Behind every great esports team are staff who will help train the players and get the best out of them. Here’s some key info on the role and how to become a coach…
What is a coach?
Like traditional sports, a coach will help the team train against other teams (aka ‘scrim’) in order to improve.
Coaches work closely with the players, to motivate them, identify their strengths and weaknesses and make sure they are playing at their best. They will develop strategies and analyse opponents in order to win as many matches – and tournaments – as possible.
A coach is responsible for every aspect relating to performance within a team. This includes, but is not limited to, growth of individual skill of the players, team cohesion, in-game strategy, motivational responsibilities and discipline.
There are several coaching roles which include head coach, draft coach, strategic coach and sports psychologist. It is very common for one coach to do multiple roles within a team based on the large variation of coaching structures within esports teams. These roles can differ greatly depending on the team you’re in.
Will “FrozenDawn” Burgess, a UK League of Legends coach who has worked with Schalke 04 Esports, says: “As well as teaching the players certain aspects of the game, particularly macro-based decision making, coaches may also be required to resolve conflicts between players and motivate the players to improve.”
Coaches may also be required to record videos of matches, watch them back, keep up to date with the game in question, make notes and arrange scrims.
What about an analyst?
Analysts are experts at taking information and using it to provide interesting stats or learn from it, either for a particular team, tournament provider, broadcaster or game developer.
Team analysts usually work with coaches to generate strategies, analyse strengths and weaknesses, and communicate this to the players in order to get the best out of them. Sometimes a person will be responsible for both coaching and analyst duties.
Some companies or developers will employ analysts or statisticians to keep track of facts, stats and other game information throughout each season.
What skills you need
You will need an excellent understanding of the rules and intricacies a particular game, and usually be required to be able to play the game at a reasonable level yourself. You’ll need to keep up to date with game changes and the meta (how pros are playing the game in a certain way), analyse other top-level matches to get ideas, identify the strengths and weaknesses of your players, and come up with strategies.
Coaches and analysts may be required to analyse opponents, come up with reports, communicate with and use data effectively with players.
Some coaches are expected to assist the manager or owner in the recruitment of players, helping with venues, monitoring the health of players and more.
What qualifications are required?
Image source: Lolesports
FrozenDawn explains: “There are no set qualifications required for such a job. I myself have an Mres in Philosophy.
“Essentially, to get involved one needs to have the skillset for the role – which includes people management, deep knowledge about the game and communication and teaching skills.
“They then to prove to themselves and others that they have this skillset and that their skillset is better than someone else’s. In order to get involved, typically one has to prove themselves to a lower-tier team in the league as they eventually climb to higher-end teams and leagues.”
How to become a great coach/analyst – plus FrozenDawn’s top 5 tips
As is the case with other esports roles, competition can be fierce in this area, so getting experience is key.
There are many amateur-level esports organisations in the UK that will be looking for decent coaches and analysts. While they might not be able to offer a salary, offering to volunteer part time for them throughout a season can be extremely valuable in terms of getting experience.
Will “FrozenDawn” Burgess offers his three top tips:
- My first bit of advice would be to make sure you understand what you are doing and WHY you are doing it. Understand what motivates you, how hard are you willing to try, how much time and effort and for how long will you keep pushing. Making sure you know these will help clarify your situation for you and will prevent backash if it all goes wrong.
- Secondly, I would suggest focusing very much on clear goals and objectives. Not only as a coaching mechanism, but primarily for yourself. Start with a main overarching goal and then figure out how to achieve it and based smaller, easier goals from this.
- Finally, I would advise being entirely self-critical and reflective. Consistently look back at your day/week and reflect on what you achieved, what you didn’t, what you did well and what you could have done better.
- Make sure you have a contingency plan. Don’t drop out of school or college or university unless you have a strong offer. Something at any point could go wrong and you need to have a life available in case it does. This isn’t to say ‘don’t dream big’, of course if you want something, do everything you can to go get it. But be aware that at any point something could go wrong and you don’t want to be up the creek without a paddle.
- Never stop learning and self-reflecting.
What can you expect to earn?
As with most esports roles, it varies. For some examples, in the NLC (the top level of UK League of Legends), coaches get between £400 to £1,000 or even up to £2,000 per month with the best teams. In the mid-tier UKLC, coaches could be on around £50-500 per month.
There’s the opportunity to earn more by offering one-on-one coaching too. Some streamers offer coaching services, charging anything from £20 to £100 or beyond for a session, depending on their skill level, coaching technique and reputation.
In some of the world’s best teams, coaches can break into low six-figure salaries.
As a professional coach or analyst, you will also usually be located in a gaming house or office/other location with the rest of the team, with meals and travel covered by the organisation.
Bear in mind, this is a competitive role. Unless you are an ex pro player, don’t expect to earn much from your first jobs. This is a role that some will do voluntarily/unpaid in lower-tier grassroots teams to help get them some experience and a foot in the door. But based on experience and results, you can expect the salary to rise.
FrozenDawn says: “There is a constant threat of being jobless or out of a position with no money, and some people find the public backlash of failure very difficult to deal with.
“Also, you don’t have any real idea about the future, for example whether a team is going to progress to the next tier/tournament or not, so life planning is very, very hard.”
What are the hours like and what are the perks of the job?
“The hours are entirely dictated by how hard you are willing to try, and other commitments,” FrozenDawn states. “When I worked with ManaLight, I would wake at 10am, do two hours of academic study, then have lunch, a one hour break then coach League of Legends from about 2pm to 10pm.
“Sometimes I would coach for longer, but some days scrims would be cancelled and I would do a few less hours. This is by no means optimal, just what I was able to do.”
On the perks of the job, FrozenDawn adds: “I think everyone who does this, does it because they love it. I myself love playing and coaching, I love the competition, the constant struggle to improve and drive to be the best. Not all jobs can offer this: it is part of being involved in a competition driven-environment.
“There is also something to be said for helping players learn and improve and noticing that improvement, from having potential to being great, to seeing them actually perform well on stage.
“That is a very special feeling.”