Esports & Sports Science - Connaire Delaney McNulty
Can you introduce yourself?
My name is Connaire Delaney McNulty and I am a student within the esports MA at Staffordshire University, which has followed a Sports Performance Bsc Hons (1st Class), while also working with Enclave within the UKLC as their performance coach! My history was in amateur martial arts, where I competed at a world level and unfortunately had to take a hiatus due to injury and medical reasons, which resulted in switching my focus within my bachelor’s degree onto esports.
Tell us a bit about your work in esports. What is your area of expertise, and what is your approach?
Within esports, I have volunteered as an Overwatch head coach for a set of three amateur teams, before progressing into a purely performance role within League of Legends in 2020, although my focus is not limited to a single esport. Aiming to support the athletes I work with in understanding and valuing a holistic approach to both their wellbeing and performance. Where regardless of discipline, there are foundational key performance indicators and skills that can be measured, trained, and improved through out of game factors including exercise, sleep, nutrition and many more.
Within my areas of expertise, I developed the necessary skills in athlete testing and intervention planning through my undergraduate to directly translate these into the esports athletic space. Relying on transferable principles from both other sports and similar activities to support in the areas the athlete requires most, whether that is general wellbeing, in game mechanics or mental factors. Although, the future of cognition benefits and cognitive testing is an area that interests me greatly, and something I have ran with athletes with promising improvements over a relatively short time period!
When approaching a new athlete or challenge of esports performance, personally a great coach-athlete relationship is something I strive for, and which underpins my ethos within my work. I will not ask an athlete to preform something that I personally either haven’t done, or do not know enough about to feel confident about. Allowing that trust required to be created from the first stages of testing, as I can reflect with the athlete regarding the specifics of what is being done and why. With continued fostering of this relationship so the athlete always has someone to come to with any issues that may, or even may not, be affecting their performance.
What impact do you aim to have on the team and athletes you work with?
Primarily, performance is the focus of my work, although not in the traditional ‘results based’ ideology of performance. Instead with performance not only being defined by results, but as a multi-dimensional construct including player well-being, mentalities, health, results, career longevity and team synergy. With a healthy environment always being more conducive for optimal performance and development, rather than purely chasing results.
Beyond this, if through my input I can support an esports ‘player’ understand that they are akin to an athlete and provide support in their processes and training away from the game then I would say my time with the athlete is successful. Along with supporting the team environment or managers in understanding the players are athletes, and their performance is more than just a cumulation of the hours scrimmed or trained. With other factors that are required to be explored from an organisational side to best support their athletes and therefore their chances at success.
Why do you think physical training is important for esports athletes/teams and how do you think they can benefit from it?
There are numerous hypothetical benefits from exercise within esports athletes, from known cognitive benefits from exercise that could easily translate into esports performance. Mood benefits from the physiological responses to exercise, and general breaking the monotony from a day of solo q into an evening of scrims. Although none of these factors are quantified yet, this may easily become the next defining factor in esports performance and create those marginal differences that win worlds.
Then from a purely wellbeing perspective, exercise can do wonders, and I think we are all feeling the absence of that a bit with the everlasting pandemic and having the ability to get out and about again is going to be a great feeling! But this is something we should be utilising as much as possible in our everyday lives, especially if the typical day involves high stress environments at the same PC for hours on end!
Although there are so many wider benefits to esports accepting physical training as a typical component of an esports athlete’s routine – it opens a new world of sponsorship opportunities for organisations, as seen recently with Excel and Eleiko. Along with individual athletes career longevity, and ensuring they can compete over multiple years, and possibly support in the norm of decade long esports careers.