Gscience’s Ryan Scollan discusses the state of health and wellness in esports

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After a series of retirements and pauses in sport from its top performers due to stress and burnout, we thought it would be valuable to speak to someone involved in health and wellbeing in sport – Ryan Scollan.

Ryan is co-founder and CEO of Gscience, one of the industry’s leading health and wellness experts, focusing on the sports science aspect of competitive gaming. In our chat, we talked about all things health and wellness in sport, the company’s goals and everything in between.

Ryan Scollan G-Science The clutch
Photo credit: Esports Insider / Jak Howard

Esports Insider: In September 2019, Gscience became the first TheClutch winner. Can you give us a glimpse of what you’ve been up to since then?

Ryan Scollan: I think we were very early in this phase when we won The Clutch and winning was a huge validation of our mission and what we are trying to achieve in the industry. It was great to have the support of ESI and many other industry insiders who were there and we got a lot of good feedback after winning.

Over the past twelve months we have understood the issue of health and wellbeing in sport, providing coaching and producing educational content to try to help people become more aware of the issues in the industry and help players understand the importance of taking care of their health and well-being. We’ve spent a lot of time making our mark on the scene and talking about these issues to shed some light on some of the issues in the industry so we can try to solve them together.

We’ve also reached out to many more universities to try and engage in academic research on esports athlete health, well-being, and performance. Since winning The Clutch, we’ve added a few more Performance Coaches and are currently expanding the team. We bring all of the insights from our research into our analytics product, Optimal, because before we built anything, we wanted to make sure we had something of value that would actually make a difference and solve those problems.

We took our time, didn’t rush things, and now we have data on several athletes — about 45 or 50 different datasets — of their health and performance in-game. This data gives us serious validation and we now have a better scientific understanding of the impact of 8-12 hours of exercise per day on an individual’s health and well-being and how to create better exercise protocols. I think what’s also been really positive is that we now have a proven methodology since we’ve worked with teams like NSG who finished last in the UKEL before winning and even with GamersOrigin who exceeded expectations completely surpassed the EU Masters.

The game is on and there are loads of people trying to get into the room now. We understand where the real niche is and so are very confident that we can pull it off, but we need some swag and some investment. That’s also another thing, over the last year I’ve been building the investor pipeline so we can try to go to the market to raise a round in the near future.

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ESI: Were sport organizations open to the idea of ​​analyzing the sport science behind sport, or did you encounter a lot of resistance there?

RS: It really depends on what level you’re looking at and each team is totally individual. They have some pioneers in the industry who are open to esports science such as Astralis, Complexity Gaming, Excel Esports and Rogue, but overall I still feel like there is a massive lack of understanding of what esports is It really is performance coaching.

Here at Gscience, we often talk about barriers to change, and when we go to work with a team, it often boils down to one or two things.

First, people often have a preconceived notion of what eSports performance coaching is, and they sometimes think it’s in-game coaching when we obviously care about the out-of-game factors. Second, people we talk to often wonder where our evidence or evidence is. On a few occasions we have spoken to larger teams and they claim that despite our top notch accolades from top sports science universities and our credentials in this world we have no proof. We’re sure these methods work, but we’ve had to go away and work on our case studies over the past year to break down that barrier.

I also think that organizations’ priorities aren’t always right right now, as many are focused on content and sponsorships – which I believe are critical to their survival – but don’t put money into health and well-being, so we often have a hard time even fees for a service. There are still challenges, but things are starting to change in the industry, we’re seeing more and more people investing in health and wellness, and we’re seeing more and more top players burn out. My personal opinion is that without proper support systems like Gscience or other practitioners, the situation will get worse as the competition increases.

Gscience rebranding banner
Photo credit: Gscience

ESI: Now that we see people like Lukas “gla1ve” Rossander and Jian “Uzi” Zi-Hao takes breaks or completely retires from the sport due to stress and burnout issues, Do you think this could be a pivotal moment that many organizations are now paying more attention to?

RS: 100 percent! If you have people playing at the highest level – let’s even take Astralis for example – they were one of the first teams to introduce wellness and take a healthier approach to the game, and you’ve seen the success they’ve had. However, what worries me is that even with the best team in the world and all the support, their players still burn out and you have to wonder why?

Jamie, co-founder of Gscience, and I haveWe’ve spent a lot of time in the industry and we’ve spent a lot of time reading academic papers, delving into various training methods and observing the industry. The main thing we noticed is that all of these teams have their sports science backing, but they don’t have the data over a longer period of time for an athlete. These staff can help players on a daily basis and help with interventions, but if you don’t collect data over a longer period of time you can’t see the trends and patterns that lead to things like burnout or injuries. By collecting data over time, you can then look for insights and patterns, meaning you can take preventive action before burnout or injury occurs, and that’s where we come in.

No one fully understands the impact of playing 8-12 hours a day on an esports player, nor how other lifestyle factors and stress affect in-game performance, so there are just too many unknowns in the industry right now. We certainly don’t know all the answers either, so we’re still talking to a lot of teams and doing the academic research.

The current situation is unsustainable and we would like to focus on instilling healthy habits in players early on, focus on developing healthy game strategies to improve player longevity and make players healthier, happier and more successful. We need collaboration from players, teams, publishers and tournament organizers, but right now when we go to the larger teams, some want us to pay them money so they can access their team for our brand. We’re here to solve their problems for them, not to get our brand recognition – that’s what I’m in the game for, I’m in the game to make real change.

G-Science The Clutch Interview
Photo credit: Esports Insider / Jak Howard

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ESI: Most of your services seem to be geared towards individuals and teams. Has Gscience considered working with tournament organizers to provide services or treatment to players on the day of an event?

RS: That’s being discussed right now. Of course, I can’t say which organizers exactly, because we’re currently in talks with two – but you’re absolutely right. That’s the path we want to take, because even when you look at event minimum standards for players, they often fall short, to be perfectly honest. To ensure players have a safe, healthy and enjoyable experience, I believe they need more health and wellness support. This is something we are currently looking at and having discussions with the major tournament organizers.

ESI: Gscience is one of the few esports companies based in Northern Ireland. Can you tell us a bit more about your experience operating out of Belfast and being somewhat isolated from the rest of the UK?

RS: It was definitely a challenge. I love Belfast so much and there is an amazing tech scene here, but it would be nice to walk out my front door and work for Cloud9, TSM, Excel Esports or Fnatic if you know what I mean? It definitely has its challenges but when you think about it, sport itself is a global industry and sport itself started online so many of the challenges we have in terms of geography are being overcome with online services and support be able.

I think it was also challenging from an investment perspective because people in Northern Ireland are a bit more risk averse and checks written in Northern Ireland aren’t usually as big as, say, North America or even London. That said, if you look at the cost of living here, it’s a lot cheaper, and besides, that’s where I’m from. I’d say it was probably important for me to be here because I’ve done an accelerator and have a great mentoring network here, but esports specifically it’s been a challenge to be completely honest – I think if if we were somewhere else we would probably be much further along than we are now.

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