Rocket League solo queue journey—week 2

April 25 2022

Rocket League solo queue journey—week 2
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We are well into the competitive season now, and I hope you are getting closer and closer to your goals! Last week in this series, we covered the importance of confidence and getting into a routine. This week, let's take a closer look at approaching mechanics. 

After working off some rust, I decided I needed to drastically increase my consistency when it came to my mechanics. This includes everything from flashy goalscoring to fundamentals like basic car control. One possible misconception is that you have to be a wizard with flip resets and other difficult shots to achieve a high rank. This is not true! Skills like that are certainly helpful—extra tools in your toolbox—but consistently making the right play is more important than sometimes making a cool play. 

Focus on the basics, and you will see a quick improvement. Ball control, solid positioning, and quickly getting to the ball are far more important. For ball control, I want to convey this as doing anything with the ball with intent. When you hit the ball, do not just try to hit it in a general direction. How could you best progress the play for your team here? Maybe you should go for the in-field pass. Or maybe you can beat the entire defense if you bounce it off the sidewall and follow the play yourself. Maybe you need to make an interception in midfield. What if your teammate is lurking to your left? Try to knock it down for them to set up a quick counterattack. There is incredible value in looking for touches like this rather than simply clearing the ball every time. Even when you do look to clear the ball, ensuring you have the technical quality to get power behind the hit is crucial. Certainly, simply hitting the ball with power is one of the most essential skills to ranking up. Use that to put the ball in dangerous locations!

In order to practice this, I found training packs and free play to be fantastic tools. Training packs allow you to repeat a shot, which is a great way to develop an overall sense of how you can approach a play. When you repeat the shot, try going slow. Then fast! Then upside down. Try different angles. But focus on hitting the ball to specific spots. Last week we discussed the importance of avoiding hesitation. Practice like this can develop the confidence to enable you to go for a play and still get a precise touch. It does not always have to be a shot. Try setting yourself up for a double-tap or into a recovery off the ceiling. Maybe go for an air dribble, but always make sure you are doing something with purpose. 

If it is all about consistency, we have to focus on our weak spots. This can vary for all of us, but for me, it was with wall play. I often found myself whiffing at awkward angles off the wall or being slow to read the bounce. So I practiced! Air dribbles off the wall, aerials, clearances—any and every shot I could find that dealt with wall play. This area of the game is frequently the location of important challenges when you can beat an opponent and still continue into a dangerous play. 

So after a lot of training packs and a lot of free play, I noticed I was playing substantially faster. The golden goal of Rocket League players! Speed! As I grew more confident in my mechanical ability, I was better at everything I tried to do. Clears down the sidelines to an open teammate, awkward saves, beating opponents to a difficult aerial challenge. When I was at my career high, it was from grinding these training packs. And after just two weeks of this challenge, I have worked my way back to the highest I have been in six months. The added time with free play and difficult shots in training packs has drastically increased my ability to read the play. Not only am I scoring more difficult shots, but I am making contributions to the game in areas that I was almost rarely looking for previously. For example, I have made so many more midfield interceptions now. As I have worked on quick recoveries and reading difficult bounces, I have been able to exert influence in the midfield by increasing our team's possession and sometimes turning these loose balls into outright goals. The better you are with fundamental touches, the more you can transform an ordinary play into a dangerous chance. 

Along with this in-game training, I wanted to spend time watching the pros play this week. While I often watch the Rocket League Championship Series, it is a completely different experience when watching a single player's perspective. You see their decision-making process in every aspect of the game, especially their off-ball decisions. I don't know how lower-ranked players view Grand Champion, but it cannot be understated how far away we are from the pros! The purpose of watching the pros is not to emulate them perfectly but to gain inspiration for what our ideal gameplay could look like. One of my favorite ways to do this is to watch a pro in free play. They can pull off so many wild plays, but also just the various ways they display mastery of their recoveries and how they process awkward bounces. It reminds you to really push yourself! Go hard and really push the boundaries of what you think you are capable of doing. Especially in free play and training packs, you want to work at game speed so that you feel comfortable in real matches. 

So as we talk about fundamentals and pushing ourselves to new levels, we have to look at ourselves with a critical eye. Sometimes it can be poor positioning and bad habits on certain shots. For example, I have had a bad habit for years- and it sounds pretty silly. I struggle to actually point my car at the ball. Yup. Sounds silly, right? But how often have you jumped for an aerial preemptively before ensuring your car's momentum was facing in the right direction? It resulted in me overcompensating with nearly all my boost to try to reach a ball. As I worked out this bad habit, it was easy to see that I was now spending much less effort on aerials when I ensured my takeoff was solid. Find out if you have any habits like this that might be limiting you. Then practice in free play to make sure you can fluently move around the map and with the ball without making things more difficult on yourself. 

The next biggest weakness I noticed in my game besides weak fundamental touches was that my spacing was truly awful. This is more of a mindfulness exercise when playing—simply make sure you are not stepping on your teammates' toes (or tires) when playing. It is one thing to try to be close for following a play, but we can often put ourselves in an awkward spot where we have no chance to react to a play. It is essential to cover a large portion of the field. If your teammates are aggressively ball chasing, compensate some by allowing more space. Just remember, you do not have to touch the ball right now. Just wait for the fifty-fifty challenge or the clear, and the extra ground you have covered will allow you to swoop in before the opponents. 

One tip that I have not thought about frequently but might be helpful is the idea of playing the ball away from danger. We usually think of this as simply booming the ball downfield, but sometimes we do not have the boost necessary for a strong clear. When you are in defense, be mindful of playing the ball into the middle. Whether you're trying to carry the ball across your backboard or pass it to a teammate, a lot can go wrong. Look at it from the opponent's perspective. If they have that full-field pressure, there is going to be a first-man challenging rather aggressively. They will actively be looking to intercept your pass into your own box. This is again where mechanical consistency is important as you look to outplay opponent's on the side of the pitch. As I mentioned, this is not something I actively think about as it has become mostly a habit to ensure my fifty-fifty's are angled to the outside or that I do not drop the ball in my own box. Think of any perceptions you might have about the game. Why do you view it that way? How does that apply to the game more broadly? For example, I used to think that playing "fast" simply meant hitting the ball hard and fast. One of the greatest changes in my play came when I realized the value of slowing the play occasionally, but mostly the idea of close ball control with dribbles, flicks, and winning challenges. 

Here are some training packs that I found helpful in hitting difficult angles and forcing yourself to develop better car control. I wish you the best of luck as you continue your development this season!

  • The Ultimate Warm-Up: FA24-B2B7-2E8E-193B

  • Aerial Off-Wall: 5BFE-60D6-0D59-79F2

  • Aerial Shots- Redirects: 8D93-C997-0ACD-8416

  • Uncomfortable Saves: 5CB2-6D82-1B54-47B7

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Matt Gerrity
Matt Gerrity

Sports fanatic, card game connoisseur, and fan of the Oxford comma. Make sure to support your healers.

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