Less Pizza, More Yoga: E-Sports Embraces Traditional Training Methods

“They don’t look at themselves as physical human beings,” said Hvidt, who won the European handball championship with Denmark in 2008.

“It’s common sense, in a way. But with them it was not.”

Rfrsh has a validating narrative under its belt. The company’s other team, Astralis, which competes internationally in the first-person shooter game Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, had gone almost a year without winning a tournament when Hvidt joined the organization in mid-2017. In 2018, the team earned $3.7 million in prize money while putting together one of the most dominant years ever by any team in any e-sports game.

And so Origen this year has set off on the same journey of athletic self-improvement. As recently as last year, the players’ typical day might have been a sedentary extravaganza of sugary energy drinks, fast food and unresolved psychic tension. Now, their days are interposed with protein smoothies, yoga mats and slow-paced breathing exercises.

The effects of those changes, the team said, have been plain to see: After starting the current season with a 1-4 record, Origen went on a tear, winning 11 of its final 13 matches, finishing the regular season in second place and securing a first-round bye for the playoffs, which began Friday.

“These are little things,” Fabian Broich, Origen’s assistant coach, said. “But they add up, and over the long term you have a more emotionally stable team and a more focused team.”

At Rfrsh, Hvidt has assembled a performance team — a physical trainer, a sports psychologist, a massage therapist, a medical doctor and a nutritionist — and constructed a lifestyle plan for the players that combines scientific research, old-school sports wisdom and simple common sense. Broich, 28, a former professional soccer player from Germany, acts as a liaison between the management team and the players, implementing the principles on the ground.