VALORANT Pro Tips: TSM Tailored And FPX d00mbr0s On How To Become The Best Coach
Nowadays, almost every professional esports team has a coaching staff, and it’s no different for VALORANT. While the competitive VALORANT scene is still in its infancy, many orgs and even unsigned teams have recruited coaches to help with improving their rosters, as well as building strategies and achieving set goals.
TSM’s coach Tailored, and the former FABRIKEN coach and current FPX analyst d00mbr0s, are some of the best of the best, and they both believe there are set values and practices coaches have to abide by, in order to do their jobs to the best of their abilities.
For d00mbr0s, who spearheaded one of the most successful and well known EU teams since the game’s launch, being a good coach is not about knowing absolutely everything about the game.
“A big part of being a good coach and making it, is just having a really good set of goals and visions to build your team around. So with FABRIKEN in mind, we kind of wanted to build a team where the players and the coaches had the same values and the same goals. That's one of the more important things that people overlook when we're coaching and when reforming teams.
"I think a good coach is, and this is for everyone - you don't have to be the most knowledgeable about a game. It doesn't revolve around telling someone what to do. It's more like you're teaching them how to learn, you're facilitating a structure around the team so they can improve and grow. Especially now with VALORANT, which is still early on - I'm not going to tell a Sova main how to play Sova, that’s not the aim of the coach.
"As coaches, we have our vision, we have our plan to reach that vision, and in that plan, I have goals. So, this week we're going to work on this, this, and this, and you follow up your goals with the players. You don't have to be the genius; you just have to be a structured individual who knows how to form a team and make them be the best version of themselves.”
For Tailored, whose team is a two-time Ignition Series winner and widely considered as one of the best teams in NA, he feels it’s important to be patient with your players.
“I think a lot of coaches fall into the trap, myself included, of trying to love all their players and really be close and friendly with all their players. But I think the most important thing is that they understand their players. So they know how to approach people when they have issues, how to approach people even if you need to compliment them. I think there's a correct way to do that for individual people. Understanding and being patient with your players is super important. You need to take the competitive mindset out of your teaching approach.”
When you're at the top, people just steal from you.
Of course, as with any job, being a coach also comes with a lot of challenges, something both Tailored and d00mbr0s work a lot on trying to overcome. Tailored confessed that even when your team is winning, there are things that a coach needs to do to make sure they stay winning.
He said: “Our biggest challenge may be coming up, with all the competition there is in North America. In the beta, and in the beginning months, it wasn't that hard for us to stay at the top, but now we're having to really stay ahead of the meta. There are not many examples of teams that we can look to. So in Counter-Strike, we had Liquid and Astralis and all these top teams that we could steal stuff from. But when you're at the top, people just steal from you. There's not a lot of analysis that can be done on other teams. So yeah, I still spend time watching demos and stuff, trying to stay ahead of the meta, what they're doing in EU and Japan and stuff. But right now it's just a challenge to stay at the top when there's so many solid orgs and good players in North America.”
While d00mbr0s’ FABRIKEN didn’t enjoy the level of success Tailored and TSM did, he shared some general challenges a top-tiered team coach might have to face.
“For coaches and staff, usually when a practice ends is when your hours begin. So usually you can add a couple of hours extra every day to your schedule. And it's been a challenge just managing the stress managing every thought in your head because you sometimes take on too many responsibilities because you want too much, right? So you might have five or ten different ideas in your head. But it's always better to focus on one or two things and do them really well when to have ten different things and you never follow through all of them. So that's been a real challenge for me at least, is to find that structure in my brain and not jumping onto too many projects at once.”
d00mbr0s’ point regarding having too many responsibilities resonated with Tailored too, whose current role involves him being somewhat of a team manager as well as a coach.
He said: “I run the scrim discord. So all the pros post in a private discord that we have that's invite-only where we can post for scrims. So I run that with Drone and a friend of mine. I book our scrims, I keep our schedule, sign us up for events. I manage tournament organisers payments to the org and to the players if it's direct. But then I also do stuff like bring strategies to practice. I set goals for practice, all the way down to micro communications during matches. I'll be communicating the entire time during a match. So it's kind of a broad role right now, which I think in the future, it might narrow as the responsibilities increase with travelling to LANs and stuff.”
One of the responsibilities people often feel confused about is how much power the coach has when it comes to roster changes. Tailored revealed that it varies from team to team, but he believes coaches will have a bigger influence in the future.
He said: “I think it really depends on the org and the org relationship with the team. So, for instance, on Envy and Counter-Strike, I had very little input on roster decisions. I could give my input, I was almost never asked for it, but I would give it anyway. The org's main connection was through one of our players and not through the coaching staff. So that can cause friction, it can be good in some terms, it depends on who they have the connection with and how honest they want to be about what the team actually needs. But obviously, in traditional sports, that's not the case. It's the coach or the GM or whoever that has the final say. And I think you're going to see more of that in esports like with this HenryG move to Cloud9 - he obviously has control. He has the keys to the car, but there's plenty of orgs out there whose players still take the reins when it comes to roster decisions and stuff.”
It takes a lot to become a great coach, but there is no set way for someone to choose coaching as a career path. While some coaches are often ex-players, Tailored actually started in esports as a journalist, while d00mbr0s had ambitions to be a professional coach from the outset. In addition, Tailored shared some of his personal tips and advice on how someone can get into coaching and become a coach.
He said: “As Vince Lombardi said: 'The man on top of the mountain didn't fall there' - referring to the hard work it takes and long hours and perseverance, but it also takes a lot of luck. No one talks about how that guy didn't get eaten by a bear on his way up the mountain. So I think that networking has a lot to do with it. Finding streamers, playing with people that you think are going to be good. You know, if you feel like you have a knack for recognising talent, then you should try and associate yourself with that unfounded talent.”
Images via Riot Games