Head coach of the Boston Uprising talked to us about the challenges of the 2020 season

20:00, 31 May 2020

It has been a rough start to the season for the Boston Uprising, who are currently sitting at a 2-10 match score. Since the recruitment of Leyton "Punk" Gilchrist, however, the team has been on a surge, beating the Los Angeles Gladiators in close series and only narrowly losing to the Paris Eternal. Head coach Vytis "Mineral" Lasaitis talked to GGRecon about his teams season and the reason for their recent performance improvement. 

I'd be lying if I said it hasn't been rough. The season has truly been a roller-coaster of emotions.

We’ve been playing from home for a bit. How is the Uprising coping with COVID-19? Do your players play from a team house or player apartments? How do scrims work during this period? How are you personally holding up during quarantine?

All things considered, I think we are coping pretty well. The players live and practice out of a team house. Obviously the daily routine is a little different nowadays than it was at the beginning of the year, but in a way, for gamers, it also adds a little bit of convenience in terms of not having to travel. The staff lives remotely in apartments. Personally for me, it's been a bit up and down. It definitely is frustrating being stuck at home most of the time, but brighter days are ahead I'm sure.

Let’s start at the beginning of the season. What was your team’s reaction to the news of hero pools and how at the time did you think it was going to fit the roster and staff that you’ve built? Did you feel prepared?

I think if anyone would say they were fully prepared for hero pools they'd probably be lying. Of course, rosters with more depth across all positions would inherently be more ready to tackle anything, but it still introduced a ton of variance and uncertainty strategically. I definitely felt like some metas might fit us a bit better than others due to our player strengths, but not being able to think that far ahead and things shifting on a weekly basis made it pretty tough.

You started the season pre-hero pools during the Mei/Reaper period with a 1-2 scoreline but also had to play NYXL and Fusion in two of the three matches. Were you confident during that meta and where do you think you would’ve ranked?

Honestly, I don't think that meta was too great for us, at least not considering where we were at the time. Scrim wise, I think we started pre-season off very well in January when the meta was more poke heavy. We were doing very well in practice, but once the meta shifted toward more brawly compositions with Mei/Reaper right before the season tipped off, we hit a bit of a slump. I still think we were capable of beating the bottom teams at the time, but it took us a bit of time to catch up.

In the beginning of hero pools, you were dealt losses at the hand of currently bottom ranking teams in the Washington Justice, Toronto Defiant and Houston Outlaws. From your point of view, can you explain what went wrong? Was it an issue of strategy, synergy or scrim performance not translating to the matches or other reasons?

I think the losses could be attributed to multiple things. I certainly feel like there were weeks where us as a coaching staff just kind of dropped the ball trying to figure out that week's meta, the weekend in Washington being a good example. We tried to force a more brawly style during a weekend that turned out to heavily favour dive, so I feel that that weekend's result is on me. The fact that we had also recently lost Axxiom and it was Halo's first game with us kind of amplified the difficulties. The losses to the Outlaws and the Defiant were a bit different. We were actually picking up steam in practice and headed into the Defiant game coming off what was probably our best week of scrims in months, and truly feeling like we had turned the corner after the early-season gut-punches. There was no doubt in my mind we'd win that match. Unfortunately, as everyone knows, that was the weekend we lost another starter due to suspension, and Brussen had to step into the starting roster without having any scrim time for well over a month. Even though we had improved a lot at the time, our cushion wasn't big enough to overcome that on short notice.

I want us all to look back at this year remembering how much adversity we managed overcome, and to be proud of that.

Mineralpng

You’ve had several setbacks this season in terms of retirements. What was team morale like during this time?

I'd be lying if I said it hasn't been rough. The season has truly been a roller-coaster of emotions. There have been several promising periods where I feel like our form was ticking up and we'd turned a corner, only for us to lose a key cog, have everything crumble and leave us collectively trying to pick up the pieces and start over. Obviously it's very mentally taxing for everyone within the team to go through so many valleys, and it can negatively hit team morale and motivation. Thankfully, we have a great group of guys who are resilient and motivated and I'm very proud of their effort.

Assistant coach of the Philadelphia Fusion ChrisTFer brought up the idea for teams which are currently at the bottom of the rankings to scrim Contenders teams exclusively to build up confidence as he believes it to be one of the major aspects in winning matches in the Overwatch League. His theory is that the snowballing effect of being beaten over and over again turns into a downward spiral that’s self-perpetuating. What do you think of this idea? How do you evaluate the importance of confidence and have you implemented anything into your preparation that incorporates this aspect?

I think ChrisTFer is right--confidence and belief that you can win often transcend other aspects of competition. The reality of the situation is also that teams who are at the bottom of the standings naturally don't make for an attractive scrim partner, and getting quality practice becomes more difficult. At that point, there is no option but to incorporate contenders teams into your practice schedule. That can both hurt and help. Naturally heading into practice and losing a lot can really hit confidence and cause a downward spiral, while on the flip side not being in the server with the top teams also hurts your ability to study the best and learn from them. So in reality I think you need a healthy practice schedule balanced around your current skill level--being able to pick things up from far superior teams, while also proving to yourself that you are capable of winning as a team.

Seemingly since the pick up of Punk, your team looks transformed. Beating the Gladiators and playing the Eternal close during May Melee is no short feat. What does Punk bring to the team and what else changed in the week between playing the LA teams?

We had really been scrambling to find an off-tank player and grabbing Leyton was a great choice. Anytime you're struggling mightily, it's very easy to end up in, as you put it, downward spiral that's self-perpetuating. Making a roster change and bringing in a new player usually gives the group a boost, and I think Leyton's addition infused a lot of hope. His playstyle was exactly what we were looking for--an aggressive, vocal, mechanically skilled playmaker. I think adding him to the team helped us gather some momentum leading into the official, and once we won the first map against Gladiators, and proved to ourselves that we are capable of winning, we were able to ride that momentum.

Another two recruits that came in during the season were Halo & mikeyy. What do they bring to the team and how are you looking to utilize their talent?

Halo has been with us for a while since pretty early in the season and has done well for us across multiple heroes. Mikeyy is a new addition who we will start integrating into practice and see how he performs. We felt like he stood out from the crowd among American talent. He is a solid and confident shot-caller despite only having a limited amount of contenders experience under his belt, and he is motivated to get better. We'll see how we end up utilizing him this season, but we're confident he can continue to develop into a fantastic main tank.

What are your team’s goals for the rest of the season?

Obviously we're still at the bottom of the standings and we've had a tough year. My goal for the team is to make the most of the time we have this season and that means working toward becoming the best we can possibly be, for the sake of this year and beyond. I want us all to look back at this year remembering how much adversity we managed overcome, and to be proud of that. Tournament formats certainly incentivize all teams to show what they're made of despite their standings position, and I'm excited about us having the opportunity to compete in them.

Images courtesy of Boston Uprising and Blizzard Entertainment

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