Skip to main content

Havok Talks About Stepping Back From CDL, Burnout in Esports

Video Rating:
Video Duration:

This year for the Florida Mutineers certainly hasn’t been what they hoped for. For Colt "Havok" McLendon, he says it’s been one of the hardest years of competing he’s ever had. 

Despite still playing at a high level, he decided to take a step back from competing to focus on his mental health and get himself back to 100%. It's very admirable for Havok to recognize what he has to do to get himself right so he can help his team compete at the highest level, but also make sure he’s mentally in the right spot.

Playing at the highest level means high level stress

The stress and pressure of competing can take a toll on a player's mental health. Naturally, managing stress levels is vital to ensure players can perform at a high level. There are different ways to help manage this, whether it's working out or meditating, but sometimes, it's stepping back and allowing your mind to get back to a better state. Returning home, spending time with loved ones, and handling priorities that are outside of the game can help with the overwhelming pressure that comes with competing.

In a profession that requires endless attention to detail, self-awareness, and discipline, the right mental conditioning and taking care of your state of mind are more vital than its ever been. We've recently seen the Detroit Tigers outfielder, Austin Meadows, step away from the team to focus on his mental health, according to The Athletic.

“It’s constant work,” Meadows said this spring. “I think anyone who’s going through something would say that. I have a good team of people who have helped me learn certain things and learn how to handle certain situations that might pop up.”

Sometimes, that's exactly what you have to do. Step back and figure out how to handle the situations that are presented to you. The constant hours of practice, watching VOD, and scimming other teams don't always allow you to focus on what's weighing on your mind, especially during a grueling season. 

Finding an outlet

Throughout the interview, Havok mentions streaming being one of his outlets. He recently stopped streaming to focus on team activities and competing, which he says may have attributed to him having to take time away from the team, as well as other events throughout his life. Finding ways to escape the constant stress is very important. Whether it's hopping on stream to chat with viewers, hanging out with friends and family, or going for a run can help with the daily stress of competing at a high level, all of which Havok is doing to take care of his mental health.

"So I stopped streaming, actually, just to kind of focus on just the game and like the team just to be there 100% and try to handle both things. But I don't think I realized that streaming was more of an outlet for me, and I think it actually helped kind of not burn me out in a way. But then, like, we started playing even more because we were losing, we weren't performing the best. And then we went to play Minnesota at their home series, and we just did not perform how we were performing in scrims and from how much work we were putting in; I just got like, I could tell my mental health was like going down a downward spiral. And it just kept spiraling." - Havok

We're all hoping to see Havok back competing and streaming soon, but more importantly, that he gets back to a healthy mental state and doing what he loves. It's uncertain when he will be back, but we are reminded that, just like us, these players are human and are under an immense amount of pressure. 

Why Havok decided to step away

In the case of Havok, it wound up being a lot of different things culminating at once that led to him deciding to step away and take some time off. 

"A lot of it was a culmination of all these things. So the year started off bad. We had to make some roster changes. That was initially stressful. But, I guess an easy way to put it is at the end of the day, I got burnt out. And what happened was I was streaming in the morning, and then we would watch an hour of VOD, and then we'd play for like 6 to 8 hours and then watch another hour of VOD. And then I would kind of walk back to the apartment. And we didn't really hang out all that much." - Havok

And it wasn't just the stresses of actually preparing to play. The other thing people don't always realize about esports competition is the amount of time away from home, away from the support structure you've built up over your life time. Remember, many esports athletes are younger people, fresh out of high school or in some cases, still finishing high school. 

In the case of Havok, troubles back home combined with being away led to more problems.

"We didn't get a ton of social interaction after that. And I was kind of exhausted every day, so I just went to bed. And then I started having some family issues come up. And obviously, like the team, during this, we weren't finding a lot of success at all. And then I started having some family issues come up, like my dad was in and out of the hospital. My mom and dad were going through some stuff together and just being away from home. I live in Austin with my with my girlfriend in our apartment, and I was a little homesick too." - Havok 

Burnout in esports

The esports industry, from top to bottom, is rife with burnout. It's a natural consequence of any nascent industry, although we do eventually have to ask ourselves how long we get to call this industry 'nascent?' At what point does that become the excuse for allowing abusive practices to stick around?

Nevertheless, any industry without significant regulation and infrastructure is going to be prone to long hours, overworked employees, and in the case of athletes without guaranteed multi-year contracts, significant burnout.  One bad year, one bad season, and in some cases, one bad tournament can be all it takes to lose your spot on the team. And with tens of thousands of other competitors aiming for your slot, it's no wonder esports athletes work themselves half to death to be on top of their game.

"You know, it's no one else's responsibility to take care of your mental health besides yours. So I don't regret stepping back, but that's basically what happened. So it's been just a super, super stressful year, but being back home, I feel like I am kind of regaining and recovering from all this stuff. It's been good. I think I'll start streaming again pretty soon so. And I think it was best for everyone involved. Not only does my team get someone that could sit down and focus up 100%. But then I also get to come back home and you know reset and recover and just make sure that I'm good." - Havok

It's too easy for those on the outside to look in and jeer that these guys get to make a living playing video games. And what people often fail to realize is that they aren't just playing video games, but doing it on the highest level imaginable. And to do that requires work, sacrifice, and commitment beyond what most people are willing or able to give. 

The esports industry has a major burnout problem, and it's not limited to just athletes. Journalists, social media reps, PR teams, video producers, and content creators are all suffering from the same issues. At some point, we're going to have to all take a long look at what we're doing, or many more of us are going to have to take a cue from Havok and take care of ourselves first.