Team Liquid is one of the first sports organizations to use cognitive testing to improve player performance and also to promote better nutrition, hydration and sleep.
Why it matters
This is the latest way in which sports take over what traditional sports have improved – in this case, immersion in player behavior and improved player health.
What will be next
We’ll see if cognitive testing improves player performance to give Team Liquid a competitive edge, but it’s a sign of increasing professionalism in sports.
NeurOlympics is a seemingly simple test.
The 60-minute review will take people through four uncomplicated video games. One involves remembering disappearing icons. Another is a quick reaction time exercise. The person’s performance in the test is then triggered by an algorithm that evaluates memory performance, speed, and other characteristics.
Team Liquid, a professional sports team based in California and the Netherlands, thinks that the results of NeurOlympics can be the key to winning matches in League of Legends, Valorant and more than a dozen other games on the professional circuit.
Team managers use the results to determine if a player is suitable for typically five-member teams and what role he might be best placed for. Armed with an understanding of the players’ behavior, Team Liquid also sees NeurOlympics as a way to adapt coaching to better educate talent and skills.
“Coaches will know more about player learning styles,” said Tanner Curtis, the newly appointed Team Liquid development coach. “We will be able to identify their strengths and areas for improvement that they can focus on.”
Team Liquid, together with the Alpine F1 racing team, takes a page from the professional sports handbook, a highly competitive field where every element of performance – diet, sleep, training, mindfulness – is researched, analyzed and discussed in hope. edge identification. The NFL has long used the Wonderlic Test, a 50-question, multi-choice test devised in 1934, to measure the intelligence of potential players, although it was discarded before this year’s Scout Squadron, which will use computer-based player ranking tests. Matt Ryan, an NFL quarterback, used the NeuroTracker cognitive training system to improve his situational awareness.
Testing players’ cognitive abilities is not without controversy. Wonderlic has been criticized for racial bias. At least one player deliberately passed the test to avoid frightening teams that might fear being bored like a line, his position. On a broader scale, some observers have questioned whether constant measurement has any practical value in improving results.
There is no evidence “that these measurements are in any way predictive of current or future performance,” said Mark Williams, chairman of the Department of Health, Kinesiology and Recreation at the University of Utah. “They really can’t be used for talent identification purposes.”
Nevertheless, Team Liquid is working to get more out of its 120-member list at NeurOlympics. As with any experiment, a larger sample size means more complex results, so Team Liquid also wants to start testing players outside the organization, including casual players.
“In an ideal world, we want the top 300 to 500 players from each game,” Curtis said. “But we would like some casual players that we could use as a reference point.”
From football to scorer
NeurOlympics was developed by BrainsFirst, a Dutch research firm that conducts corporate cognitive assessment. The test was launched in 2013 and was quickly used by European Premier League football teams. He was later adapted to test air traffic controllers at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam, as well as employees of McKinsey and Deloitte, both consulting companies.
Marieke Dresmé, director of client services at BrainsFirst, says that the different physical activity of football players and sports players runs counter to a similar approach to disciplines.
“The average brain of elite football really looks like the brain of strategic sports,” said Dresmé. “If we look at [esports] brain shooter, we see a comparison with [soccer] intuitive striker. “
BrainsFirst sent me an hour-long version of NeurOlympics. The four tests are performed in quick succession to track memory, response speed, recovery time, strategic thinking, and other metrics.
Gameplay varies. One game required me to click on icons as they appeared and disappeared, which was a test of spatial awareness. Another required me to shoot projectiles at falling targets, something like the apocalyptic arcade game Missile Command, to test foresight and accuracy. Despite the simple graphics, the games required intense concentration and quick response. The experience was exhausting; Between the laps, I threw myself into the water, as if taking breaks in training.
Tests are a long way from the complexity of strategy games such as League of Legends or shooters such as Counter Strike: Global Offensive. Still, it was easy to see how basic metrics could be used to move situations involved.
One week after my test, Cheng Ko, CEO of Team Liquid, gently told me that I would not get a place in the lineup. Yet he took my results seriously and explained the cognitive strengths and weaknesses they revealed.
The test divides player skills into 16 different categories in four broad groups: memory, attention, control, and anticipation. Categories are scored from 0 to 100. The numbers are a relative measure of your performance at NeurOlympics compared to others who have passed the test. Zero in the category means that everyone else who has tested is more qualified than you. A score of 100 means that you are more qualified than everyone else. The results are presented in a spider graph with each of the categories around the perimeter.
Ko went through some basics. I scored well in Stress Resilience (97), which suggests I could play under pressure. But my score in the Attention Guide (9) indicated that I did not monitor my progress as closely as most others. He followed up with personal questions about my favorite games, my roles in those games, my career, and my work environment preferences. Together, he said, the test and interview provided insight into my natural inclinations and how I could play as a player and team member.
This experience reminded me of a job review with a little tarot reading.
Gyms for players
NeurOlympics is only part of Team Liquid team training. Four years ago, the organization teamed up with Dell Alienware to build two Pro Labs, high-tech gaming gyms, in California and the Netherlands.
Not much of Team Liquid’s California headquarters in Santa Monica occupies Lab. Computer stations are decorated with the Alienware logo. One station that Curtis uses to navigate their NeurOlympics spider charts has six monitors. In the back, there are several dedicated computer stations that players use to warm up through cognitive and motor skills exercises, as well as zero-gravity chairs to help players relax after challenging matches.
“We will focus on everything from recovery to warming up cognitive functions to motor skills before [players] go to [scrimmages]”We really want a holistic approach to their entire training day, including downtime, recovery time, the amount of water they drink, things like that.”
Years ago, Curtis was a professional in sports, as well as the players he helps now. He competed in the Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG) shooter under the grip of 7Teen, until in 2019 he joined the Liquid team to coach his PUBG team. He is now 29 years old and a few months ago became the organization’s first team development coach. While other Team Liquid coaches focus on how players perform in training and professional matches, Curtis monitors their moods and conditions throughout the day.
Curtis and Ko say coaches will give players a better direction if they use NeurOlympics results to lead them. But that’s not a common view in Team Liquid.
André Costa, who leads the Rocket League team, says the game, in which players drive cars to hit giant soccer balls into goals, is still evolving like a professional competition. Because no one really knows how the competition will develop, mastering the Rocket League is more important than relying on the incremental knowledge that NeurOlympics can provide, he says.
“If one team is just better than the other, you don’t have to think too much about the game,” Costa said. “It works because we are just faster and better than everyone else.
Costa contrasted Rocket League with League of Legends, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and DOTA 2, which have established communities of professional players. If Costa’s team played in the League, they figured they would benefit from the lessons learned from the NeurOlympics.
Costa, 22, oversees a team of two 15-year-olds and one 16-year-old. For players who are young in a game that is not fully developed as a competition, knowledge from NeurOlympics is a distraction, he says.
Bradley Bennyworth, 21, has been playing on one of the League of Legends Team Liquid since January and passed the NeurOlympics test in April. Because his coach noticed a low memory score, Bennyworth was assigned to play memory training. He says he has noticed that he has performed better in his league matches since then, although he attributes some improvement to playing alongside teammates, exercising and relaxing in zero-gravity chairs.
As in traditional sports, Bennyworth’s improvement could affect the player’s training and health. (Team Liquid prioritizes nutrition and hydration.) The focus on physical and mental performance is, of course, old school in professional sports. But it is relatively new for sports.
“None of this is carved in stone,” Curtis said. “This is the first opportunity we have had the technology and the space to do the research and figure it out for ourselves.”
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