Free Time and Fast Tech
Chances are, if you log on to read Mind over Meta, you’re interested in improving in Smash and playing competitively to at least some extent. Whether your goal is to beat your older brother, place top 8 at a weekly, or refresh and rediscover your game plan for the upcoming major, we hope to offer you advice that will improve your game, even if it’s in the smallest of ways. However, while we’ve talked in the past about mentality both inside and outside the game, as well as practice habits, today I come to you with advice for one of the hardest aspects of improving for beginning and intermediate players - bettering your play while balancing a busy life.
As a student currently in the midst of obtaining my degree, staying rust-free for tournaments and events is challenging, especially when faced with school assignments, work (to be able to afford tournaments), and hanging out with friends outside of Smash. Trying to keep on top of these responsibilities while getting better can be an almost gargantuan task. However, it’s important to manage your time, especially as you enter the grey area where you can’t win enough yet to justify dedicating an exorbitant amount of time to Smash. I recently have come back from a hiatus myself - one that I used to evaluate my priorities both in the game and outside it - and after doing so, I’ve seen not only an improvement in the game, but also a decrease in stress. I’m also enjoying the game way more than I had in the past few months. So, without any further ado, let’s address the delicate topic of the world beyond Smash, and fitting Smash time into that world.
Do you want it?
The very first topic to discuss is a simple one: have you ever taken a step back and thought about what Smash is for you? For some, Smash may be the driving force behind their life, what they think about at night and wake up to play during the day. A small few may even make enough from tournaments to pay for the next, and an extraordinarily small minority may even be able to support themselves through smash, if only partially. However, if you’re reading this, chances are you’re closer to being in my shoes - having to balance “real life” responsibilities while also trying to improve at the game. Whatever Smash may mean to you, you have to own it. If you can only play it casually, you can’t expect to grow as a player as much as someone who can dedicate serious time to it. Likewise, if you choose to “focus” on smash, know what it is that you’re giving up your time for.
An often overlooked aspect of improvement is repetition. Many players, especially newer players, may get caught up with learning more and more tech, matchups, or even characters. Every region has that one player who can shine-grab your shield but still triangle jumps trying to wavedash. Don’t be that player. A very important part of playing at a high level isn’t just doing the fancy stuff well, it’s doing everything you need well, and most of the time for that matter. If your answer to the previous question was “I’m willing to give up at least a few minutes a week to get better,” start with the small, even relaxing stuff. It may take you weeks or months to get down some more advanced stuff, but being able to hit all your L-cancels or chaingrab to however high percents consistently will not only take you farther in bracket, it’s also much easier to practice with as little as only 5 spare minutes a week.
While it seems like common sense, having a practice group is important, potentially even more so than for a more active player. However, there are a few pitfalls to avoid. While playing for fun is very important, know what you want to accomplish in Smash in contrast to what your practice partners want to. What they want from Smash can differ from what you want, and while that’s fine for fun, it can slow your progress. Also know that this is the perfect time to not just try hard, but also to try new things. You can practice tech by yourself all you want, but breaking it out in tournament with no prior game experience can often lead to disastrous results. Practice groups give a nice in-between to experiment. Finally, find locals that are easy to fit into your schedule in regards to both travel and time. Setting up these supports can help create a competitive environment, one that nurtures progress for you as a player.
Breaking it Off
However much you may love smash, at the end of the day, sometimes hiatuses can be the healthiest choice. Not only does it allow you to focus on responsibilities outside of smash, but it also can sometimes refresh your point of view in regards to smash, bettering your mental game and helping you enjoy learning the game again.
The process of bettering oneself at Smash is lengthy and winding and often counterintuitive. Lack of proper time and balance make this road even more difficult and frustrating. But some simple self-analysis about your goals in Smash, as well as self-evaluating how you spend your time improving, will absolutely go miles toward making the most of your Smash time.
Thanks for reading another Mind Over Meta. We’ll see you all next week! In the mean time, keep up with us through our Discord chat. And if you happen to be attending Shots Fired later this week and you’d like to be interviewed by me, please contact me on Reddit or through the Discord chat!
-PlayOnSunday & The Mind Over Meta team.