In order for players to improve together as a team, they must train together effectively. Players often talk about skill and chemistry. Chemistry is not just about getting along and having some laughs. Chemistry is also about training together effectively to achieve common team goals.
What is Training?
Training is a simulated version of an actual competition. During competitions, you want to be supportive of your teammates; however, when you're training, you must be critical of your teammates and the team's performance. The purpose of training is to identify what works and what does not work, to figure out the best possible strategies and to identify the correct tactic or tactics for a given situation. In training, the intent is not to win, but to learn and improve.
Let's get one thing out of the way right now: training includes the freedom to make mistakes. In order for training to be effective, it must be a space for trial and error. A practice match is your chance to change up the normal order of business and to experiment with creative strategies and tactics. For example, it's a chance to figure out the timing on a specific attack lane or it can be an opportunity to learn how to execute a new strategy. You train so that you avoid the common mistake of changing things at the last minute right before, or during, an event. During tournaments, you should execute what you practiced. Effective teams don't scrim to win, they practice to learn and improve.
Identifying mistakes involves two separate and distinct components: noticing what went wrong and learning why it went wrong. This is true whether watching a player in a specific circumstance or watching the whole team's gameplay.
First, you must identify the mistake.
- For example: He died in a 1v2, or he died rushing under the bridge.
Second, you must identify why it was a mistake.
- For example: Don't rush forward without support. Or we shouldn't send someone under the bridge alone.
You can't hope to fix a problem until you understand the problem completely.
The best way to identify mistakes is for every member of the team to watch recorded footage. Every member should have the ability to record footage and the capacity to store and process it. Relying on memory alone is faulty at best. Each player only sees a small part of the battlefield, so memory is very limited. Footage will reveal a teammate's exact actions. You cannot afford to be ashamed. You must be open to critique.
It's also important for every teammate to see every other teammate's footage. Knowing what happened from everyone's perspective is crucial if you intend on improving as a team. Again, capture cards are the best way to prevent bullshit.
Here is an example of common bullshit, and the proper response to bullshit:
- Common Bullshit: "I tried to revive you."
- Proper Response: "The first rule of reviving someone is 'do not cause a casualty.' You should have taken the 1v1. Instead, you died, and I didn't get revived. You've got to work on timing your revives. In order to revive properly, you have to identify threats and know when it's safe to revive and when it's best to deal with the threats." [Notice how detailed and specific the proper response has to be to be effective.]
Assuming that you're serious about winning, and you have a working capture card, you must also watch footage with the right focus. Warriors watch VOD to compare themselves to others and feel superior. Soldiers watch VOD to improve themselves and the entire team. Watch footage of yourself to improve yourself. Watch your teammates' footage to help them improve. Watch all footage to help the entire team improve.
Common Crying About Capture Cards
Another problem for many players is that video capture cards are in standard definition (SD). High definition (HD) capture cards are expensive and not practical for gaming. A common excuse from players is that they do not like to play in SD. What is more important? Playing in a "more beautiful" game or developing your skills and improving your team? What soldier would ever say, "I'm not gonna go to battle until I use a prettier/nicer/more personally pleasing weapon?" There is no excuse for not having a capture card.
After you correctly determine what went wrong and accurately understand why it went wrong, the next step is to correct what went wrong. If a teammate is rushing in alone, he needs to learn to wait until he has backup. If a teammate is failing to hold a position on his own, the team has to decide if another team member is better at that position, or if the strategy needs to be changed to send two teammates. Generally, these examples of mistakes are easy to identify and correct.
Unfortunately, many problems are more complex. How do you learn to shotgun better or use de-taunt more effectively? Finding a way to fix complex problems is the hard part.
Identifying What Works
How do you identify what works? In some ways, this is more difficult than identifying what went wrong. As you repeatedly try something, there are three possible results:
- It will consistently fail
- It will consistently succeed
- It will meet with mixed success
Always failing or always succeeding are the easy situations. The real trick is to understand why a particular action worked some of the time and why the same action failed another time. For example, something may succeed because the enemy made a mistake, but then fail when they took the proper action. In order to train properly, you must understand why certain actions work some of the time, but do not work other times.
Practice What Works
You must practice something so that you increase your chance of executing it flawlessly. You must practice it until it is second nature. Keep in mind that you are practicing for a given situation, and that certain actions will not work in all situations. To train effectively, you must identify the proper action for a given situation, and then practice using it in that specific situation.
Consistently play against teams of the same skill level or slightly higher. When you do so, remember that you are not playing to win, but to improve. The warrior thinks knowledge shared is power given away, but the soldier knows that knowledge shared is power increased and tested. Your team will not win because of secret strategies. It will win because it functions well together, communicates and has a comprehensive team focus. Do not be afraid to tell your opponents what you're trying, and give them the opportunity to counter it. This will teach you when a certain strategy or tactic will not work. This is valuable knowledge indeed!
eReputation is Worthless
Do not be blinded by a team's reputation, or fooled by their lack of one. When you consider the enemy team's strategy, you must take into account both their original strategy, as well as how they adapted it. All that matters is what the opponent actually did in a given situation. It cannot be a matter of what you think of the players, their team, or the number of nut-riding randoms who suck their ePenis on forums. eReps don't pay the bills. All players make mistakes. All teams are beatable.
Don't just scrim, Train!
Training is the process by which teams and players improve. The more you learn while you're training, the more prepared you'll be at competition (or as the Navy saying goes, the more you sweat in peace, the less you bleed in war). This leads me to the next article, which will address teams at competition.