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OnePoinT Week: Interview With Head Coach Curryshot

Alongside Overwatch’s new waves of pro talent comes a new wave of coaches, ready to shepherd their charges to successful careers as professional head-clickers. These coaches are given one of the most complex tasks in esports – make sense of a game that can change at the drop of a hat, with rosters that can change just as quickly and with even less notice.

Curryshot, like 99% of Overwatch coaches, has migrated from team to team throughout his career. His fortunes seem pretty good at the moment – as the head coach for EU Contenders team One.PoinT, he’s at the helm of one of the region’s most successful squads, with a host of veteran talent that checks all the right boxes. Getting to that point was a process, though, so I sat down with Curry to reflect on his journey through esports and the philosophies that guide his hand.

 

Let’s get started with the easy stuff. Introduce yourself! Who are you, where have you come from, what are you doing here?

My name’s Curryshot, and I was actually playing League of Legends at an amateur level prior to this. I played at an amateur level for some time, and then I became a coach in the NACS for three years, and was doing some unofficial work for some LCS teams as well.

 

So you made the transition to OW, and play at a pretty high level here as well. Do you feel that having that ability to play at a high level is needed to coach at a high level?

I think it’s necessary, contrary to popular belief. If you’re a sports psychologist or a performance coach, then sure, you probably don’t have to, but if you’re trying to coach your players on stuff that’s in-game, you need to be able to speak the same language as them, so to speak. If you don’t understand the game at that level, you’re not really helping or adding value to the team.

 

You’ve joined One.PoinT as of about two weeks ago now – how’s that been so far?

It’s been really good, I – man, I’m full of unpopular opinions, and I’ve got another one coming on right now. I was doing NA coaching prior to this, and I had the opportunity to coach for an NA team before joining One.PoinT prior to this. I live in NA, as well. Thing is, I saw how far ahead the EU meta is, and I saw the potential to grow as a coach myself. Thus my transition into EU. Prior to this, I actually read some of your articles, and noticed your Contenders Trials NA coverage specifically – I was actually a coach for U4, an NA Trials team at the time. What people don’t know is that I actually subbed in for some games when needed – so not only was I able to contribute as a coach, but I also contributed as a player to that team.

 

You stream a great deal when you get the chance, but is it a struggle to balance that alongside coaching?

Prior to becoming an Overwatch coach, I thought I could balance it. The thing is, when you’re really competitive, you really immerse yourself in your work – whatever that is. You put all your time into it. You wake up, think about the game, go to sleep, think about the game. It’s with you throughout the entire day. So I haven’t been streaming as much as I might like to – in fact, barely at all – only because I’m always watching VODs, etc. I’ve had this happen before in my League of Legends experience, too. In my experience, you need to be willing to put 20 hours a day into it, or otherwise do what it takes to make sure you’re the best at what you do.

 

Do you feel that grind is sustainable for people, though? You’re doing ok with it, but what about the average player or coach that’s trying to make it into OWL?

It’s a special type of mentality. Let me get into that. I’ll preface this with a reiteration that I have some really unpopular opinions, so take this with a grain of salt, you know?

I always look at people’s social media and see posts that say “Always have a back-up plan.” Since I’ve joined this scene, and seen other people succeed, I’ve realized that in the majority of those cases those people fully commit themselves to what they’re doing. If you have a back-up plan, that shows that you don’t believe in what you’re doing. To me, anyway. If you fully commit yourself, and you know you can do it, you’ll reach that goal.

 

You mentioned that you consider EU to be ahead in the meta right now. How do you figure? What qualifies “being ahead”?

I’ll clarify, to start. When you watch NA Contenders vs EU Contenders and compare their GOATs comp play – which I consider the best way to play the game right now, or the “meta” way to play – you can see the difference clearly. In EU, teams are much more capable of punishing teams for even one small mistake. Even something as simple as your rollout and your pathing throughout a fight can be heavily scrutinized by EU teams. I focus on that a lot when talking with the team.

 

A good example is our play on Lijiang – there’s a gap on Gardens that you can jump over, instead of dealing with the choke on that end of the map. We were the first to do that. We have a good understanding of choke points and pathing, and while a lot of teams underestimate us when you look at rankings, I’d say we’re the top [EU Contenders] team right now based on our experience in scrims. We’re gonna keep practicing, though, to make sure we can show that to everyone properly.

 

You’ve talked about the little things adding up, and individual performances and understanding of the comp really coming into play. Who’s a player that’s shown that level of understanding, or who’s been really receptive to your advice on how to reach that level?

I feel like all my players have stepped up. That said, the three veterans from Eagle Gaming – Hqrdest, GetAmazed, and Superplouk – they’ve definitely impressed me. They have an insane amount of game knowledge, and they can be very straightforward with each other to fix what needs fixing. This is something that’s really impressed me with EU as well – every scrim we have, we can see huge improvements and changes to the way we play the game. Like, have you ever played Hearthstone?

Yeah! I played Tempo Mage, but that deck is kind of dead now, so…

Right. The meta changes throughout the week, basically, right? It’s so fast. We’re seeing the same thing in scrims. Not that GOATS is really changing as a comp, but sometimes someone will throw a random hero in there, or try something new. Like SNOATS, which is GOATS with a Mei. So we’ll learn how to play that, and how to play against that. We learn in every single scrim block, and at such a rapid rate. The three veterans are a big part of that, so that’s what impressed me the most. Scaler, Phatt, and Horthic have been great as well, though – they improve so fast, and take criticism directly. We’re improving at a massive rate.

 

Who are some coaches you’ve looked up to, or modeled your coaching style after – in this game or any other?

Hmmm… [Curryshot takes a long pause.] Can I be honest with you?

Image result for weldon green
Weldon Green, notable sports psychologist and current Head Coach for CLG’s League of Legends team. Photo: Slingshot Esports
Sure, yeah.

I don’t really “look up” to anybody in particular. However, I’ve worked with Weldon Green on Team Ember and he was revered as one of the best sports psychologists. I’ve learned a lot about sports psychology from him and have implemented a lot of it into my coaching style. I mostly look at coaches, though, not up to them. I like my own style, and I like improving myself.

 

 

So walk us through a day in the life as One.PoinT’s head coach. “I wake up, I do these things, then I go to sleep.”

I wake up at 4am (PST) and prepare for review for an hour. Review starts at 5am before our scrims, and then we scrim two to three blocks a day – usually just two. Sometimes we do short reviews individually, and we’ll have small breaks in between.

When I’m talking about small breaks, I mean that I don’t like the team to transition immediately from one scrim to another. I prefer that there’s a break before we go into the next one. When you get the chance to refocus yourself after a game, you can focus more on the next game, rather than the one you just finished. If you do a VOD review right after a scrim ends, for instance, it’s better to not let anyone talk about the game, and give everyone a minute to collect their emotions. If they’re emotional about a loss, or even emotional about a win, they’re not thinking clearly – they’re thinking with their emotions. It’s better to give everyone a moment to collect their thoughts, then start talking about the game.

 

And how many days a week do you do this?

Five days a week, not counting game day. We work six days a week, and take the day after game day off.

 

You’ve mentioned doing your best to make sure that the team doesn’t act off of emotion too much between games or after scrims. How much does mentality factor in when the players are in a match, though?

 

I’d say that, in game, mentality is everything. In our match against Orgless & Hungry, for instance, we nearly full-held Orgless on the first point of Hollywood, despite “losing” the fight several times. We were able to almost bring it back just by staying calm and calculating what we needed to do to win the fight – and we only lost because of some really clutch plays on their end. We wanted that full hold so badly. The entire team was screaming, it was like we were in a grand finals match or something. Even if it’s just a hold on Hollywood, we take every part of our game seriously, and put a lot of thought into it.

 

And that’s just a matter of your players stepping into that fight, even with a disadvantage, and working out a way to win together? Just saying, “Yeah, this is still winnable if we do these things?”

Exactly, yeah! They’re just that smart. They know their win conditions, and they’re able to realize, “Well, if we do this right, we can still win this fight.” It’s calculated; it’s not just “Let’s just throw ults in now.” That happens sometimes on other teams, but not ours. It’s all calculated.

 

So this team definitely has it together. When you’re dealing with a player that’s struggling mentally, though, how do you as a coach help them get out of that funk and make them see a way to improve?

There’s a concept called “visualization” that exists in psychology, especially in sports psychology, that most pro athletes use. What you have to do as a coach to help with mentality is keep them focused. Keep reminding them what their end goal is. As unrelated as that may seem, once you’re around a player that wants to be in the Overwatch League or otherwise succeed in esports, they need to know how much sacrifice they need to put in. When they know that, their mentality will change. It doesn’t change them in the sense that they’ll say “Oh, I’m happy now!”, it’s more of a maturity thing. They begin to understand and think of it like, “This is just something I need to do.”

 

So you just try to make them understand that this is what they have to do to make their goals happen, basically.

Right. I help them transition into being adults, in a sense. Think about it. When we – well, I’m speaking for myself here – there are times when I was younger where I didn’t want to throw out the trash, or do a certain thing, right? But then you realize that part of being an adult is doing things you really don’t want to do, just to get them done.

 

Does that philosophy play into your approach to individual coaching as well?

I look at attitude for those players, yeah. I mainly look at strategy and helping them improve more generally as a player. In solo queue, you’ll always run into players with bad attitudes. You can’t help it. Solo queue is so different in that way from pro play, so I mostly focus on their game play itself, since that’s what’s needed to improve there. I show those players how to adapt, how to see their mistakes and how to fix them. That goes for every role, as well. I’ve made Top 500 in every role, almost every season, and those points are always important.

 

So when you’re coaching a solo player, what’s a common mistake that you notice? Something you always have to help them fix?

For non-DPS players, you have to carry by micro-managing the players on your team. Before you can do that, though, you have to have the knowledge required to be able to do that in the first place. First you have to learn the game, then apply it by micro-managing people and telling them what to do. That’s how I usually win. While I used to be pretty insane in-game, I’m not so much anymore – but I just know so much about the game at this point, so I’m still able to maintain at my elo.

 

Just by having a good understanding of the game and imparting that knowledge on other people? Not by clicking everyone’s heads by yourself?

Yeah! Just by helping them achieve the same goal as me.

 

What’s the one piece of advice you could give to any player, regardless of role or skill level? It sounds to me like you’d say something to the tune of “Be knowledgeable, and know how to impart that knowledge,” but is there more to it?

That can definitely sum it up, yeah. I’d say “Learn the game, then learn how to apply it.” Your way sounds a lot better, though.

 

So last question. There are OWL scouts watching these Contenders games and keeping tabs on everything they see. If you could send them a message to make them see your ability more clearly and increase your chances of getting into the Overwatch League, what would you say to them?

First of all, I’d just like to say that it’s got a lot to do with my players, too. I don’t want to just say something about me; I wouldn’t be anywhere without my players. In terms of what I’d say to them just for myself, I feel like I can help develop… actually, hold on. Let me think about this one for a bit.

 

Of course. I’ll say that this can include anything you’d say about your players, too – if a scout came to you and asked whether or not they should sign one of your guys, what would you say to them?

Can I tell you something that’s weird to me, while I think about this?

 

I love weird, sure.

The three veterans on my team [Hqrdest, GetAmazed and SuperPlouk] are really, really good at the game, right? They have such good game knowledge, but even though they just finished winning Contenders finals in Season 2, a lot of them didn’t even get trials for academy teams, let alone any Overwatch League teams. It’s not that I think they were entitled to trials or big signings or anything like that, it’s just that no one even seemed to notice that they won. That just doesn’t make sense to me. It doesn’t really seem fair.

Eagle Gaming were the EU Contenders Season 2 champions. SuperPlouk: 2nd from the left, GetAmazed: 5th from the left, Hqrdest: 4th from left.

 

I’ve noticed that’s happened a lot! A lot of players have been completely ignored, regardless of their past performance, especially in regions that aren’t Korea.

It’s unfortunate, really. I know these players can play at the same level, if not better, than a lot of other players. They’re just as good, is what I’m trying to say. I’m doing my best to make this hypothetical you’re posing a reality, by the way – I’m trying to get my team in contact with Overwatch League scouts, so it’s good that you asked this question, actually. I’m doing that because I truly feel like these guys belong in the league right now.

For me, I would say I have not just Overwatch experience, but experience coaching in other esports since 2013 – so five years at this point. I’ve worked with LCS champions in League of Legends, and I’ve successfully coached at a high level in Overwatch, too.

I want to say one more thing, but… I don’t want come off as too overconfident. I’ve got a lot of confidence in what I do, but I want to word it in a not-cocky way. I think in terms of understanding the game, my understanding is probably the best out of anyone I know. I only say that because I spend so many hours a day watching VODs – I feel like a lot of other people don’t do what I do to stay competitive. Like, going back to the mentality aspect we talked about earlier – I’ve often said that you have to be willing to work 20 hours a day to succeed. I have that mentality for sure. I have a mentality that makes me want to win, and be the best at what I do. That’s what I’d say.

 

Thanks so much to Curryshot for sitting down with us to talk about the game we all love! Stay tuned for more One.PoinT interviews and other awesome content!

 

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Featured Image Courtesy of @CurryshotTV

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