Subverting Expectations

My father once said: “I can see my son becoming a doctor”. Now, I’m just an “esports guy”.

When I was 17, I graduated from high school. The plan was to go to Berlin and study economics, actually, not medicine.

But then I got an offer from an LCS team.

I had been in touch with a few teams, but I didn’t expect a lot to come of it. At that time, I didn’t even really want to move to Cologne, where the LCS was at the time.

But to the dismay of my parents, I took the opportunity and dropped out.

I can understand why they were upset. I was the “gifted son”. The first in my family to finish Abitur in Germany. They put their hopes in me, and I threw it back in their faces – at least that’s how they would see it.

They always had very high standards for me. I remember finishing my Abitur with a ranking of 1.6 after skipping a year. My parents said: “Why not better?”

It’s a pill that they had to swallow at some point. I had no intention of going back to complete my studies. Maybe one day, but not now and certainly not back then.

It was important for me to do something new. Esports gave me the opportunity to be part of something that was still growing. But my parents would rather I got my degree in economics, found a good job, and sat in a bank for the rest of my life.

I had to convince my father that I had made the right choice for me. I was prepared to put our relationship under risk if he didn’t support my decision. I didn’t want that to happen, but that’s how important it was for me to follow my own path, rather than one he set out for me.

In the end, and after many talks with him, he realized that I was happier in esports than I ever would be with a “regular” job. Now, they are happier, because they can see that I am happier. It worked out very nicely.

My dad now even watches the games that we play. If we win he texts me: “Well done!” without fail. At MSI he cried.

I’m grateful for his support at a time when I am trying to create a footprint as a coach.

I have always had an interest in the theoretical side of games. Even back when I played football a few years ago. I only ever got to the youth leagues of the Landesliga, so nothing very important, but I was very much interested in the tactics, not just the technical side.

The closest I got to coaching in football was being my team’s captain. Thankfully, getting into coaching in esports was able to scratch that itch.

My first coaching job was at Team ROCCAT, but I remember that those times weren’t the happiest in my life.

Being close to playoffs, or just making it to playoffs did not fulfil me. I am too competitive for that.

There were times that I even asked myself: “Do I even want to continue?”

I knew esports was going to blow up, but being average wasn’t interesting to me. There’s no point in being average.

That job did give me a lot of experience though. It helped me grow as a coach, even if I didn’t always enjoy it.

One of the big lessons I learned is that handling players in esports is not the same as traditional sports.

As a young kid in traditional sports, I went through six different youth leagues, and I remember having substitutes behind me every single time.

What that means is: if my coach said something and I didn’t want to do it, I wouldn’t play. As a kid, I wanted to play. So, I followed his instructions.

Sometimes it felt like my teammates and I were going through hell together, like a preseason Bootcamp. We ran together, trained together, reached the point of exhaustion together, and it made us bond as a team.

In esports, some players lack that type of bonding.

You have people who don’t know how to work; they’re just kids going pro from solo queue. That means that they have to learn respect and discipline, and it’s tough.

It can be hard to help older players grow when they haven’t had any experience of that yet.

If a youth club’s coach was to tell a player to do something, they would just do it because they trust the coach to know what he’s talking about.

In esports, getting there is sometimes harder. There are many different factors in their environment before they got into it, and it changes from person to person.

It can impact how a player’s ego comes off, how they argue with another player, how they phrase their communication, and how they behave beforehand and afterwards.

Sometimes, realizing that selfish actions can hurt a team is also difficult.

A player might not think that being 10 minutes late to a scrim matters, but they don’t see those nine other players are waiting for them.

In football, if someone acts like that, their coach would just send them home.

This type of harsh environment is missing right now because there are no substitutes, but maybe the academy system will change that.

It’s all about realizing what a team actually needs to succeed, what players need to sacrifice, and how much they are willing to sacrifice.

Perkz sacrificed his position in the mid lane and moved to AD carry for the team. But that is just one example.

That behaviour is not the norm. That’s why you see a huge drop-off between good teams and mediocre ones. 

When I joined G2 Esports, I joined an organization that was way more proactive – things were moving fast. It was a breath of fresh air.

I could be an authoritative figure here, but it’s not really needed. The players are all veterans and understand what is needed. We have respectful and open discussions, and that encourages them to be more creative.

There is also very much an “open door” policy in the team. I learned at ROCCAT that the coach can influence the players, but the players can and should have some influence on a coach.

Sometimes that can be criticism, and that’s okay.

Criticism – whether it be genuine or just banter – is fine when it’s from my players. In fact, when we banter with each other it usually builds comfort and trust, so I’m happy to do that.

And then there’s criticism from the outside.

Basically, one of my roles is to shield the players. If one of them makes a misplay and we lose the game, I don’t mind if they or other people want to blame the draft.

If the whole region hates me, or if the audience thinks I’m bad, it doesn’t matter as long as the players are working with me, because I work for them.

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