There is currently a significant degree of debate regarding the appropriate role and scope of various medical and performance science providers within an esports organization. Clear differentiation of responsibilities is key for organizations, as is a solid understanding of legal and ethical standards for providers.
One of the most commonly misinterpreted roles in esports is that of “esports performance coaching”. Both the term and the role are often ill-defined, which leads to confusion about appropriate scope of practice, who can and should refer to whom, and what kind of professional you need to fill the role.
This article, which examines the roles of sport psychology practitioners and performance coaches, is written by perhaps the best possible individuals in esports to write such a piece. Matthew Watson, Callum Abbott, and Ismael Pedraza-Ramirez are well-established and sport psychology experts, both practically and in research. Let’s take a look at what they suggest with regards to these roles.
Competitive gamers undergo a variety of psychological, emotional, and mental demands that come with competitive settings. Esports teams have noticed the benefits of employing an individual who is educated in applied sport psychology (ASP). The article discusses how teams can go about including the collaboration of both an ASP professional and performance coach.
The “sport psychologist” refers to those who have undergone the appropriate course of education that entitles or licenses them to practice within their field of expertise. The authors warn to be wary about using the title “psychologist” as each region may have different standards of ethics that the psychologist must adhere to.
The “performance coach” refers to those that are experts in the areas of mental skills, sport and exercise science, personal training, nutrition, group dynamics and/or communication. It is important to know the limitations of the performance coach and what they are ethically allowed to provide services in. For example, the performance coach may be valuable in providing psychoeducation sports nutrition, but detailed dietary plans should be addressed with dieticians. In such cases, a performance coach may be better equipped to handle team needs and collaborations. Whereas emotional tolls and psychological distress from games could be better referred to the sport psychologist.
Protecting the player’s confidentiality is one of the core principles of ASP practice. The benefits of having both roles is to eliminate any ethical concerns that come with having one person provide services of both roles. A performance coach with less formalized training and educational background may not be well equipped to handle the ethical practices of confidentiality. A sport psychologist will be better equipped to understand the boundaries associated with working with sensitive player information and collaborating ethically with other concerned parties. Each role is vital to the overall competence and efficiency of supporting the player’s success.
When implementing these two roles into a team, it is important to have players and all parties informed of the role the sport psychologist and performance coach play. Team management should have a clear understanding and distinction between the roles. This would include an explanation of each member’s individual work as the sport psychologist and as the performance coach. These roles and responsibilities should be best discussed through consultation with the team to find the best fit. Although it may be useful for teams to employ someone that offers support in multiple disciplines, both teams and providers should be aware of their professional limitations. For example, it may be appropriate for a performance coach to share general information about sports nutrition acquired from reputable sources (e.g., higher education, government guidelines) but personalized diet plans should be created by a dietician (a protected title in the US and UK).
It is encouraged that sport psychologists attend scrims to build rapport with players. In addition, the setting could help garner useful information on the contextual understanding of each player. One exception to this would be to be absent from trial periods so the sport psychologist may remain a neutral party in the player selection phase.
Here are some takeaways for health and performance professionals based on the article:
Watson, M., Abbott, C., & Pedraza-Ramirez, I. (2021). A Parallel Approach to Performance and Sport Psychology Work in Esports Teams. International Journal of Esports, 1(1). Retrieved from https://www.ijesports.org/article/52/html
Summarized by Joann Ly
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