Esports-coaching is a broad field with so many different approaches and forms that it’s not that easy to summarize or to define the term “esports coach”. But there are definitely some stereotypes of coaches under that we can pretty much sum up a lot of different tasks, aspects and approaches in esports coaching.
So I will give you a pretty rough overview of the main-types of coaches, to get more and more an idea of what esports coaches are doing and which different fields of work can be defined to answer the question: what are the typical tasks of esports coaches? And I will do this by downscaling the job to separated stereotypes, which will be: the analyst, the strategist, the mental coach and the head coach. These are obviously associated with esports coaching.
But keep in mind that stereotypes are just over generalized versions of a group of individuals. So in reality the role of a coach or a member of the staff is way more complex and customized to the individual needs and circumstances of a team or organization. But for now let’s have a look at all the different types of coaches.
His main task is reviewing and analyzing replay material, to generate and evaluate information and prepare it for further processing by the players in the training-phase as well as in pre- and postgame meetings.
This includes for example data evaluation, finding ingame related deficits and strengths based on the current replay analysis, giving feedback and criticism, as well as formulation of upcoming training goals, priorities, steps and tasks for the team and separately for individual players.
The analyst usually has very high game-knowledge, experience and is able to understand the game at the same level -not necessarily to play at the same level- as the active roster of the players and is able to impart and work up every information and data from replays to the players benefit.
His main tasks are strongly overlapped and interwoven with that of the analyst. However, the aspect of the strategist is much more creative. He is concerned with generating new possibilities, expanding the pool strategic alternatives and organizing and structuring information for the players in the form of playbooks, play sheets, etc.
The strategist, like the analyst, must also have a lot of experience and game knowledge in order to build up on previous developments in the meta and further develop a high amount of creativity to those to think ahead what could become viable in the future and also has to keep track of other teams tactical pool, strengths and weaknesses and so on. Therefore he also has to have a good understanding of the teams overall play-styles and has to share the same understanding with the players he Is working with of how the game has to be played, to provide an effective strategy-pool specified for the team and players needs.
As mentioned above, this is related to parts of the analysts work, but the focus is less on the preparation of existing material, but much more on the production of input and potential new and innovative material. And yes, in reality it mostly is one person who is both an analyst and a strategist, but there are also cases where this are actually divided into two coaches!
The mental coach
Mental care, fitness and health of the athletes have definitely become more important for coaching in Esports in recent years, because not everything in sports-coaching has something to do with the type of sport itself. Sports psychologists and mental coaches are more and more involved in professional teams and provide emotional stability, conflict management, availability of performance levels, supporting the long-term personal development, maintenance of mental resources, life balance and health of athletes and so on.
And one important thing you should never forget is this: being a coach means you are working with people. Human beings with needs, dreams, fears, strengths and weaknesses, feelings, beliefs and all these things that makes us human. You can’t reduce a personality to a certain role or job as for example being the “top-laner of team so and so”. That would be only one aspect of that person’s life and mental coaches are able to work with their clients in a larger context, meaning working with them as persons as a whole.
This requires people with an appropriate formal qualification such as psychologists, consultants and certified coaches with formal training. Sadly a lot of job titles are not protected by laws, which means almost everyone can call themselves “life coach, mental trainer or stuff like that”. This can become a real problem, especially when it comes to working with people here. Important and decisive are always the formal and academic trainings that someone can show for it. This does not necessarily have to say anything about the person’s competencies, but is a basic quality assurance for example ethical and methodical standards.
It is worth mentioning that eSports has so far lacked its own genuine methods, for example empirically proven from sports psychology. And this makes coaching in esports a very interesting , multifaceted and even a bit tricky. Almost every methods and interventions are so far transfers from classical sports psychology, from business coaching, etc., which is by no means to be judged to be negative, because success in the practice proves the previously transferred methods right. There are only a few methods and interventions directly originated from the work inside of esports teams and organizations. But enough of it, Let’s continue with the head coach.
The head coach
The Head coach is the central person of a coaching staff and is responsible for almost everything in a team. He usually isn’t a specialized coach for a specific aspect, but he coordinates the process around the team as a whole. That means he is primarily dealing with three things: the coaching staff, the team itself and the relationship between the coaching staff and the performing team.
So on the one hand he is supervising and delegating responsibilities within the coaching staff, he is the one who does the further processing of the output of his assistant coaches while he is also the link between the coaching staffs intentions and the implementation into to the team’s performance. And therefore he has to cultivate very effective working relationships between every involved individual. On the other hand, the head coach has to decide where exactly deficits exist and what the content and goals of the coaching processes should be. So in which area is coaching done, whether social, mental, strategic and with which goal training units are designed and which methods are used for them. In short terms: A headcoach defines the master plan for the entire team and ensures that, all the individual parts are able to work efficiently to archive the common goal. So that’s the rough idea of a headcoach.
The usual headcoach-figures we currently have in esports are mostly older individuals with an insane amount of experience in competitive gaming itself but also in the competitive formats, in training-methods and generally the esports industry in all its aspects. And this gives them the amount of authority they need to do their job. Because think about this: A headcoach must be able to handle every single issue that comes up within the team or the coaching staff. He can’t pass any responsibility, because it is exactly his job to be responsible for everything, to take care for every detail of the process, to have an answer or at least an idea for every issue that occurs, whether it be social, technical, organizational, etc. .What I want to say is that a headcoach simply must have some kind of a leader-status to keep the show running.
And to be able to do this, a large pool of professional experience is essential especially in the esports-industry where you can’t learn a lot from the textbooks. So on top of that he has to have of course excellent communication skills, the necessary leadership tools and a sense for appreciative supervision- and feedback culture and for comprehensive and farsighted planning.
For this reason the job of a headcoach overlaps with that of a manager in a way, but more about that in the next article.
So as I said these are the four types of coaches we immediately associate with coaching in esports.
Esports enthusiast with more than 15 years of experience in competitive gaming running this blog about esports know-how, training methods, sports psychology and coaching. Science lover, Global elite, (almost) Grandmaster, multiple inofficial Mario Card World Champion and still believes that everything used to be better in Counterstrike 1.6