Coaching Esports – Lessons Learned | KC Woods

KC Woods talks with Mark Register about the breakthroughs he had as TSM’s life coach:

Mark Register – So what were some of the key breakthroughs as a coach that you had at TSM?

KC Woods – Learning what coaching style works in Esports.

It’s a bit different than traditional sports.

My establishing coaching style that I had before was based upon my knowledge and the players respecting the knowledge and that I know the way to get better.

It’s difficult to get everyone to buy in if you’re not super good at the game. I had to learn what types of things the players respect and one of the things in Esports that they players respect are not wasting their time.

That doesn’t mean if you are talking that they consider that a waste of time it just means that you have a purpose for everything you are saying and that it’s getting them better and you’re not just saying fluff.

It’s really making sure that you’re getting to the point and you having a purpose and you’re really well researched and that they can understand everything. They need to have convincing reasons of why things work or why they don’t work.

It doesn’t just work where you can say, “hey do this,” you need to say, “do this because this shows this, this research shows it,” and basically convincing them that this is the right way.

It became a lot more research based of a coaching style, trying to understand how each player is motivated. At first I met with all the different players and I tried to understand what motivates them, what kinds of things push them, how they listen, how they get coached, and what works and what doesn’t work.

But when you start working with them you realize it’s a bit different from what they think a lot of the times.

So for breakthroughs as a coach, it was just constantly learning about the players and how they work. It’s really just a personal job. It’s not about the sport it’s about the players, it’s not so much about League of Legends and the game they are playing, it’s learning how to work with their minds and get them to buy into things.

I feel like I learned a lot about that in the first few weeks. I depended on my knowledge and structure in improving things and saying you need to do this, this, and this.

I learned how to get through to these types of players and a lot of times you can tell them something…and they’re still pretty young people…so even if they fully understand what you are saying, they do believe that it’s true, and that they should be doing it doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re actually going to do it.

They didn’t go to college, they are playing a videogame, they were playing it to get away from real life or school or whatever. They got really good because they played it so much. They may not have the best self motivation skills.

TSM the players they are super committed and they have probably higher than most other teams of how hard they work and the time they put in. But it still was a lot of basically making them do something first and then having them understand why it’s important later.

You learn to get across to them and have them understand what they were doing and why it was important but then also learning basically that you can’t just always depend on them to do things when you tell them something.

I think those are the two biggest things that I changed from the start was…at first I kind of just wanted to tell them to do things and expected them to follow through with it and “just trust me that this is the best way” and by the end it was more making them do it, keeping them accountable for it and then explaining why it was important and knowing how to explain why it was important effectively so they actually bought into it and understood why.

I think that’s the biggest change from the start to the end.

Mark Register – That’s so interesting because you think about it and when you’re in practice and the coach is like run 50 laps and if you don’t do something then it’s 50 pushups. You do these drills and it’s just whatever you say coach. To have a team where they are just like why? Why should I do 50 laps? Why should I be doing this?

KC Woods – Yeah especially from the start whenever I would try to talk about anything out of the game in the beginning, someone would speak up and say “why aren’t we playing the game? Why are we talking about this, why aren’t we talking about the game. We have all these issues going on in the game right now, why is this important?”

I encouraged them to speak up and say those types of things because I didn’t want them to ever listen to me and have it go in one ear and out the other and not say anything and would have no idea that they weren’t listening or caring about what I had to say.

That was at the beginning and like you said it was a lot different than normal sports especially because you know how to make it go hand in hand in a normal sport. It all comes together but there’s definitely a divide of the things out of the game whether it’s going to the gym or why it’s important, eating healthy, sleep schedules, getting along and trusting each other outside of the game, and really carrying eachother past being just teammates and more on a personal level caring about each other so they can trust each other in the game.

It’s hard to convince them or have them buy in about why that will have a direct impact on them in the game. So it’s just a bigger divide on those two different things and then once we started to realize that the season got on and I got better at explaining why these things are important and then also starting to realize that the issues we were having in the game…they started to realize they were actually correlated to these things that we’ve been talking about outside of the game.

Like we’re having trouble with communications and we’re having trouble with trusting each other’s calls and it’s like oh these are the types of things that we were talking about that aren’t directly gameplay related but you can still work on outside of the game.

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