Rocket League positioning and VOD review - solo queue journey week 3
May 5 2022
One of the most difficult concepts to target in your training is positioning. It is slightly nebulous, isn’t it? When you are working on your shooting, it is obvious. The ball went in the net, or you missed. For positioning, it is a very different feeling. If only I was over there instead, maybe I could have reacted differently?
But positioning is one of the most important parts of ranking up in Rocket League. This past week, I took some time out of the typical ranked grind to look at some replays of my own games to get a better grasp on my positioning.
Here, in the third week of this solo queue series, I reached my career high! It shows the hard work is paying off, yet I still do not feel like I am playing all that well. It reminds me of the phrase, “The more you know, the more you know you don’t know.” Translating this to Rocket League, it just means that the more we continue to improve, it sheds light that there is still so much for us to learn. Whether it is how to craft dangerous shots or simply defending more consistently off the backboard, there are always ways to push our game forward. So as I have climbed higher than I have ever before, I still feel like there is so much to do before I am truly good at the game.
The most relatable sign that your positioning might need improvement is feeling “awkward.” If you feel like you cannot do much on a play because the ball is too far away, you have to burn boost to reach it, or you and your teammates are driving around on each other, it could be a sign that you need to think more carefully about your spatial awareness.
For example, as I watched some of my own replays this week, I realized how awkward I was making myself when I was rotating out of attack. If I was the ball carrier or the first up on my team to challenge their clearance, I would find myself rotating too far back for boost. The idea does not sound so bad, right? I am getting boost, and the distance means I am “covering space.” But when you separate too far from your team for boost, it reduces your ability to react to a play in a large portion of the field. The opponents will have lots of space to exploit if they can get past one of your teammates, leaving you prone to a counter-attack.
I focused on utilizing the small boost pads around midfield to ensure I was constantly rotating around the play with the flexibility to turn back onto a dangerous play, retreat into defense if the opponent got a clear, or race from sideline to sideline to keep up the pressure. The wonderful thing about the replay tool is that it allows you to look at the field from a 3D perspective. When you go for a play, whether it is an active playmaking moment on the ball or simply covering for a teammate, look at the context of the situation. Should you have followed your teammate so closely? What if your third teammate was still recovering upfield? What about defending an awkward angle when an opponent is dribbling at you? Maybe your teammate was ready for the challenge, but because you were trying to shadow defense on low boost, it caused your teammate to hesitate. “Positioning” is going to be a vague term, so it is important to develop that instinct of how to make the game easier for you and your teammates when you rotate effectively and understand when an opponent is capable of getting past you.
One of my other favorite ways to take advantage of video replays is watching other people in your same games. Sometimes, you might be making your teammates feel awkward without realizing it. Put yourself in their viewpoint. See if your play was actually beneficial in forcing the opponent’s play or if you just made it more difficult for your teammate to react. This is also a very useful practice when you get into a lobby with a higher-ranked player than you. As much as we all love watching the pros play, it can be difficult to translate that type of play into our own games. The pace of play is so different, the average ball speed, the trust you can put in teammates. So instead, when you find a higher-ranked player in your lobbies, use it as an opportunity to see what exactly that next level of play looks like in your current rank. It could be a great tool for inspiring you to realize that it’s possible to pull off crazy plays or make a decisive impact, even when you feel stuck!
Figure out what works best for you when you time your video replays. Do you get more use out of the information if you study your games before you have a ranked session or use it as a way to recap after you finish playing? Maybe you enjoy looking at games while in queue? However you look at your replays, try to approach the game with a different perspective. Think through your options as it is not always a yes or no question to where you should be on the field. Perhaps staying in this area allowed you to cover for a challenge more safely, but you missed out on denying a full boost pad from an opponent or getting a key demo. There are always so many options in the game, so make sure you think critically about how you can approach different situations. The end goal is to be able to instinctively flow through the match without putting too much of your focus on tiny details in your positioning.
Finally, just a mental trick for improving. Sometimes, just don’t play! It seems wild to say, I know. But if you feel stuck, only taking a day or two off can make a massive impact. My controller broke this week, so I had to take a few days off from my usual playing schedule. When I returned, I felt so refreshed! My energy for the game was as high as it had been during the whole solo queue series. It resets your perspective and can help ignite that creative process again. Feel free to intermingle this time with some videos of high-level pros, too. When you can come back after watching the pros play, you might be inspired to try new play patterns or mechanics that can help your own game.
It seems wild to say, I know. But if you feel stuck, only taking a day or two off can make a massive impact.
You do not need to be harsh on yourself when reviewing your games. The process is designed to pinpoint weaknesses that you can improve on, not incriminate yourself as a bad player. Especially if you tilt easily, it might be helpful to reflect on moments you felt you could have made an impact and changed the game rather than sulking about a teammate’s mistake or frustrating moment. Be reflective, take some time to recharge after a difficult defeat, and remember that this is all for practice. We still are not on the Grand Finals stage of the Rocket League Championship Series.
As this process has moved on, we have looked at improving mechanics, setting a solid routine, and now approaching the process of positioning and video review. Remember that it is not a fix-it-all solution for everyone. You may enjoy various practice routines more than others. For example, I love free play. My friend does not spend more than ten minutes per session in free play. We both enjoy different parts of the game, but each avenue offers different ways to improve. No matter what you try to improve at, though, remember that it is better to be open with yourself about where you need improvement. It will not help you to put up a facade of pride just to cover for your mistakes- no, we are not actually the best players in our rank! In the end, have fun with the game. You will find you start playing better and faster when you start developing that positional awareness, making the game even more enjoyable. The ability to understand spacing on the field is one of the greatest enablers for outplaying your opponent.
Good luck in your climb this week, and keep loving the game!
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