that goal. A friend and I participated in a 2 vs. 2 Rocket League tournament, hosted by the newly formed “Pro Rivalry League” (PRL). My partner was also new to the competitive scene, having competed in a single tournament before. We are definitely above average in terms of skill level with the game, landing within the the top 20% of the player base as far as ladder rankings are concerned.

There was a $400 prize pool on the line, with 128 total teams competing in a best of three single elimination bracket.

Ultimately, we made it into the round of 32 (third round) before losing to a very beatable team. Had we had some more chemistry together, we probably would have made it into the round of 16 and potentially farther (see point 3 below). All in all, I was extremely proud of what we accomplished and can’t wait to step up the plate again.

After having had a few days to decompress, here are ten things I learned while going through the process:

1. Your Mindset is Incredibly Important

Mentally, you have to know you’re good enough to compete with anyone in the field. Of course I had my doubts having only played in the ladder and never with anything real on the line. This doubt was quickly erased after our first match where we completely dominated. Our second match was a bit more even, but we still came out on top. We were ultimately eliminated by a very beatable team due to reasons pointed out in point number five below. The first victory gave me the mental confidence that “I can do this.”

2. Chaos Happens

The tournament got off to a rough start when the main tournament website was hacked 15 minutes prior to the games starting. A small amount of chaos ensued. Ultimately, due to the great planning and communication by the organizers, a minor 30 minute delay in the matches starting was the end result. (Props to the organizers for not letting this hiccup affect things too much). You have to be prepared for the worst case scenario, and be prepared to roll with the punches, whether it’s in business or in Rocket League.

3. Matchups are Important

The tournament featured teams of all skill levels — from rookies to professionals. Ultimately, there were 4 or 5 top tier teams consisting of well-known professional players — the same teams that ended up being there at the end as they should have been. Thankfully, due to the random seeding, we were about as far away from facing any professionals as we could have been, and some of the pros ended up knocking each other out in early rounds. While I am a bit dismayed by this (I really wanted to see how we stacked up against the best), I am glad the luck of the draw worked out in our favor for my first tournament experience. Maybe next time I’ll have the privilege of getting stomped on by Kronovi or Markydooda (amongst the best in the world), I’ll definitely save those replays.

4. Set Achievable Goals

We had two specific goals going into the tournament. First, win one game. Second, win a series. As far as I was concerned, if we accomplished these two things, it was a great tournament for us. We ended up winning five games and two series. In life, and Rocket League, goal setting is paramount — yes, of course we wanted to win the tournament (a big hairy unachievable goal at this point). Even though we didn’t, we still walked away feeling like we “won” since we accomplished our primary goals.

5. You’re Going to Make Mistakes, No One is Perfect, Learn from Them

This is true in esports as it is in regular sports as it is in real life. You can set the bar at perfection, but you need to understand that no one is perfect. We made a few critical mistakes in all of the games we lost. During the second series, we lost the first game due to poor defensive play. We recovered and won two games in a row to advance. During the third series, we made similar mistakes in consecutive games and couldn’t overcome them. After reviewing our losses, we identified what happened and came away with some key takeaways to improve and fix our mistakes. You can piss and moan about your mistakes, ignore them, or you can learn from them. One of those options is better than the others, I think you can figure out which it is.

6. Nerves are Real — Embrace and Conquer Them

I haven’t felt real nerves like this since my days playing Varsity baseball in high school. My hands were shaking a bit, my heart was racing, and I could tell my play was too fast — missing easy hits, making stupid mistakes. Once we settled in, the nerves went away and we started playing well. If you’re not nervous, you don’t care. Nerves are great, as long you don’t let them get the best of you.

7. Facing Elimination Games is Thrilling

In consecutive series, we faced elimination games. The first time we rallied and advanced, the second time we couldn’t overcome them. When your back is against the wall, every mistake is magnified, every decision matters. Everyone will face elimination games in their career and in life, how you handle them is one factor that sets the pros apart from the scrubs.

8. Without Technology, None of it Was Possible

The entire tournament was run online, with the logistics running through the main PRL website and the games being played on Psynoix’s servers. Logistics on the website included the match assignments, the bracket results, matchmaking communication and the main result reporting mechanism. There was also a Discord channel(a peer to peer messaging / chat client) that was used for tournament support. All in all, the technology ultimately facilitated the action, and made it extremely easy to partake in — this would not be possible to pull off a few years ago.

9. Most People are Inherently Honest

In online tournaments, match winners and losers are reported through a dashboard on a website. Each team has the opportunity to report the match results. In the event of a dispute, screenshots can be uploaded by the disputing party to verify match results. We had no issue with teams lying or cheating during the results reporting process. I would imagine this issue isn’t as rampant as I first thought it would be, although I’m sure it happens. This just confirms to me that people are generally honest, wherever they are in the world.

10. Have Fun, in Life and Rocket League

Arguably the most important point on the list. Stop taking everything in life so damn seriously and start having some fun — it’s not worth it otherwise.

All in all, the whole process couldn’t have gone better. Have you ever competed in an online esports tournament? I’d love to hear your thoughts about your first go in the comments below.

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