With Gunba from Blank looking to transition from player to coach/analyst, I was reminded that in some of the announcements of the Overwatch League teams, there were a few names on the coaching staffs that were also players who made the same decision.
This was a pleasant surprise, since this area of Overwatch esports is kinda understaffed due to how new the game is and most good coaches in the scene aren’t children of it. In reality, Kyle “KyKy” Souder was probably the first player to transition to a coaching role, after having competed at the highest level with his team, Cloud9. Let’s see who else has followed suit and is on an Overwatch League team so far.
Vytis “Mineral” Lasaitis, coach of Msifits/Florida Mayhem, has a pretty similar story to KyKy’s. He was the Lucio player for Luminosity Gaming’s Loyal roster, where he played alongside Zave and Mannetten. After the three way trade that took place between Luminosity, Rogue and Misfits back in December of 2016, he was the only Swedish on the team left and he stayed till the March of 2017, when the addition of the Evil roster made the Loyal one pretty irrelevant. In all honesty, Mineral’s LG roster never managed to break through to Tier 1 competition and their only good showing in a Major tournament was Winter Premiere. Nonetheless, after leaving LG, he was picked up by Misfits. Initially, the plan was for him to coach the team but due to some mismanagement, he had to play Lucio for them for a good 4 months. After Misfits’ bad showing in Contenders S0, the roster reformed and he was moved to the coaching position, at last. As a Lucio player in metas where most of the shot calling and Ult tracking was his job, he was already trained to lead teams and formulate plans.
Adam “MESR” De La Torre made a name for himself as the Main Tank (Reinhardt, Winston) of Team Liquid. He was on the team from the April of 2016 all the way till the team’s disbanding announcement in September, 2017, when most of the players, ex-Quake top pros, decided to return to their beloved game and its new title, Quake Champions. MESR then expressed his wish to join an OWL team as an analyst or coach and obviously Flame, the general manager of the Houston Outlaws paid attention to his announcement. What I find interesting is that MESR didn’t have much time to prove himself as an analyst or coach in some competition with another roster, because there was no time. Him entering free agency coincided with the signing window for the Overwatch League. Still, Main Tank players are very deeply involved with tactics and have great combat awareness, due to them being prerequisites for their role. They are extremely vulnerable on their own and they need to coordinate precisely with their teammates to be able to get the most out of their heroes.
Jackson “Shake” Kaplan, assistant coach of the Boston Uprising, was previously a player for Complexity Gaming and, after them dropping their roster in May, 2017, he played for Counter-Logic Gaming till their announcement that they would not compete in Overwatch League and would drop their roster, too. His role as a player was Flex Support and during his time on Complexity, he played alongside Harbleu and Joemeister; the latter will participate in OWL rocking the jersey of Philadelphia Fusion. Complexity’s Overwatch team was known for their tactics, especially the Sombra ones, that almost managed to upset Team EnvyUs in MLG Vegas 2016 and send them home just after one game. I had heard rumors that Shake was one of those players that were very interested in stats and analysis and seeing him now as an assistant coach, it makes absolute sense to think that he was partially responsible for Complexity’s tactics. I am not sure to what extend he helped Counter Logic Gaming, though. As a previous Flex Support, he has vast knowledge on how to counter compositions and formulate good defenses.
Together with Shake, Rollon “Mini” Hamelin, another player who transitioned to coach/analyst, will look to help Boston’s team succeed in the first season of Overwatch League. For Mini, though, this won’t be his first coaching gig as he was the head coach of the Luminosity Gaming Evil roster starting from June till August, 2017. Before that, he was a player for Tempo Storm; his role was Main Tank, playing Winston and Reinhardt and his team was always at the bottom of North America’s tier 2 teams. As the head coach of LG Evil, his team’s biggest achievement was 3rd place in an Alienware Monthly Melee.
Many others exist who have made this jump from player to coach, but I wanted to use this opportunity that the Overwatch League gave me since it will attract so much attention, to also discuss the fact that it’s mostly players who played Tanks or Supports that transition to the analyst/coach role. I don’t think that this surprises anyone, since it’s more or less just a confirmation that these roles (Tanks/Supports) in Overwatch, as an esport, are heavily involved with tactics, positioning and conceptualizing the flow of the battle than that of the DPS, in which players need to focus more on their mechanics and aiming. Not to say that players in the DPS category do not actively take part in the shotcalling in-game or even leading their teams, like EscA has exemplified, but most likely are not in the phase right now to transition to an assisting role in the scene.
I am looking forward to seeing more of these transitions once the scene has matured a little more and what kind of effect they will have in Overwatch esports’ growth in the future.