This article was created with the concept of getting top players’ perspective about different facets of the game. For our first venture, YeeHaw was questioned about training and training-related matters.
YeeHaw has been a DM server regular ever since he started his climb up the divisions, reaching High in his 3rd-ever season. After some time wandering in the second-highest division (and a short-lived Premiership stint with ANTIC), he was able to win it with THE THEORISTS and thus made his actual full Premiership debut in Season 32 with them. A decent showing during both the Season and at Copenhagen Games 2019 ensured YeeHaw a spot on Ora Elektro, with whom he recently took home a Premiership silver medal last season, his highest finish to date. YeeHaw took the time between two training sessions to reflect with us on the whats and the whys of practice.
Let’s start from the beginning: Did you ever play TF2 casually, namely in public servers ? Or do you remember always striving towards improvement ?
I don't really remember playing valve pubs, but I do remember spending a lot of time on a Hightower server as sniper (shoutout to Panda Community Server #06). When I started playing competitive proper, DM became my regular haunt. I only play pubs about once every few months now.
As you started training regularly, how did you approach practice back then ? Did you have set ways to improve ? And how much did you play exactly ?
I played a lot more back then than I do now because I didn't have a job, so I would just play for ages. In some respects, I'm glad I put in the time when I could to get through the grind and hone those skills to a certain level. However, that practice was less qualitative than my practice is now, because I didn't really have a daily schedule and I was a stupid kid so I got really mad. I don't really have any kind of 'method' or routine when practicing I just join the DM server and frag. Whenever I think of a new amazing trick it's usually an aim-theoryish thing. Sometimes I come up with a few good ones like trying not to pull out my pistol and reload a bit more if I'm in a 1v1 but usually it's just placebo things that I give up on after a while. I will try and avoid things that aren't conducive to good practice (running away when losing a fight etc.).
Where did the motivation to train consistently come from back then ? Was it a purely personal thing or did you have outside inspirations ?
Probably from watching frag videos of older players when I was about 12. I downloaded TF2 because it was free and put into google 'pro tf2 play' or something like that and found some fragvids which were pretty inspiring. I think a lot of the top players nowadays got into 'pro' TF2 the same way. I still like to throw on some old fragvideo music from some scout boomer in 2010 when I'm playing.
I think if I only played pubs I would have been dissatisfied and would have gotten bored of the game after a while. I've realized I'm naturally a competitive person so most of the motivation came from my personality (a.k.a. my massive ego).
Now that you are in playing in the highest division there is, you are probably as close as a pro as it gets. Did this impact your motivation or are you not going to stop until you reach the top?
We had a great result and I'm very proud of the vast improvement my team made last season, but it's important to keep these results in context (especially in TF2). We played a season where 2/3 of the top 3 teams of the previous season were either dead or had their roster gutted. I certainly don't feel as if me or my team have made any astounding improvements or that I am dominant over other players...yet. I'm definitely still very motivated to improve because I don't think your skill level is fully explained by your results.
Did you have to adjust your training methods once you reached certain levels?
Yeah I've definitely discovered some small adjustments and stuff for when I'm playing - ergonomics mainly. The best way to hold my mouse and sit for a long time and things like that. I've changed my focus over time to get away from grinding for hours to doing more short bursts of focused practice with breaks. I've found that I get more out of it doing it that way (that's just me though), when I was a younger player I would just play for a long time without any thought to my practice. Smarter not harder =).
I also used to really go in for 'aim theories' and things like that, like just tracking and thinking it will improve my aim or 'I only missed that shot because I didn't shoot at the right time!'. It's really easy to go in for platitudes that take the responsibility off of you and blame it on some external factor (sens, hud, crosshair...etc.).
After reflecting on myself I (eventually) accepted that if I miss or don't get an easy kill it's because of my mechanical skill and not because I 'wasn't aiming the right way'. It also helps me be less 'anxious' about not performing well. If you don't accept your own failures you will be too emotional (pick your poison: raging or going quiet) and you won't progress as a player. Working on your own mentality is one of the most time-efficient ways to improve. It's the hardest skill to practice though and I still get angry - anyone who pugs with me could tell you that!
So have you cut down practice a bit since reaching Premiership or on the contrary did you need to keep at it for more than usual?
I definitely had to practice way harder after reaching prem as opposed to when I was climbing the divs. Just putting a bit more practice than everyone else lets you fly through the tiers but at the prem level everyone is doing that so you need to have truly exceptional DM or work on other areas of your game to stand out.
Is working on your own mentality a constant process or was there some « Eureka ! » moments where you realized that your previous outlook on things was wrong or misguided ?
It's certainly a constant process. I've by no means mastered my mentality but I find losing to be very formative. After big games or LANs I usually learn a lot and try and adjust but they are few and far between in TF2 so progress can be slow. It's a shame that the chance to prove yourself only comes around once or twice a year. It takes a lot of lost games to improve enough to win a LAN (Not that I would know)
Is everything practice for you, or do you have times where you “turn your brain off” ? Would you consider a PUG practice, for example?
It's good to make the most out of every situation but you wouldn't play tr_newbots to improve your jumps. In some pugs it's nice to just turn your brain off and run in. You can't put 100% in all the time, because you will exhaust yourself.
Finally, let’s speak about talent a bit. Do you believe in it at all? Would you have examples of “naturally-talented” players, if those are even a thing? Would you consider yourself a talented person, and if yes how much do you credit your success thanks to your talent?
I don't think 'talent' is really a thing. Everyone starts at the same level, more or less. We all have essentially the same eyes, arms, hands etc. Saying 'he's just more talented than me' is just used by people to excuse their lack of dedication. I don't think I'm really naturally talented at all, I think I'm average when I start anything new but I just put more effort in than others. I try and acknowledge the amount of work someone has put in to improve at something because it's a lot more impressive to me than someone just doing well randomly. As far as examples of 'naturally talented' players I don't know of any
I find that any player that has gotten really good in a small amount of time has practiced a lot I find.
Thank you for answering these questions. Do you have any closing words you'd want to share or any people you'd like to shout-out ?
Shoutout to Mak, Doughy, Big Zodders, Leth, Crayon, Piggles, Aph, Silves, Sawsy, Snesk, Hazza, Teo, Opti, everyone on Ora and aelkyr for putting this together =).
This article was written between the 4th and the 10th of January.