With esports expanding there are more and more job opportunities for dedicated enthusiasts – even aside the player’s desk. Esports is becoming more professional every day and teams are no longer just a bunch of guys that play together on occasion. The big organisations hire coaches, nutritionists and psychologists to keep their players in the best shape.
Even though Rocket League might not yet be at the level of CS:GO or League of Legends, we already see many orgs adding coaches to their roster. We were curious how the daily job of a Rocket League coach is like and want to shine a light on these unsung heroes of the esports scene. We reached out to Eoin “Silent Echo” Bathurst, coach for the Rocket League roster of Ghost Gaming.
Silent Echo, what was your first coaching job and when did you first have the idea to become an esports coach?
Nearly every job that I’ve ever had has involved me coaching something to somebody somewhere but it all started when I was 15. I’d been free-running for about six months and performed a couple of times. We had an application for a theatre festival in Scotland accepted and suddenly we had 15 or so extras to train up for their parts. We sold out both our show nights (and had a pretty big audience for our dress rehearsal) bar the four chairs I totally wiped out with a big gymnastics box.
After that, it seemed like my coaching experience—and the passion it had instilled in me for everything that I did—was the little extra something I needed in job interviews. It’s strange to think about now but only one job actually had coaching in the role when I applied. In all my others I gravitated to it, volunteering to train new staff, working with the people designing training programmes, and eventually that one job came up, covering over 90 retail stores for Lenovo as a “Brand Evangelist.”
It seemed like a no-brainer to start coaching Rocket League as a freelancer after a year of casting the top teams in Gfinitys and Shift Pro League. I priced myself against other aspirational coaches like music/dance tutors, had good feedback, and shortly afterwards, Ghost Gaming got in touch.
“I suddenly realised I was just booting Rocket League up first every day”
Tell us a bit about your background: How did you get into gaming and specifically when did you discover Rocket League for the first time?
I’ve been gaming my whole life. From the Sega Master System II through to today, gaming has been the space that I gravitate towards. I will freely admit that I’m obsessed not only with playing but with understanding. I listen to hours of podcasts every week about game design. Why decisions are made, how tone is controlled, what challenges have to be solved, technical limitations… These days, my taste is much more focused though. I play Rocket League, Hearthstone, and PUBG. Immersive RPGs like AC2 and Morrowind used to be what did it for me but now I need a sharp competitive edge, I recently heard it referred to as “combat chess” and that’s perfect because I find that every competitive game can be analogised to “turn based” games like Chess or Go.
Finding Rocket League was a weird girl next door kinda thing for me. It was on my radar for months and eventually I just picked it up. I saw Kro streaming on Twitch during the beta and thought “this game seems okay but this guy is boring to watch.” I’d known about it for so long so I thought I was late to the party but according to Steam, I bought it on the 12th August 2015! Back then, I would play World of Tanks until I got tilted. Then play Heroes of the Storm until I got tilted. Hearthstone until, you guessed it, tilted. Then Rocket League for however long until I needed to go to bed. One day, I suddenly realised I was just booting Rocket League up first every day and had no idea how long I’d been doing that…
Coach goals <3 https://t.co/B2BfM2PK2Q
— Eoin Bathurst (@SilentEchoUK) 6. März 2018
What does the typical work of a Rocket League coach look like?
Lots of vods, lots of replays, and honestly, lots of not being sure. Rocket League is still very new and until very recently, nobody has had the means and time to try to define the game scientifically. To actually collect statistical data and look for the patterns that can be found there. Create hypotheses, test them, evolve them, test them again. So I’m doing that a lot of the time. One thing that I always have at the back of my mind is a line from Men in Black:
“Fifteen hundred years ago everybody knew the Earth was the center of the universe. Five hundred years ago, everybody knew the Earth was flat, and fifteen minutes ago, you knew that humans were alone on this planet. Imagine what you’ll know tomorrow.”
I’m not the kind of person to accept “we’ve always done it this way” as a reason for doing something. As a person, I’m arrogant and stubborn (I try to rein it in, poorly) so I frequently end up taking the long road to understanding why things happen. I try to peel back the layers. Physical, this is what is happening. Psychological, this is why those choices are being made. Mentality, this informs the decision-making. Tactically, these are the short-term options. Strategically, the long-term goals.
Doesn’t really answer the “typical” part of the question though. Ask me again in five years when we’ve actually figured this stuff out.
“Ask me again in five years, when we’ve actually figured this stuff out”
You’re currently coaching Ghost Gaming. How did you get to work with this team?
Honestly, they DM’d me on Twitter after I followed the org 30 or so seconds after they announced signing the guys. I did some live analysis of the NBC Open and provided some notes on teams as a trial and shortly after they asked me to go full-time.
Are there other teams that you’ve worked with?
I’ve worked with individual players in the past, but nothing formal. It’s difficult to get started because in Rocket League you can’t come from CS:GO and say “I know shooters.” There are so few touchstones for Rocket League, sure it’s football with cars but in football, players don’t need to go to a spot to recharge before they can run again. It’s kind of like hockey because the players carry their own momentum in a similar way but in hockey you can cover the goal with your stick without moving.
I was lucky because I’ve carried nine years of coaching experience into this and over a year of having nothing to do except play, cast, write & talk about Rocket League.
That was a suppppper quick goal for @ghostgaming_gg ? pic.twitter.com/IxlUy0MRCS
— DreamHack Rocket League (@DreamHackRL) 27. Januar 2018
What is a common misconception people may have about the work of an esports coach?
Hard to say, probably that anyone who is good at a game can coach it. I’ve found that many people who are the top of their sport or field can find it very difficult to break down what they are doing because so much of it is subconscious, habit, and instinct. Translating all that information, breaking down the layers, and internalising it to the point where you can explain it to someone succinctly is very difficult. Once you get to the highest levels, a lot of coaching is about evaluating all those things in the third person to find the pressure points where you can action a positive change as quickly as possible.
Mostly what that means is watching every match at least six times, every perspective of the players if you have replays, and doing the best you can with VODs.
Why is a coach necessary for having success in esports?
A coach is necessary in all endeavours, not having one just means you have to get by. In team sports a lot of coaching is about team politics, keeping the team focused on their goal and oiling the gears to keep everyone productive. Some times that means you need to take all the feedback out of your players and then bring it back to the group. Having that third person perspective available is crucial to moderating feedback and heading off team conflicts. How often have you been playing Rocket League, had a moment where you’re discussing what went wrong in that overtime and then someone says something reasonable (and probably true) but your first response would start with “but you…” Objectivity is hard to achieve and I’ve often said that I won’t coach people I play with regularly. I might not be able to resist the odd tip dropping out… but I could never play on a team that I coached.
“A coach is necessary in all endeavours”
Are the skills required to coach Rocket League transferable to other games?
One of the sport coaching qualifications I did in my teens was applicable to any UK registered sport with the addition of a single sport specific module. That specific module was about 5% of the whole course. Coaching is one of the most transferable skills there are, because it’s about being able to break things down. Once you’ve learnt how to communicate something complicated in a simple way, you’re halfway there already. Sprinkle in some pattern recognition, a spoon of data analysis, two cups of strategic concepts, stir in the psychology of competitive players, and after that it’s just about learning about the next thing you’re looking to coach as fast as you can.
What other games are you interested in coaching?
I’m very interested in PUBG. The Ghost team actually has a lot of potential and I’ve been enjoying their streams of tournaments. Understanding the player’s perspective during a game is the best way to internalise what options are available in specific situations, reduce those to the best percentage plays, and then evaluate the success of the selected option.
Nice job #GhostPUBG @Pubgsltv #StarSeries got 5th place in Game 6 Keep it up. Let’s get that chicken dinner!
Go! @GhostGaming_GG pic.twitter.com/niQK3nWlDs
— Ghost (@GhostGaming_GG) 2. März 2018
How good of a player do you have to be yourself in order to coach a game?
Pretty good but not as good as you might think. You can understand perfectly how to execute a golf swing, or a backhand smash… but be unable to perform that perfectly or consistently. I taught teenagers to backflip for two years before I was able to do it consistently myself.
Has it ever been an option for you to become a pro player instead of a coach?
There’s an alternate timeline somewhere out there where I didn’t move to Scotland at age 15 but still started freerunning. Before I moved, I lived near a town called Basingstoke which happens to be home to a gymnastics gym that a group called 3Run trained at. I met a few of the guys in later years and they were travelling the world shooting adverts. I do occasionally wonder if with access to the facilities they had, I would have ended up on that team (or another) and stunt doubling for TV and films.
In this timeline, sadly my current health would prevent me from competing professionally.
“Find time to assume that everyone is wrong”
What is your advice for people who’re interested in pursuing the career of an esports coach?
First of all, all the core concepts of coaching still apply. People have been writing about game theory, coaching theory, and player psychology for as longer than we’ve had professional sports. Use those resources. Then focus on understanding the detail, the minutiae. Break down every mechanical movement until there’s nothing left to define step by step. Find the limits of the systems and the rules. In Rocket League, the physics engine has very specific rules and they define what options you have available.
Finally, find time to assume that everyone is wrong and that there is another way to do things that might be successful.