The saying goes, “Behind every successful man is a strong woman.” But is it true that behind every successful esports team is a strong coach?
Esports is a growing industry where not all roles are clearly defined. In the spotlight are the players, whose individual and team performance determines how well an esports organization does in a tournament. They are the faces of orgs, the core of the team.
Standing behind the players is the coach, who works behind-the-scenes. In MOBAs like Dota 2, League of Legends, and Mobile Legends: Bang Bang, coaches are seen on stage strategizing which heroes or champions are picked or banned before the game begins. After matches, before the season starts, and all the way until the end, they are there to manage and help players improve in order to get better results.
In the Mobile Legends esports scene, EVOS Legends Bjorn “Zeys” Ong has been called “the best coach in MPL”. He has led the Indonesian squad to win MPL ID Season 4 and the M1 World Championship.
Yet, Zeys believes that being called the best “is very subjective” especially when it comes to coaches. “The success of your team doesn’t necessarily mean you’re the best coach,” Zeys explained. “What goes behind closed doors, the public may never know. Even though people may think I’m the best on the outside, I may not be the best. Still, I strive to improve and be the best at whatever I do.”
So what can coaches do to be better?
While the role of the coach differs from esport to esport, there is one fundamental quality that a coach must have. “It’s really about how you enable your players to go to the next level at the fastest speed compared to the rest of the pack of the competition,” said Zeys. “At the end, it’s a competition, so if you’re going slower, you’re going to lose.”
Even though he started off as a professional player, and has almost three years of experience in MPL, Zeys attributes his success to the 12 years of experience in various games, genres, and esports where he competed professionally in Hearthstone, League of Legends, Heroes of the Storm, and Arena of Valor.
“Having a depth of experience helps you understand the dynamics of the game faster, and helps you theorycraft and brainstorm. It allows you to understand what kind of possible difficulties a team or player might face, and help them.”
It is also the lessons he’s learnt from his years competing in FPS, RTS, and even the MMO genre on top of MOBA that Zeys believes has helped him understand players and their problems better, for he finds it easier to “express certain technicalities into words” when he communicates with them.
Still, he’s not done. Even as a championship-winning head coach, Zeys is continually striving to improve himself through his own efforts and research. He makes it a point to look up the profiles of other coaches in other games like League of Legends, Dota 2, and CS:GO. Viewing the content they make, identifying the struggles they face, Zeys takes notes on what kind of methods they implement in their teams.
“I ask around within the region, I speak to coaches from Thailand, like AoV coaches, across all kind of different games,” said Zeys. “I see what they’re doing that I’m not doing, and what am I doing that they’re not doing, and ask why. I take the best of everything and I do it.”