Mental Manipulation: How to Prepare Your Mind to Smash

By Jamie “JAMJAR” Jacobs

One of the most common issues to plague competitive Smash players is having a self-destructive mindset. Whether it is how you think while playing friendlies, how you mentally prepare for tournament sets, or what you perceive when analyzing your matches, mindset is key when it comes to bettering yourself as a Smasher. Today I will run through some of the situations where players must focus on their mindset, pointing out a few common flaws and how to remedy these issues.

A major issue I used to run into was how I would approach my friendlies. A common approach for someone new to the game is to take all friendlies as serious competition. I used to take this approach, but all it led to was constant frustration. Every match I played I expected to win. When I played Kirby dittos with my brother, I would get very salty if he managed to win even one match. This mindset carried over to when I started playing online. I knew that I was not the best player in the world, but if I played someone who could mercilessly beat on me, I would often rage quit. This course restricted me from gaining anything of value from friendlies. In these types of matches, there are two main things one should focus on: learning from one’s mistakes and having fun. If you see red when you lose a friendly, these two things go right out the window. You cannot assess your play accurately if you are salty from losing. More importantly, if you do not have fun even in losses, why are you even playing the game? Most of us are not highly skilled yet and will lose frequently. We must take these losses in stride and enjoy the game regardless, otherwise it is simply an unnecessary stress.

At my first tournament ever, I went into it with an extremely negative mindset, certain I would lose every match I played. This was partially due to nerves, but it was also a byproduct of my bad mindset. While it is not healthy to expect victory in every match, it is even worse to always expect a loss. A lack of positivity can lead one to never succeed. Most of us cannot expect to win the tournaments we attend. However, it is essential to set goals for yourself. At my most recent tournament, I set three personal goals. One was something I felt I could easily achieve, the next was a goal I felt was right at my level, and the last was something I would have to work very hard to accomplish. Doing this put me in the right mindset, allowing me to focus my energy towards these goals. I ended up achieving the first two goals, just falling short of accomplishing the third. These successes gave me a sense of accomplishment, despite the fact that I failed to make it out of pools. I knew that this tournament was a positive step towards getting better. If I had gone in without goals and expecting only losses, I would have not gained anything useful from competing.

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The last facet of my mental trials can be found when I am watching my recorded matches, whether they are from tournaments or friendlies. Previously, I was failing to look critically at how I played. I would notice the things I did right and the tactics my opponent would use that led to my deaths, but I would gloss over my negatives. I would make excuses for why my failings occurred rather than honestly assessing the circumstances. Recently, I have worked towards repairing this defect in my mentality. When watching my matches, I make it a point to mark down each death. I note the details of the match such as who my opponent was using and when in the match my deaths occurred. Next to each death I write down the events that set me up to be killed. In addition to this, I make note of poor tactics that frequently creep into my game play and give summaries of my favorable actions. Recording these details of the match allow me to physically see the positives and negatives of my play. These notes keep me honest by not allowing me to make excuses for my failings. They show not only that I am not perfect, but also that I am not terrible. If I work hard I have the ability to fix these failings and better myself as a Smasher.

In addition to faulty mindsets in specific areas, many people suffer from injurious mental states in regards to competition in general. Whether someone is a poor loser or a sore winner, there is a wide range of negatives people can have when it comes to competing. Here are a few tips that can help with this general mindset. It is crucial to be humble in competition. Humility is marked by one who knows where one’s skill level lies. One who is humble gains the ability to realistically assess one’s play. Eventually, this realism will lead to them being able to better themselves for their own self satisfaction, not for external motivations such as bragging rights. Competitors must also allow themselves to be vulnerable. What I mean by this is they must be able to admit their faults. If you are successful at being vulnerable, you will be able to seek help to fix those faults.

Smashers do not generally fail to prepare their bodies for competition. We practice our game obsessively in order to discover its nuances to enhance our skills. However, where people do not prepare enough is with their minds. While playing the game is pivotal in improving, if we fail to be in the correct mindset it is easy to plateau. However, if we are vigilant about having the correct attitude during competition, we can combine our physical prowess with mental fortitude to truly become the best Smashers we can be.

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