With the recent discussions around the importance of support staff like coaches and analyst, the concept of sports psychology has been somewhat overlooked. Teams may have the individual skill, strategic depth, and synergy in game, but if nothing else, the NA playoffs has demonstrated the undeniable importance of mental fortitude and organizational support as key metrics in team’s success.
Recently, I spoke with Evan McCauley who is a National Curling Champion that competed in the World Championships in Switzerland earlier this year. He is also an avid fan of the League of Legends competitive scene and is finishing up his degree in sports psychology, hoping to break into the e-sports industry. He brings the insight of a competitor in a strategic, team-based sport as well as his knowledge of psychology and its relevance to the League of Legends competitive scene.
Questions about Background and Curling
I know you as Evan McCauley, the guy who went to the Curling World Championships in Switzerland this year. You're currently working, getting a degree in sports psychology, and coaching curling in your spare time. Starting with your background a little, when did you start curling?
When I was like 10. Two of the people on my team come from curling families and their dads were national champions, so they almost started as infants. My dad saw it on the Olympics, when I was like 8. He started then and I followed a year after. The rocks weigh like 42 lbs., so it was a little funny when I started. Over time I grew to love the sport and started pursuing it more competitively. I have gotten loads of support from my family and extended family, which made it a lot easier.
Fast forwarding to the World Championships, what was it like qualifying for, and competing at an international tournament in Switzerland?
That was...I don't know if I was expecting to happen like that. We were having issues the entire year with a really negative coach. Jake, my older teammate and I were really close at a certain point were actually quitting competitive curling because the feeling in the team wasn't fun at all, and even got worse than a job. A little less than a month before the national championships, we changed our coach, and it goes to show how important positive influence can affect you. We were all good curlers, but never thought we were because we were stuck in this mindset and atmosphere. It had gotten as bad as accusations of fixing stats targeted at certain players, and was a lot of drama involved for what we got out of it. Also, a curling team is small, about 4-5 people. For us, the coach is another teammate almost like Korean League of Legends team is actually 10 members where the mindset here is that the team has 5 players and all the support staff are considered extraneous. This coach turned us from a team who were hoping to make the final 4 in the United States to winning the gold medal match convincingly.
So what were your expectations in going to the world championships?
I...had a lot of trust in my team and my ability, and knew that if we played our games to the best, there was no team on the face of the planet that could beat us. That's sort of how you have to think when going into these things. These three guys on the ice with me, I believe that we have the potential to win. Even if we get behind, I know that we can come back. In many League of Legends matches or Bo5 series, players seem dejected after losses and it affects their game moving forward. Whereas on this team, I always felt that we were always able to look ahead with the confidence that we could pull it out.
I saw some of the results were really close?
You have no idea. The Norway and Sweden games were on the same day, that we lost by a point each, and I think they even made the final four. We got blown out by Canada because by that point we couldn't have made the finals and didn't have much of a stake in the game, but those other two we would've won with an inch here, but we definitely would've beaten them [Canada] otherwise.
Not knowing much about curling, can you go into some of the strategy involved? Does everyone play their own game, or is it more team-based and reactive to the opponent's play?
The strategy in curling is mind-boggling, from basic fundamentals to crazy mind games. For example, reading the ice is very important. Taking a shot in one zone of the ice is different coming at it from a different side. Some players prefer to a side for taking their shots, and so if I let them take difficult shots from the side they prefer, causing them to miss, it's going to lower their confidence in that shot or make them play differently to our advantage for the rest of the game. We actually did that a lot during Nationals. We played a team in the round robin stage, and again in the tournament. The first game, we made their team captain go on tilt, by playing so aggressively during the second half that they didn't know how to react. When we played them again, they were still trying to figure out our game and we were able to use that to our advantage.
I saw that you've been a curling instructor in your spare time, what does that entail?
It's kind of a place where beginners or intermediate players come to learn the sport, and I help guiding them through the fundamentals and see them enjoy it for the first time. Also, since curling is a Scottish sport, every club is connected to a bar where people can socialize afterwards. For me, after all the competitive curling I do, trying my best, analyzing the games afterwards and talking strategy, it's fun to go back and help be a part of what started that and made it fun for me.
Last non-League related question about you, what are your future plans?
I'm not sure what the future holds, but I would love to be involved as a sports psychologist for e-sports, specifically League. With my background in curling and small team dynamics, and positive energy/high pressure situations is my specialty that it seems like a perfect fit for me. At the same time, I could go into most traditional sports or even research, I'm pretty interested in most facets of sports psychology, but e-sports would be the dream.