Esports Coaching – Full Explanation of Coaches in Esports

You may have seen a job opportunity to become an esports coach at a local college or small grassroots group. Esports coaches play a vital role within the esports industry, but you may wonder what is an esports coach or esports coaching?

An Esports coach works with an esports team to develop meta-based strategies, analyze the competitions’ weaknesses, develop strong internal communication, grow player morale, provide personal mentoring and ensure the success of the team in tournaments. Esports coaches work closely with esports managers and esports analysts for optimal success.

Esports coaching is the act of educating, strategizing and building internal functions of the team. This includes their communications, ability-to-play, removing any additional mental and emotional baggage from players’ personal lives and continually building the team’s relationships through team building activities.

In this article, I will be breaking down the specific responsibilities of an esports coach, how coaching may vary between a big and small team, how coaching may vary based on the game, and if esports coaching would be the right direction for you.

The Responsibilities of an Esports Coach

Unlike a team manager, the team coach in esports takes on a very team-centric position with one clear objective in mind, to ensure the success of their players. This success will not only come from improving the playing performance of the players, but also removing headaches from everyday life including physical issues and mental baggage.

The responsibilities of an esports coach is as following:

  • Analyze the current meta to draft up strong strategies that play to the team’s strengths.
  • Enhance internal communication of the players. This can be done through team-building activities and identifying key communication lapses during games.
  • Ensure players keep a positive outlook on the game, their performance and have a winner’s mentality through various motivational tactics.
  • Resolve a player’s personal issues and provide consulting on personal issues to remove mental baggage from the player to ensure they perform at their max potential.
  • Ensure the players are prepared when travelling and that nothing important is being forgotten. This typically is referring to player jerseys, sponsorship items and team-branding merchandise.
  • Coordinate scrims for the teams to provide more practicing opportunities.
  • Work with the managers to determine specific competitions to be involved in and, if the coach is an employee of the team, to ensure the players the team desires to resign have received a service from the team to justify resigning.
  • Work with the team analyst/s (if there is one) to look at the team’s play-by-play, specific game stats and determine critical flaws of the team. The team analyst/s would also work with the team manager to observe opposing teams and determine how their team can draft a strategy to win when facing that team.

That is a somewhat exhaustive list of the typical responsibilities of an esports coach, but based on the size of the business the team is presenting, the responsibilities of the esports coach may vary. We will dive more into the differences and what is worth expecting based on the specific contexts for that coach below.

To provide some clarity on these responsibilities, I will break them down further below. To skip this section and jump directly to different esports coaches, click here. To skip all the way to if coaching is right for you, click here.

Team Strategy Development and Analysis

This topic covers the following bullet points:

  • Analyze the current meta to draft up strong strategies that play to the team’s strengths.
  • Work with the team analyst/s (if there is one) to look at the team’s play-by-play, specific game stats and determine critical flaws of the team. The team analyst/s would also work with the team manager to observe opposing teams and determine how their team can draft a strategy to win when facing that team.

As a coach, your primary objective is to ensure your team wins as much as possible. This provides the most value to both the organizations and the players. With that said, one of the best ways to do that is to ensure the tactics of the team employed are optimal.

Let’s look at League of Legends for example. In this game, there are 150+ characters, 180+ items, 5 player roles, 5 rune pathways, 55,000+ rune combinations and patch updates every 2 weeks (with a new/reworked champion about every month or 2). That’s a lot there as far as strategy, to determine what characters to pick, what runes to employ and what builds to leverage.

And it’s not black and white. The characters used (known as champions), the items built, and the runes employed all should be adaptive to the opposing team’s strengths, the players’ strengths and what everyone chose for that specific match. For example, if the opposing team doesn’t have any primary magic-damage dealing champion, the team may want to run 3 tanky champions and adjust our build to have increased our physical-damage neglection (known as armour).

This is just a simple example where choices of in-game mechanics are employed. Another element of a strategy is how each player may conduct themselves in an overarching strategy. Games like CS:GO and Valorant is almost completely based around this.

In Valorant for example, let’s talk about the attacking team on the map Haven (image below). Beyond player skill, the only differences between teams are the characters used, the weapons bought and how both those selections play into the overarching strategy of the team.

Without good strategy employed by the team in a game like Valorant, the team is doomed to fail, and this is rested on the shoulders of the coach as someone who isn’t emotionally involved in the game and can see the bigger picture that the individual players may struggle to see.

Honing the Skills of The Current Players

This topic covers the following bullet points:

  • Enhance internal communication of the players. This can be done through team-building activities and identifying key communication lapses during games.
  • Coordinate scrims for the teams to provide more practicing opportunities.

This one is fairly straightforward, the better a player plays, the more they win. The more they win, the more viewership the organization gets and the more money everyone makes.

To ensure the improvement of the players’ performance, the coach will usually orchestrate what are known as scrims or scrimmages. These are friendly matches against teams at a similar skill level for the players to employ new strategies and practice as if this was a tournament match without the repercussions of losing. These matches typically have nothing wagering for winning or losing.

The only concern with scrims is if a strategy is employed and realized by an opposing team, they can prepare to counter this strategy.

The coach would also want to ensure smooth communications for players in team games. This can be done through team-building activities, noticing at what points of the games should have a player spoke that was otherwise quiet, and understanding growing conflicts between players and resolving them before they result in larger problems down the line.

Team Mentality and Focus

This topic covers the following bullet points:

  • Ensure players keep a positive outlook on the game, their performance and have a winner’s mentality through various motivational tactics.
  • Resolve a player’s personal issues and provide consulting on personal issues to remove mental baggage from the player to ensure they perform at their max potential.
  • Ensure the players are prepared when travelling and that nothing important is being forgotten. This typically is referring to player jerseys, sponsorship items and team-branding merchandise.

This factor is especially important for skilled teams and when teams are entering into a tournament. Unlike scrims, the success in these matches matter and the outcomes of these games typically have a direct impact on the return-on-investment (ROI) for the businesses that are paying both the players and the coach.

Failure to execute in these matches could result in the coach being cut or the players losing their spot with the team (or a pay cut depending on the contract and the context). This pressure can get to players and it’s up to the coach to ensure everything else doesn’t go down the drain due to these kinds of mishaps.

Image result for esports psychology

Providing the Most Business Value to the Organization

This topic covers the following bullet points:

  • Work with the managers to determine specific competitions to be involved in and, if the coach is an employee of the team, to ensure the players the team desires to resign have received a service from the team to justify resigning.

All professional esports teams and first and foremost businesses, and as a business they need to make sure they are able to profit from all investments made. This would include long-term investments as well as clear wins for the organization through profit projections.

As an esports coach, you would obviously want the players to be playing at their optimal to receive as much publicity as possible from tournaments. But the coach occasionally will provide input in the select tournaments an esports team would be involved in. Perhaps the involvement of a tier 1 team in a tier 3 tournament won’t be worth the cost of travel, entry costs and time taken away from scrimming for the upcoming tier 1 tournament.

Or maybe it’ll provide back PR to the team that will result in a subtle long-term win in that geographic location. Perhaps it’s a charity event that will bring good PR to the team and the players can bring donations to a charity of their choice. This is typically a team manager’s and general manager’s responsibility, but a coach may be involved in these discussions.

At the end of the day, if the coach is being paid, his payroll needs to be justified by the value he and his skills bring to the business. Failure to do so would result in changes needed to be made on the side of the team.

Different Esports Coaches

The roles and responsibilities of an esports coach varies for a number of reasons, below we will go through a few situations where variations may occur.

Size of an Organization

For example, if the esports coach isn’t paid, it’s likely that the coach wouldn’t be exhaustively analyzing the opponents and spending several hours understanding the meta to determine hidden game-winning strats. Rather, for most unpaid teams, they are likely tier 2 or tier 3 (to learn about esports team tiers, click here) and they just need to focus on improving their current gameplay rather than finding a gimmick.

An exception to this rule even on a smaller team would be in tier 2 conclusive events or any tier 1 event as the success in those events bring a lot of business value to the overall brand.

In some teams, when the on-team paid staff is minimal, such as the team manager is a general manager catering to many teams, they usually manage more of the business with a load of other responsibilities, where that specific team’s esports coach may also need to manage registration for tournaments and manage most travel coordination.

Different Games

One aspect that slightly affects the responsibilities of an esports coach is the specific game they coach for. Although the responsibilities are the same for the most part, some variations on strategizing and play-by-play analysis vary.

Take for example Super Smash Bros Ultimate (SSBU) versus a game like League of Legends (LoL). In SSBU, for most of the analysis (typically completed by the analyst, but let’s assume for this example the organization is too small to fund one), the coach would likely be watching a lot of the parts of the game frame-by-frame to see what faults resulted in misplays of their player.

But in a game like LoL, there would be no reason beyond in fights that have too many particles flying or abilities being launched nearly simultaneously, for the coach to breakdown the fights or misplays frame-by-frame (let alone have the time to go through a 45 min match frame-by-frame for any good portion of the game). For that reason, the way a coach would break this down would vary from SSBU.

Not to mention the fact that SSBU is for the most part a solo game and LoL is a team-based game. Although an individual team coach may need to coach multiple SSBU players, he would coach them as if they are playing as an individual and not have to take on the responsibility of ensuring good internal communication and teamsmanship since that wouldn’t impact a solo’s match.

Even crew battles would be educated as an individual, despite the involvement of multiple players. The exception to this in SSBU’s case are doubles, but that’s beyond the point of the example. LoL is different for the fact that the coordination between all 5 (or 6/7 if you include the subs) to ensure success live in the match.

Should You Be an Esports Coach?

To determine if esports coaching is right for you, there is a number of factors to take into account. In this section, we will briefly go through those factors and you can make the decision of if attempting to coach is the best route for you.

Can You Garner Respect?

This is a major factor that is needed to be considered; can you garner the respect of the players. A large part of this is honestly if you are a gamer and understand the efforts put in by the players. This can usually be enhanced if you yourself were once a competitive player, specifically one of a higher tier.

But there are many other factors that play into being a respectable individual. For example, do you respect your players will still holding authority? Can you hold your ground and defend your post without being short-tempered or prone to arguments.

Are you willing to protect your team and put the players first from the public and the internal organization? Do you understand the vision of the team and their struggles to be the best they possibly can?

These elements are factors that apply to any leader, but more so to any coach in any circumstance. Both in sports and esports, coaches need to be relatable and respected by the team and its players.

Do You Understand Games Well and Understand Competitive?

Just like sports, a coach needs to understand the game and competitive scene well. Can you imagine a basketball coach who isn’t a basketball enthusiast? The same applies to coaching in esports (although just like sports, that doesn’t always apply to the manager).

You’d also need to understand the competitive scene. That doesn’t mean you would have needed to have played competitive, although that is a major asset. Instead, you need to understand all that is entailed in the competitive scene, understand the game landscape, the changing meta, the struggles of the players and what needs to be done for a team to be competitive in the scene.

Failure to abide by the latter part will significantly diminish your value as a strong coach and your coaching practices will suffer from this. To rectify this issue would require many hours of research and understanding of the landscape. It is possible though to go from zero to coach-level material with enough dedication and discipline.

Do You Have the Opportunitiy and Ability to Start Building a Portfolio Without Pay?

In esports, experience is everything. Most of you reading this likely don’t have years of experience in coaching sports or another esports, if you do, you have not much to worry about here (just as you apply for jobs, you’d need to advocate that you are an esports enthusiast and explain how you understand the competitive scene).

Esports is a new industry, in its adolescence phase. That said, the demand to get into the scene is quite high. Therefore, if you want to get a job right away, you’d be competing with individuals who’ve done years of free coaching for small grassroots teams.

In order to be competitive, you’d want to build your own portfolio from grassroots endeavours. This could be coaching your college’s esports team, or a tier 3’s esports team that you found on Twitter or Hit Marker.

Regardless of how you do it, you will need to start building a portfolio before thinking about any paid positions, and that’s the beauty of esports. This is common amongst all esports jobs, the one people who put in the work without the money (or from the same field in a different industry) get in.