How eSports Pro Dante Cruz Optimizes His Mind & Body For Peak Performance

Having a healthy lifestyle really affects your performance in school and in sports. They’re all connected and if you are trying your hardest in all categories you will set yourself up for success. I think sleep and eating healthy is definitely the most important, if you neglect those things it will make everything else a lot more difficult.

As a part of our series about “How Athletes Optimize Their Mind & Body For Peak Performance”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dante Cruz.

Dante “Danteh” Cruz plays Overwatch professionally for the Houston Outlaws and is an ambassador for Zenni, the online optical retailer. He grew up with a love for competition. He played soccer for years and it helped him understand how a team is structured and what it means to be a good teammate. He’s been competing in esports and specifically Overwatch for the last few years and in this time he has learned how important it is to maintain both a healthy body and mind. Many people overlook physical health in esports because they don’t understand its impact on performance, so a healthy routine is critical for everyone in this world and especially professional gamers. Good sleep, exercise, having a healthy diet, and managing stress are all crucial components to success in esports.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! It is a great honor. Our readers would love to learn more about your personal background. Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

I grew up in a small town about an hour away from Chicago. I was a really competitive person growing up and needed to be the best at whatever I was doing. I played soccer and video games basically my whole life, and I think those two hobbies really made me who I am today.

What or who inspired you to pursue your career as a high level professional athlete? We’d love to hear the story.

I would say I inspired myself. I always wanted to be either a professional soccer player or gamer growing up. I didn’t think being a professional gamer was a realistic career when I was younger, but I knew I wanted to do something I loved for a living. I think growing up with competitive people really inspired me to always try to be better at whatever I was doing.

None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?

My family was the driving factor behind my success. Both my parents were always very supportive of me and made sure to push me to be the best person I could be. Another person I would give credit to is my soccer coach from 10 years ago, Coach Kristian. He was an excellent coach and I think he really shaped me into the person I am today. He was really kind but could also be strict when he needed to be. If we weren’t taking practice seriously then we would have to do a lot of conditioning and less exciting drills. I think that taught me to always take practice seriously and encourage the people around me to also take practice seriously. He taught us a lot, but I think the two most important things he taught us was good sportsmanship and responsibility.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your sports career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?

Breaking my arm at a friend’s house and then sleeping over the same night. I really wanted to have a sleepover at my friend’s house, so I ignored the pain because I didn’t think it was that bad. I ended up going to see my doctor the next day and it turned out I broken my arm. I didn’t really need to be in pain for so long, but I really wanted to have a sleepover at my friend’s house.

What advice would you give to a young person who aspires to follow in your footsteps and emulate your career?

Make healthy decisions and try your hardest with whatever you’re doing. Having a healthy lifestyle really affects your performance in school and in sports. They’re all connected and if you are trying your hardest in all categories you will set yourself up for success. I think sleep and eating healthy is definitely the most important, if you neglect those things it will make everything else a lot more difficult.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?

Playing in the Overwatch League is the most exciting thing for me right now. The entertainment of watching the League and team competitions can help people get through difficult times. Quarantine is not easy for anyone and luckily, we are still able to compete and provide entertainment to our fans with our matches being streamed live on YouTube.

OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview. As an athlete, you often face high stakes situations that involve a lot of pressure. Most of us tend to wither in the face of such pressure and stress. Can you share with our readers 3 or 4 strategies that you use to optimize your mind for peak performance before high pressure, high stress situations?

Never underestimate the importance of a good night’s sleep. Proper sleep will always help you cope with stress better. Make it a priority to get the right amount of sleep for you. Taking a step back to understand and acknowledge that you are in a stressful situation can also help you cope. Reaching out and talking to people can always be a great help during stressful situations. A support system of friends and family is key to success. Meditation is a good option when you are feeling overwhelmed. Breathing exercises can help you refocus and take your mind off the pressure.

There are a lot of different options for managing stress but everybody is different, so you really just have to test out different things and see what works for you.

Do you use any special or particular breathing techniques to help optimize yourself?

I think just taking a moment to focus on your breathing and how it feels can help you slow down. Sometimes there’s just so much going on and taking a moment to rest can go a long way.

Do you have a special technique to develop a strong focus, and clear away distractions?

I’m still experimenting with stuff and trying to figure out what works best for me, but I think listening to music, meditation, and remembering my motivation can help with clearing away distractions.

How about your body? Can you share a few strategies that you use to optimize your body for peak performance?

Taking good care of yourself is crucial. Exercise is really important for the brain and it helps you more than you’d think. Eye strain can also be common among professional gamers. Blue light blocking glasses like Blokz by Zenni can reduce the strain that long sessions in front of a computer put on your eyes and may even improve your sleep. With the combination of exercise, healthy eating, and good sleep, you can improve your performance in basically anything.

These ideas are excellent, but for most of us in order for them to become integrated into our lives and really put them to use, we have to turn them into habits and make them become ‘second nature’. Has this been true in your life? How have habits played a role in your success?

Breaking bad habits and replacing them with good habits is probably the best thing you can do for yourself. It might be hard to break the bad habits at first, but once you make them into good habits you will find yourself much happier and more successful. I think I have a lot of good habits from being raised well and they set me up for success.

Can you share some of the strategies you have used to turn the ideas above into habits? What is the best way to develop great habits for optimal performance? How can one stop bad habits?

I think just recognizing the bad habits and how they negatively affect you can help you overcome them. I think the best way to develop good habits is recognizing how they could affect your everyday life and even the people around you. Self-reflection is crucial for self-improvement. Take a step back and try to look at yourself from a different perspective and identify what you need to change. Only you can change your habits and I think it is a lot easier to have the motivation to do that if you recognize how it affects you and the people around you.

As a high-performance athlete, you likely experience times when things are in a state of Flow. Flow has been described as a pleasurable mental state that occurs when you do something that you are skilled at, that is challenging, and that is meaningful. Can you share some ideas from your experience about how we can achieve a mind state of Flow more often in our lives?

I think if you participate in activities that you are passionate about, then you can achieve the mind state of flow more often.

Do you have any meditation practices that you use to help you in your life? We’d love to hear about it.

I’m pretty new to meditation but lately I’ve been using the headspace app. I think the app gives a lot of helpful advice and teaches you many different types of meditation. I’m not an expert on this but I think just realizing the positive rewards behind it can help motivate you to try it.

Many of us are limited by our self talk, or by negative mind chatter, such as regrets, and feelings of inferiority. Do you have any suggestions about how to “change the channel” of our thoughts? What is the best way to change our thoughts?

I think the best way to change is that is to realize how it negatively affects your life and use that as motivation to try to change that thought process. The mind is like a muscle. If you are always looking at the negative aspects of things, you’re just going to make that muscle even stronger and make the situation worse. You will find yourself being negative in situations where you really shouldn’t. If you force yourself to look at the positives, then you can make the positive muscles even stronger. It might be hard at first, but you just need to keep working hard to strengthen this muscle. Making this a habit can really help you live a happy and healthier life.

Ok, we are nearly done. You are by all accounts a very successful person. How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I think by just being there for other people helps a lot. I try to stream when I have the time and
I think it can really help people who maybe aren’t in the best spot. A lot of fans that have told me how I have helped them out through difficult times and even motivated them. Being in a slump sucks and knowing that I have helped a lot of people out with difficult times makes me really happy.

Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?

“Treat other people the way you want to be treated.” I think it’s really important to try to treat everyone the way you want to be treated. If you want to be treated with respect, then you should try your hardest to treat others with respect. If someone is having a hard time, go out of your way to help them out. You never really know what someone else is going through and sometimes you can help more than you’d imagine. Think about how it feels to when someone treats you well and use that as motivation to give other people the same feeling.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them 🙂

Thank you for the kind gesture but I don’t want to stress anyone out, I’m sure a lot of the big names are busy people. I just play games for a living!

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