Freshman Year by Cary "Vro" Zhang

You’re just getting started. You’ve watched more than a dozen videos and you’ve finally gone to your first tournament. This marks your 1st year on your competitive journey. There are actually a lot of people in your boat and it’s the best time in the world to be a newcomer to competitive Melee. Every day there’s new videos to watch, new streams to follow, and another tournament to examine. There’s a lot of data in the past on smashboards and maybe even GameFAQs. If you ever have a question, try looking around before asking. And if you still have more questions, you can go on Facebook or your local tournament and ask around. Curiosity and love should be your main driving forces this year.

Find your local community by going onto Facebook or smashboards. Find players close to you so you can play them at your leisure. Maybe you guys can teach each other something or maybe you guys accumulate a crew of players and get pretty good. Going to tournaments with friends is a great way to break the competitive barrier. Remember that the only way to get better at Melee is to play in person, because all tournaments are in person. Going to tournaments with friends can become ritualistic - commutes going over match ups, strategies, or just goofing off and chatting. You can also share your results with your friends and work on improving together. No Melee player ever got great by playing by themselves; we all have had friends on this journey.

I recommend going to at least one tournament a week to maintain serious gains. In your first year, a lot of discipline and muscle memory has to be established since Melee is such a technically demanding game. I remember practicing by myself for hours at a time, multiple days a week. Fortunately now we have training packs that have save states, CPUs that DI and recover, and frame data. I recommend practicing as much as you believe is necessary, as everyone has different natural dexterity and personal goals. The easiest way to measure what you need to practice and how much you should practice is by going to tournaments. You’re going to face a lot of match ups that you’re not used to and you’re going to fight a lot of styles you haven’t fought before. The only way to get better is to expose yourself to as many players as possible and to truly believe the “no johns” mantra. Practice as much as you’d like and use tournaments to track your own progress.

It’s important to remember that placement and head to head records are not the only way to track your progress. It’s easy to fall into the trap of following another player’s success or becoming hard on yourself if you play worse than you did before. The only person you can really compare yourself to is yourself. Watch how you played one week ago, one month ago, and eventually one year ago. You’ll see that you’ve improved as much as you’ve put in the effort and time to. There’s dozens of aspects to becoming a talented and high placing smash competitor. To truly become great and to maximize your first year, go to as many tournaments as you can.