Performance Coaching with Rob Davies: The Tactical Pause

Posted by Rob Davies April 2, 2024 in ADVICE

Welcome to the Performance Coaching Series with Rob Davies. Here we’ll talk through skills, techniques, and other themes that will have a big impact on your gaming performance, mental skills, and overall health.

In this first article we’ll walk through a powerful technique called the Tactical Pause. We’ll go through what it is, and a practical example that you can use instantly in your gaming.

The Tactical Pause

In the complex and fast-paced world of esports and gaming, the ability to notice when you need to pause when under pressure is critical. There will be times when stressful and highly pressured situations can overwhelm you and result in a lack of clarity and focus. These situations can sometimes happen in critical moments of our performance or life and having a technique ready to use to counter this can be the difference between performing at your best or falling to the pressure. 

The tactical pause is a simple, three-step process that you can use during these situations to gain clarity and focus. It can be easily personalised to different games giving you a meaningful and impactful tool in your toolbelt of mental skills to help you boost your performance.

In essence, it is a deliberate and strategic timeout, with a purposeful process to support you to perform at your best. 

So what is it? 

It’s as simple as:

1 – Stop: Noticing when you are overwhelmed, lost focus, or feeling the pressure of the situation and saying to yourself “Stop”.

2 – Breathe: Take a deep breath or use a breathing technique that works for you, e.g. box breathing. 

3 – Focus: Refocus on the task that needs to be done, tell yourself to focus by saying out loud “focus”.

How You Can Use The Tactical Pause in Gaming and Esports

Let’s put this into some context so it’s easier to understand and implement. 


The Stop process is for you to notice when you are feeling overwhelmed or under pressure. This is a really important part as it is essential to recognise these feelings and emotions in ourselves and in our team. Here you are taking control of the whirlwind that may be going on in your mind by consciously choosing to stop. You should say in your mind, or out loud if you can, “stop”. 

Example: You’re playing Valorant and you’re 5-1 down in second game of a best of three. You’re really feeling the pressure and know that this round is important to start the comeback. But your mind is going all over the place and it’s impacting your performance and ability to stay calm. You notice this whirlwind of thoughts, to take control you close your eyes and say “stop” starting the Tactical Pause process.

You can personalise this to something more impactful for yourself. Maybe stop isn’t the word you want to use, just think of an effective trigger word that will give you the same effect. You can also make this trigger word with your team so that when someone says it in the team you all know to take a tactical pause.  


This is to support you in becoming more present in the moment and calming those nerves. It’s getting you back to the now so you can focus on what’s important, and not unhelpful thoughts. Taking a deep breath after saying stop will slow down those thoughts, feelings, and emotions giving you space to focus up and get clarity on your next steps. 

Example: After saying stop, you take a deep breath in through the noise and out through the mouth. You feel calmer and ready to refocus.

There are many different breathing techniques out there that can be used for this. Explore which works best for you and use it. This can also be used in all gaming situations, in our Valorant game example you’ll have time during the buy phase or if you’ve been killed. Similar in League of Legends, when your returning to your lane or during your death timer.


Now it’s time to consciously choose to refocus on the task. After you breathe, say to yourself “focus”. This resets you to think of the key processes needed to perform the next task well. 

Example: You’ve finished your breath. Now say out loud “focus” and think of 2-3 key things you can focus on in the next phase of the game. In that short time you have successfully given yourself mental space to refocus and get back into the game.

Just as with the word stop, you can change the word focus to something that is more impactful for you. But, it has to be something that triggers you to focus on key aspects of the task.  

That Simple?

This seems very simple, and it really is. However, it is practising this technique that makes it so powerful. You can use this during any part of your day and life, in traffic, before a presentation, or on the tube, try and practise it in any situation you can. This practice will support you in being able to use it successfully in those high-pressure and clutch situations.

It’s great to talk about Tactical Pauses with your team as well and use it as a collective to get a team boost!

Let me know how this has worked for you by leaving a comment.

Until next time,

author avatar
Rob Davies
Rob Davies was Head of Performance for Team Heretics, Performance coach for Misfits Gaming, Performance Coach for Adamas Esports, and supported Redbull gamers. He’s worked with some of the best players in the world, such as Jankos, mixwell, Perkz, benjyfishy, and more. He’s also work with Olympic and Paralympic world record holders, World Cup winning athletes, and multiple performance organisations. If you would like to work with Rob to improve your performance email him at [email protected]