TI is a a hallowed stage, and it is always the greatest event in each year. The players are treated like gods, spectators enjoy a live experience bordering on NBA-quality.
As a coach it is very difficult to be able to say anything that influences the game’s balance changes, or to have input in just exactly how transfer regulations and substitute player rules are set. Indeed, it’s only now – the 4th time I’ve been at a TI that I’ve finally gotten an International jacket that has my ID on it, and gotten a chance for a collective media interview (and unfortunately, because of the first question I ended up spending 3 minutes, or more, sobbing like a criminal being interrogated). So even though the coach position isn’t seen as that important with Valve and some clubs, I still want to say some things, and hopefully connect with those that agree with us as coaches.
First of all, you should know that coaches can have a very large amount of work both in and out of the game – a coach in many cases also acts as a team’s team lead and statistician. He needs every player to show up to practice on time, show up to matches on time, and hopes that the players can understand the style you’ve set for them. Creative drafts, offensive tactics, defensive must-knows, etc, etc, etc.
Our work can allow matches to become smoother, more pleasing to watch. In some ways, a game can be a fight between two coaches. But you must understand, in reality during a game, we as coaches have no idea how the players are communicating inside the booth, where problems may arise – whether it’s a mistake of the team in reading a situation, or lack of detail from an individual? I can only go off experiences collected from practices and make guesses, constructing the scenarios in my head. For every one of EHOME’s matches at TI, our team lead and I would sit backstage next to the players’ entrance to the stage and watch on a screen there: one printout map to record warding positions, another piece of paper to write down the opposition’s weaknesses and the types of adjustments they make, one more to record our own mistakes, and one last one with my thoughts on how I want us to adjust our style and draft.
At TI, there are only five minutes between games during a match. This includes the time given to use the restroom, so I have to stand next to the entrance and await the players, and shout over the live venue noise in order to relay the information I have recorded on the four pieces of paper during the previous game. Additionally I must control my speech tempo and emotions, I cannot give them pressure when they’ve just lost, or allow them to loosen up if they’ve just won. During these five minutes, Valve’s staff will also remind me to not touch the players at all as a rule. I’m unclear on what other teams’ coaches do as their work, because the two teams use different entrances, but I truly feel that in all this the amount that I can help the team is much too little.
How much I’d hoped, that at that moment IceFrog would walk through that corridor and see the imagery of that scene. See the look on my face when Josh told me that it might be best to hide those four pieces of paper, to prevent them being inadvertently filmed…
From 2003 when I first began coaching in Counterstrike, to today, it’s been 12 years (TI3 I took a break for the ACE Alliance). Many people will only say that in 2010 when EHOME won ESWC we had six people, and six versus five is lame on our part. Then you really should have checked out ESWC’s Counterstrike competition every year – they would always give me a computer, a Steelseries noise-cancelling headset with six meter extension cable for me to watch and give commands to the team. To this day I remember that, and the level of respect that came with it. Any and every professionalized competitive discipline has coaches, so I don’t believe that this is a pure 5v5 game. Teams that lack a coach should work to fill this void, or groom someone for the role. This is something they should be doing.
After TI5, we’re about to see the beginning of the Majors system. Valve will be giving every team two substitutes on the roster, so I want to know will these two players be free for coaches to swap in and out of any given game? Can we make subs in between games during a given match against another team? I believe that this is an interesting experiment, because like this, two teams and the competition between them has another added layer of considerations and it becomes even more difficult to counter and plan for an opponent. Matches will have even more variables, leading to even more exciting competition. But if this is only to try and prevent poaching of players and team-hopping, I do not believe it will be truly effective, and could even lead to teams eating themselves from inside (waste of talent).
I can imagine how much IceFrog and Valve love their child (Dota 2), I can imagine the looks of disappointment on their faces when the TI4 finals manifested in the form of a half hour push and push-defense game. But I would like you to listen a bit to this one coach’s words. Dota is also our child, or at least – I have fought for it for six years now, I hope to truly participate in it, be a part of it, and receive that respect.