Sam ‘Poacher’ Carmody wasn’t always good at games.
The 18-year-old may be one of AS Roma’s top esports stars but his journey from rookie to professional has been incredibly brisk – and wholly unexpected.
Three years ago he was in school, mapping out his academic career.
Today, he’s a member of Team Fnatic, has achieved the world No 1 spot in FIFA 18’s Weekend League and coached 16-year-old Donovan ‘DhTekKz’ Hunt to a FUT Champions Cup win in Barcelona.
Oh, and he’s met Francesco Totti, too.
“I started playing when I was four and then started playing competitively 3 years ago,” said Sam, who moved to London from Exeter to be closer to Gfinity and Fnatic headquarters.
“I wouldn’t say I was always great at games, but certainly as I started to practice more growing up, I started to get better and better.
“Now, I wouldn’t say I’m good at every game but if I went to play another game now, I’d probably be good at it as I’m used to the controller and used to knowing how the consoles work.”
FIFA 18 is just one of the games in next month’s Gfinity’s Elite Series – which sees some of the world’s brightest esports talent compete for a share of a £250,000 prize pool.
With life-changing money on the line – some buckle under the pressure. Sam, though, learnt to not let that happen.
“I feel like there is certainly pressure there but at the same time you really quickly get used to it,” he said. “The first time I played at an event I was super nervous but as time went on I just became used to it.
“I guess even now I get nervous sometimes but it won’t hold me back, in fact, I play better in front of people as I concentrate a lot better.
“When I play on my own sometimes I’ll be too relaxed so playing in front of others really spurs me on.”
So, how does Sam prepare for something like this?
“I don’t really prepare mentally to be honest, I usually prepare for game play – if my game play is up to par then I’m confident,” he said.
“For me, that is my mental prep, being confident. If I make sure my game play is good, then my mental play will be good.”
It hasn’t always been a smooth ride for Sam.
Losing is part of the game – but it’s how you deal with it that determines whether you’ve got what it takes to be a champion.
“I’d say the worst thing you can do is to keep playing if you’re on a losing streak,” he said.
“Whenever I lose, I take a break. For example, on FUT Champs if I lose I wouldn’t want to play for the rest of the day – I’ll go to sleep wake up the next day and then try again. Don’t keep on playing.”
So, fancy yourself as the next big thing? Sam’s got two pieces of advice.
“Learn the heel-to-heel’ flick,” he said.
“I think it’s really effective around your penalty box to get behind their defense, if you get in the right areas behind their defense then it almost always works every time.”
“Always challenge yourself by playing people that are better than you and learn off them. Watch YouTube channels and take hints and tips from the pro players.”
Sounds like champion advice to us.
The Gfinity Elite Series starts on Friday March 9th with five weeks of regular season action followed by a three-week playoff. The total prize pool is £250,000.