Connaire Delaney McNulty is freelance esports performance coach, with a focus on physical and cognitive factors.
Connaire graduated with a 1st Class Honours Degree in Sports Performance, and has now is now enrolled on the esports MA course at Staffordshire University, looking to continue focusing on the sporting elements of esports, although currently the exact topics he wants to explore are still being decided upon!
Tell us a bit about your work in esports … What is your area of expertise, and what is your approach?
I am incredibly focused on the core key performance indicators within esports, the abilities and foundations that underpin an individual’s performance, with proven ways to improve these from other areas of research. The same way a tennis professional requires agility, power and aerobic endurance before they even touch on the technical aspects of the game, many esports can be broken down in a similar way; reaction times, cognitive flexibility and visual search acquisition.
All of these factors can be tested, trained and improved through the right environment and training plan. All areas I was able to research thoroughly during my degree, and now take into a practical sense with my recent work with Enclave, an experience that has started to define the processes and areas I will continue to focus on with teams, as it is an area of performance which is currently under-utilised, despite the performance benefits it can provide. My generalised approach includes a heavy emphasis on the educational aspects of working with esports athletes, ensuring they have an understanding of the work I am doing with them, and its importance to their holistic health, wellbeing and performance.
What impact do you aim to have on the team and athletes you work with?
The aim is always to provide a positive impact on the athlete from a holistic perspective, from their general understanding of performance principles and their own performance, to assisting in ways they can develop as an athlete outside of the in-game environment. With each approach tailored to each athlete, and helping them address areas they may require support in – whether that is the mental, physical and nutritional – I have always strived to be an individual any athlete can turn to regardless of the nature of the problem, or area they require support in.
Although, this is not limited to the athletes themselves, with parts of my roles including providing the same support to any coach and/or staff member that may require it. As a performance coach, I work between all members of the team and I am here to improve the teams performance, which includes working between the staff and coaches as much as the athletes.
All of these factors work towards one goal, to achieve the best performance capable, with performance not only being defined by results, but as a multi-dimensional factor including player well-being, mentalities, health, results and team synergy. With a healthy environment always being more conducive for optimal performance and development, rather than purely chasing the results.
Why do you think physical training is important for esports athletes/teams and how do you think they can benefit from it?
Although I have my own opinions, they are only a secondary response here, it is scientifically proven that physical training provides positive effects and cognitive improvements. This is a fact that more and more teams are realising, and trying to harness to improve their performance. With this factor of proven research underpinning how this area needs to be approached.
However, I do believe there is another reason that esports as a whole can benefit from athletes undertaking physical training as part of their daily routines – redefining esports as a whole – breaking the stigma of gamers ‘playing games for 18 hours and drinking mountain dew’. Taking them into the world of athletes, as they are, and slowly working towards a more socially and politically accepted industry, akin to that of sports. In which, it is my belief, that esports, if approached correctly can fall under the international definition of ‘sport’, in turn opening doors for the industry and support the infrastructure allowing esports to further its growth and development.