Tourney Etiquette – Handshakes, Hygiene, Coaching, and more

Sick day gave me some extra time to write, so here’s my first substantive bl0g post! This is partially an expression of my opinion, and partially instructive to people who are either new to the tournament scene or unclear on expect etiquette.

I’ve always found the changes in expected etiquette at tournaments to be interesting. Some major turning points include the numerous times the Smash community has dipped its feet into eSports waters, the release of new smash games, the rise of online play, and ultimately the dive into the eSports spotlight we’re seeing now.

Let me get the easy one out of the way – HYGIENE. It is your responsibility to your fellow smashers to be odorless or to carry a pleasant odor. If you think that this is not a pervasive issue, and that bad-smasher-stench only occurs every once in a while, let me provide you with an example: Xanadu. I hate to ruin the illusion that the weekly VGBC stream might give, but you aren’t getting the full Xanadu experience if you’ve never caught a whiff of what I call “the classic Xanadu stench.” Believe it or not, there is an easy 2-step remedy to this:

  1. Take a shower. And use soap, shampoo, and conditioner.
  2. Wear deodorant. If you notice people giving you a wide berth at tourneys, maybe you should put some more on than you usually do.

Both of these steps should be taken soon before the tournament actually occurs! If you shower and slap on deo on Monday, you are NOT good-to-go for a Saturday monthly. Get up a bit earlier on Saturday morning, and take care of business. Also, brush your teeth and use mouthwash. Thankfully bad breath seems to not be a huge issue as far as I’ve seen…

Back in the early Melee days, you would find “deodorant” listed with “controller” under the list of ~Essentials~ for a national. It had become enough of an issue that it had to be formally addressed… It is not as bad these days, but you hardly see reminders anymore. So let this be a reminder: please practice good hygiene at tournaments. Do it for your fellow smashers, and do it for yourself.

Also, I only ever notice “the classic Xanadu stench” on Tuesdays, and never on Wednesdays… Does that mean that sm4sh players smell worse than Melee players?!  Maybe… Maybe not. Let’s just nip all stereotypes in the bud and remind our fellow smashers to always practice good hygiene.


Cool. That’s out of the way. What actually inspired this post was the question of HANDSHAKES. GRSmash has done a good job of demonstrating how awkward it can be when people go for different types of “the set is over and now we show mutual respect” action. We mostly see handshakes and fist-bumps (hereon referred to as a *pound*). The differences in choice vary greatly among smashers, and are caused by personal preference, regional tendencies, amount of saltiness/respect, and so forth. Here is my answer:

Always. Pound.

I will admit a slight bias – I’m from MD/VA, which is home of the *pound* (please register for Pound 2016 on smashgg if you haven’t already!). But, all things taken into consideration, the pound is the best post-set option.

You have to ask yourself what you want out of a hand-to-hand gesture at the end of a set. I’m looking for a way to signify the close of a set, for a gesture that lets my opponent know I respect his or her gameplay (win or lose), and for something that does not hinder me otherwise.

The pound achieves all of these. I do believe that a handshake has slightly more impact in the “respect” department – if I have a really tight set with someone in finals, then occasionally I have gone for handshakes over pounds – but the difference is overall negligible. If you really want to strive for the epitome of etiquette, try to make eye contact with your opponent before and after the set! That’s also something I try to do. Not only does it demonstrate politeness, but it shows your opponent that you’re confident.

Where the handshake holds the potential to not achieve everything I look for in an end-of-set-gesture is the last point: “something that does not hinder me otherwise.” Some smashers really get in the zone while playing… which results in sweaty hands. A smasher’s hands are his or her tools, and I try to keep them as uncompromised as possible in a tournament setting. I don’t want to have to wash my hands after every set, nor do I want to be slipping on my own controller! With a pound, you get a nice’n’simple bracing of knuckles, and you can move on with your life.


I think most people go for pounds before a set, anyways, but if not, I think there is even more reason to go for a pound than a handshake prior to the set. See: sweaty hands.


I wanted to address coaching because I think it’s an under-addressed issue. Firstly, mid-game coaching is absolutely prohibited. If not by the rules, then by common courtesy. You should not be subject to an opponent who has a coach whispering advice in his or her ear throughout the match. Secondly, and perhaps a bit more controversially, mid-SET coaching should be prohibited. It is quite common to see mid-set coaching, and I myself am guilty of providing and receiving mid-set coaching. But at the end of the day, what is a set of smash?

  1. Two opponents
  2. Attempting to outplay each other
  3. Attempting to execute exactly what they intend

Step 2 contains a whole ocean of sub-steps, including identifying habits, selecting optimal counterpicks, baiting and punishing, asserting zone control, making reads, and so forth. But when coaches are allowed mid-set, this process becomes less honest. If one player has a coach and the other does not, then the player-with-coach has an extra head helping him or her identify habits, come up with counterplays, predicting future moves, and so forth. So what if both players have a coach? Then you have four heads, and it’s hard to say whether the better PLAYER has won the set rather than the better PLAYER-COACH TEAM.

I am against mid-set coaching and in favor of maintaining the integrity of 1-on-1 competition in smash. I may address this in further detail in another post, but I thought I’d include it here because I know some players see mid-set coaching as bad tournament etiquette.


Here are a few other should-go-without-saying guidelines:

  1. Don’t talk to your opponent, or any other players, mid-set. It’s distracting and very BM.
  2. Don’t physically touch your opponent mid-set, and don’t touch other players while they are playing. Nothing pulls you out of a game more quickly than someone bumping your arm causing and SD, or shoving your chair over.
  3. Be a nice person. If your opponent pauses to help you because you accidentally unplugged your controller, don’t make them take a stock (but this would never happen, right?).
  4. Trash talk is fun. Try to keep it relatively impersonal.
  5. Thank your TOs.


There are a whole lot of other things I could have addressed, but this post got a bit long and rather rant-y. I hope it proved to be entertaining and at least somewhat informative in the meantime!

If any readers would like further elaboration or have questions or comments, please leave a reply below! I’ll read them all. Otherwise, hit me up on Twitter (@SmashG0D).


Happy smashing –



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