Guild Esports Head Of Performance: 'We're Building Better Players, But Also Better People'
Guild Esports has not yet experienced the sweet taste of glory despite big internal changes. Since being founded in 2019, they've implemented a 'mainstream sports' approach with their big-name co-owner, as well as creating their very own academy branch (that replicates a promotion system through the ages of development). With well-being in mind, they've also brought in a wealth of nutritionists and performance coaches to help both managers and players.
While the finances of the organisation, and the current results of their various teams, are often placed under scrutiny, Guild has already set a solid foundation for the future, and one integral cog in the well-oiled machine is Head of Performance, Edgar Chekera.
Boasting an impressive repertoire of academics, such as a Masters Degree in Applied Sports Psychology, experience at elite sports programmes including Manchester City FC, and years in the industry at Fnatic and Excel, Edgar has taken the Guild philosophy and sprinkled it with some All Blacks philosophy to do much more than simply make better players.
Understanding An Esports Performance Coach
When it comes to performing at an elite level, no matter what industry, everybody prepares in their own way. Whether it be as superstitious as stepping onto a football pitch right foot first or as simple as having your lucky socks on, the mental comfortability is key, and on top of many nutritional and day-to-day techniques, Edgar works with players to hone their skills and routines.
"How long is a piece of string," was the light-hearted answer to what the job entails, but understanding the needs of a singular athlete is paramount. "The mental support is always going to be individualised to the person. Each player needs a set of performance routines that they need to do. Some people like listening to music, some like breathing, and some like walking around and just speaking to people. What I do is find out what that strength is and make the most out of it."
Most recently, Riot Games stopped players from listening to music at VCT Masters Reykjavík, something that Edgar believes definitely hinders performance when a routine is broken.
While there is no one fix to a problem like this, bringing in breathing techniques to help refocus the mind is just as crucial. "Sometimes, I've introduced mindful body scans, where you focus on one area of your body as you're breathing in just to help you stay focused on one thing", he explained, reflecting the focus a player needs on their game, rather than the surroundings.
The most effective and immediate results of Edgar's role come at events, where tension is at its highest. However the role is a full-time job, and when players aren't about to step on stage it also entails making sure that an individual is ready for scrims, practices, media work, streams, and finding the right balance generally to avoid mental fatigue.
Debunking The Myths Between Mainstream Sports And Esports Routines
It's undeniable that the stereotypical gamer doesn't quite have the orthodox daily routine of waking up at sunrise and sleeping pre-midnight. Instead, streams and sessions tailor off into the early hours of the morning and, much to the annoyance of parents, this means extensive lie-ins. But while many psychologists have deemed this as an unhealthy way of life, Edgar has debunked this myth, and instead encourages the Guild gang to find any routine that works for them, and stick to it.
"Everybody says that gamers go to sleep late and get up late, but it's so contextual. They talk about Circadian rhythms where you wake up in the sunlight," explained Edgar, pointing out that some psychologists in other fields believe everyone should have the same sleeping routines.
"You don't have to be conformed to the norm," he continued. "Sometimes it's fine waking up at 10, as long as you're getting a quality sleep time and stay healthy in that aspect, it's fine. So, when you have that streaming aspect, where people stream to 1am or 2am, what you want to do is make sure there is a healthy balance, making sure you have a quality sleep with the right wake-up routine. Then, it's fine, and doesn't damage performance."
The same stance is easily compared to international competitions, added Edgar, as esports athletes are often expected to compete into the night in order to find a middle ground with other regions.
The Guild Way: 'We're Building Better Players, But Also Better People'
In contrast to other organisations, Edgar is also here to mould the Guild prodigies in their day-to-day lives, taking a leaf out of New Zealand's All Blacks Rugby team.
Much of his responsibility lies in educating players in a PE-like manner, where stereotypically, but not always, gamers lacked the skills to combat motivation, confidence, and performance anxiety subconsciously developed through PE.
"With the academy what we want to do is not have people join to be a pro, but to learn skills that will benefit them in esports and in life. That's what Beckham mentions when talking about the academy. He learnt so much in that set-up that helped him in real life. You can build communication, be able to regulate emotions better, and be able to understand people a lot more."
"Obviously, the idea is that we develop high-performing talent, and mould them into the Guild way. There are certain attributes we value in our players, and it's not just about tapping heads or scoring goals on FIFA, it's being a better person."
"There's a saying with the All Blacks, 'we're building better players, but also better people', and that's what we want to do at Guild."
Performing When It Matters
Of course, for Guild Esports as an organisation looking to compete in a variety of titles, competitive instinct is now more prevalent than in their previous years, having been formed just two months before the first instance of coronavirus. Now, with live events returning and esports moving back into the familiar format of in-person competitions, Edgar and the team are refocusing on how to bring the best out of their players on stage.
"What I've found is that when some people have got back to LAN, they've re-found their groove," he explained, after detailing some adjustments to their regimes during the pandemic lockdowns. "Some people from different organisations have struggled, because we don't have that situation anymore, with it being two years since the last LAN."
He continued: "They've forgotten what works for them at LAN and haven't developed the resources that helped them in the past, so they're finding feet at the start. In LAN, that's when it matters, and it's not a time when you can afford to be finding your feet as everything is on the line, so we're looking at rebuilding that experience again. Performance is starting to increase again."
Personifying The Guild Statements
It's quite hard to find one specific individual within a company that can perfectly personify their mission, but in Guild, Edgar is the embodiment of everything that they stand for.
Whether it's harnessing the competitive energy to compete at peak performance when it matters, building respect and interpersonal skills for all of their members, or moulding men and women into becoming better people in their lives, it's everything Guild Esports represents, and the only way their revolutionary business model can succeed is through people like Edgar.