Oxygen Esports' new coach, Julie 'Moon Phases' Combes, spoke to us about how she can be influential on her debut season in Rocket League.
Oxygen Esports currently feel like a firework whose fuse has yet to ignite. Full to the brim with immense talent and untapped potential, but for some reason, has yet to explode into life to dominate Europe. The competition in EU is immense, with the likes of Team BDS and Renault Vitality being so successful early on in the Fall Split, but Oxygen Esports could easily light the European skies and transcend into stars, if only they became winners in their head first.
We often regard French Rocket League players such as Alexandre "Kaydop" Courantor and Victor "Fairy Peak!" Locquet as players that have a certain knack for winning. They can often win a game before the initial count down, as mentally they already know how to get the job done. As the timer ticks from three to two to one, the elitist mindset clicks into gear, and this is often enough to eject the opponents from their seats. When it comes to Oxygen, though, it seems to be their mentality that cannot push them to their pinnacle, despite undoubtedly having the talent to do so. With three runners up medals and two more semi-final appearances in The Grid, Victor “Ferra” Francal, Thibault “Chausette45” Grzesiak, and Maello “Aztral” Ernst just need to be let loose in order for them to take Europe’s breath away.
This is where their latest addition to the squad comes in.
Julie “Moon Phases” Combes was announced as their new coach as of September 18, replacing David "yumi_cheeseman" Lane who had parted ways with the organisation two months prior.
Moon Phases has coached for nearly four years, previously working as a coach for League of Legends sides Solary, Bursaspor Esports, and Team Oplon. Specialising in strategic analysis and team cohesion, Moon Phases made the transition to Rocket League, especially for Oxygen, after being contacted about the role to complete their fully French-speaking squad. Raising many eyebrows due to her lack of experience in this specific esports, Moon Phases spoke to us about how she aims to turn Oxygen into a winning machine, how she differs from other coaches, and how she hopes to inspire more women to believe in their own ability within Rocket League.
The First Phase
Moon left the League of Legends side, Team Oplon, after being headhunted by Oxygen Esports. After a successful interview with esports agent Cyril Berges, Moon was immediately scheduled to talk with the team and subsequently thrown into a two-week trial period.
Here, she continued to impress, despite not being the most tactically gifted coach in Rocket League. What Julie found, and Oxygen liked, was that her abilities were largely transferrable in every esport and walk of life. Her coaching methods were immeasurable and unquantifiable. It's not a matter of saving milliseconds on a rotation, it's rather gifting her team the freedom and mental euphoria that was needed, with the nitty-gritty strategic manoeuvres coming in later on. Rocket League, for Julie, is like the dark side of the moon, untouched and unforeseen, but on the surface, it's no different than what meets the eye.
Be confident, believe in your abilities, work hard, and there will be no reason why you won't coach a team at this level.
"I think I bring a different strategic approach than the one currently used in the game," stated Moon Phases. "For me, strategy is not just about in-game actions, I see strategy in a more global way around overall performance, beyond in-game actions". The transition from League of Legends could be a match made in heaven for Moon Phases and Oxygen Esports, who mechanically are distinguished, but needed to cohere as a trio.
A New Dawn
A new chapter in her career is unfolding, and many Rocket League esports fans may have already become sceptical about her lack of knowledge within the game. However, this is where she believes her coaching style will set her apart from other coaches. "Every coach is different," said Moon. "The diversity of knowledge and experience of each offers a different kind of coaching. It's very similar to an identity, but it's still based on the human factor.
"I am still learning day after day, that's why I love my job, you're learning all the time. Maybe I have a very different vision of the coaching methods that are used, for me coaching a team is more than just doing reviews and giving exercises in-game".
In many ways it's an unorthodox approach, as teams would often opt for motivation and experience when looking for a coach, for instance, NRG's Emiliano "Sizz" Benny and Version1's Jayson "Fireburner" Nunez. Moon recognises that there are multiple ways to get the best out of your team, though. She explained that "there is no right or wrong way to do it, in fact, it depends on the players you work with. But for me, performance is not just a matter of knowledge or understanding". Arguably the best coaches in esports are more than just trainers. They're managers. They manage a players mind, the team's goals and aspirations, and unearthing a coherent willingness to learn and adapt. Coaches across multiple titles have adopted this method, and it appears Oxygen have targetted this approach.
The Oxygen Tank
In terms of the team's results, Oxygen has had a turbulent season, to say the least. Five top-four finishes in The Grid, was followed by not one playoff appearance in the Regional Events. Despite having arguably the best mechanical player in the world in AztraL, and a dexterous duo that has been proven winners, Oxygen continued to underperform when they stepped on the big stage. Many have put this down to online play, as Ferra and Chausette often excel at LAN events such as their DreamHack wins during their time at PSG. However, AztraL, won MVP in Season 9 playing online in his breakthrough year, and has yet to find more than a slither of his consistency from last season. Oxygen and Moon need the enterprising striker firing on all cylinders on a frequent basis, aligning with the team chemistry first, and pulling off the impossible second, which will be her biggest task. Three players of the highest calibre have yet to compliment each other and work together in unison.
"As with any coaching, I think I can help them to do better in many areas." began Moon Phases, adding "they are talented and passionate players with whom I love to work, we are working step by step, and hopefully we will be able to offer better results through this work. Many things are currently being coached, and others are planned for the next few weeks".
Tactically, Moon Phases has a trio who boasts a huge wealth of in-game knowledge. With Moon as the judge and executioner behind the team manoeuvres combined with the experience and coordination of Ferra and Chausette, the finessing of Oxygens team aggression and unleashing AztraL's solo plays will look to be refined. Having confidence in one another is where this team must excel. Being able to manage the tempo of a game will be paramount to their success, and this area of Rocket League is psychological. Players such as the aforementioned Kaydop seldom get overwhelmed and are in complete control of matches. Moon will look to implement this by allowing her players to find time to mentally breathe and work together to be in authority.
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One player who has often had the ability to turn a game on its head in a heartbeat is the audacious AztraL, although he comes with many doubters due to rumours regarding his team cohesion. However, Moon fully believes in the Belgian, stating: "I think we have to stop talking about the past or negative experiences. It's complicated to rely on rumours or reputations that some players have, the reality is often far away or different from what we think". Previously question marks over his professionalism surfaced, stemming from communication problems with former teammates. However, publically looking for redemption himself, Moon has identified that she will work with individuals on their weaknesses by stating "If Aztral, Chausette or Ferra have any difficulties, be sure that I work with them on this and that they all have the desire to fight any difficulty".
It's clear that it's not just Moon who will be a driving force for Oxygen. The organisation from the bonnet to the chassis have a uniformed direction, and the players behind the wheel will benefit densely by utilising their radios and brake pads to ignite their attacks and streamline team plays. Transparently looking to transition to a fully French team, eliminating any communication barriers in the process, has been the tactic of the organisation. With the Danish Emil "fruity" Moselund making way for AztraL, and Moon coming in after Yumi left, the whole organisation is on the same page. As a whole, the effects of Moon Phases couldn't have found a better-suited roster.
Don't be scared of the dark.
For the night isn't dark and full of terrors. There's a reason the Baratheon's of the Dragon Age were squashed. They were never able to step out from their shadows and represent the modern era. Yes, Rocket League stems from stereotypically male interests, however, the game ceases to be about these surface-level aspects. Instead, it becomes much more about angles and flamboyance alongside managing resources and working creatively with peers to out-navigate teams in a high-speed environment. In positions like Moons, It is understanding Rocket League analytically and cracking the dynamics down to the core whilst strengthening bonds and relationships throughout the team.
For Moon, she hopes her position, especially come LAN tournaments, will encourage more women to be involved within our game. There are more routes available than what meets the eye, if only they will step into the moonlight.
"I hope that anyone who has the knowledge, skills and mindset to become a good coach will be able to move on to a similar position, female, male or other," stated Julie, before adding "there is no reason why this shouldn't be the case, other than fear. Fight it".
The representation of gender equality doesn't run rife within Rocket League, with Jaime "Karma" Bickford and Talynn "Talliebird" Brandon being the only women to ever play in the RLCS. Having role models will inspire more like-minded women to get involved, and Moon acknowledged that she is now a face of Rocket League diversity, even as a coach.
"Spectators are particularly hard to deal with seeing a woman in my position, without even knowing what my job is or what I actually do. It doesn't matter, there will always be someone to criticise, it's one of the things you have to overcome.
"Be confident, believe in your abilities, work hard, and there will be no reason why you won't coach a team at this level".
For a coach with no experience within Rocket League to enter the scene so well prepared to tackle hurdles head-on, and transfer fundamental skills to develop her team, its no doubt that Julie "Moon Phases" Combes could help Oxygen Esports succeed. Whether its strategically manoeuvring the team around the pitch or allowing them to mentally flip reset, Moon Phases' drive can be inspirational.
There's no denying the fact that BDS and Renault Vitality are orbiting the RLCS at the moment. With this in mind, Moon Phases and her new-found Oxygen team could quickly eclipse the competition and etch herself within Rocket League history as the first newcomer to lift an RLCS championship.
Image via Julie Combes