As many people know, I spent the past year coaching Team Secret. I know there are a lot of questions about my experience coaching; why I wanted to do it, what I did for the team, why I decided to return to playing, and what I have learned from the time with Team Secret.
I decided to coach Team Secret following TI4. I really think that every experience can teach something valuable and I was excited to find a place where we could focus just on playing.
My standard response for my role on the team was a sixth set of eyes. Like I said, it was all about playing Dota. I was there to watch replays, think about new strategies, and talk about our games and scrims afterwards. I think the most important aspect of a coach is that their performance isn’t in question. Everyone is a good player, but everyone will still make mistakes. Your captain may be right when they point out your mistake, but will you listen to him if he missed shallow grave on you at some point in the series? It may seem like a little thing, but teams need to understand their mistakes and be willing to recognize them. A coach is impartial; I could tell Artour to stop diving tier fours with the tier two still up because I wasn’t in the game diving with him. Even though I am no longer coaching, I feel like the role is still a necessary one, if only to just have that sixth unbiased observer.
Coaching had other aspects I hadn’t foreseen. As a coach you are everyone’s friend while also being the hardass. You and the captain back each other up, but you also need to be able to confront anyone at any point if it is necessary. It is just a fact of life that no matter how much a group of guys like each other, there will always be issues that need to be ironed out. Everyone tilts, and it doesn’t always stay in the game. I think that is what I learned the most through coaching: it isn’t just about some boys, playing some Dota. Everyone is a skilled player, team success comes down to mentality, drive, and respect for your teammates. I really felt like recognizing potential issues addressing players’ mental states became just as important as watching replays and analyzing strategies.
Every team is different in what they need from a coach. Secret players were already mechanically very good; they usually understood their mistakes and what needed to be done to move forward. Coaching often involved bigger picture ideas and managing team dynamics, as well as analyzing opponent teams. Another roster would need a different style of coaching to make them successful. Being a good coach requires recognizing how to be flexible and adapt to the needs of the team.
I could have kept coaching, and I would have enjoyed it. I am a pretty analytical guy and I feel like I have a lot to offer as a coach, but I still want to play. I don’t think anyone should ignore what they really want to do, or they won’t be able to devote 100%. If you read my last post, I talked about passion and commitment. I had an amazing year working with some of the most talented and renowned players out there, but it was another year with the same faces who are used to being on top. There is a special drive in guys getting their first real shot. Coaching taught me a better appreciation of all the roles on a team, inside and outside of the game. I have a better grasp of strategy and team dynamics, and I have put together a roster where I can really test out my ideas and push my team.
Coaching came down to asking the right questions at the appropriate times to lead the team towards the right direction. No two teams have the same players and each individual has their own personalities and behaviours. Just like Dota, at the end of the day coaching is what you really make of it and adapt to, it isn’t black and white. I’m glad I took a year off to coach, but I’m ready to focus on playing some Dota.