Do e-sports stars need to manage emotional wellbeing in the same way as traditional sports stars?

Virtually Free recently announced that it had released a bespoke version of ‘Stress Free: Resilience’ for the England Cricket Team and members of the Professional Cricketers' Association (PCA).

This was a collaboration driven by Virtually Free and Jason Ratcliffe, the Joint CEO of the PCA, as part of his commitment to helping the elite sports people of English Cricket and members of the PCA manage and reduce stress related conditions. 

To an unenthusiastic eye, the game of cricket may well appear a very British, relaxed affair with well groomed players in ‘whites’, playing a game that revolves around a red leather ball. However, the reality for professional players is very different. Batsmen face hard, fast spinning balls travelling at upto 90mph, with a thin bat, as part of a team but often alone on the international stage. While they are well equipped, the recent very tragic events involving batsman Phillip Hughes in Australia is evidence of the dangers they face. The players travel long distances, spend long periods away from home and are under the close scrutiny of the global sports press. It is understandable why challenging levels of stress have existed in cricket for many years.

The same can be said for most sports, where the elite few balance single minded determination, high competition and grueling physical training, with a modern intrusive press and the natural human motivation to find ‘normality’ or stability in life.

It is little wonder that there is a growing demand for psychology / psychiatry to manage emotional wellbeing alongside physical performance.

Can the same be said however, for the growing sector of ‘e-sport’?

What is e-sport? 

E-sport is the umbrella term for electronic sport and competitive gaming between professional skilled electronic game players. These games replicate traditional sports, such as tennis, motor racing or snowboarding although as you would expect with technology, can include any game which can be digitised and made competitive. 


Is e-sport popular?   

Ever-so-slightly. The analysis of various trends points to a marked increase each year of viewers and followers, possibly doubling year-on-year with over 70 million people now counted as viewers. Some predict that in this year (2015) viewers of e-sports will overtake viewers of traditional sports. While this has wide ranging consequences, technological innovations and advertising model shifts to name but a few, another area of growth is likely - player management, especially when it comes to managing player wellbeing. 


So presumably, popularlity equals pressure and stress? 

Yes, that’s right, as Steven ‘Snoopeh’ Ellis knows this only too well. With a CV for gaming extending well into his childhood, Steven was discovered as a someone with a unique talent for gaming in his third year of a computer science degree. This discovery led into the professional League of Legends’ list of legendary players and before long he was playing in China, Taiwan and New York in front of crowds of thousands.

However in 2014 after almost 5 years on this circuit he retired at the ripe old age of 22, pointing to burnout (stress) as the factor that led to his retirement. This was precisely the same reason elite English cricket player Jonathan Trott cited for taking a break whilst at the peak of his career.

As the BBC recently reported, “Ellis believes that the e-sports infrastructure is increasingly mirroring that of traditional sports. Team owners, managers, coaches, analysts, psychiatrists, physios, the odd masseuse – a players’ union is a perfectly logical step.”

At Virtually Free, we think Ellis is right, in the same way that we think the PCA are right to promote proactive stress reduction and management using the latest technology. We look forward to working in many other areas of sport, including e-sport.