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Pushing Limits : A Chat With Crusty of The San Francisco Shock

It didn’t take long for Dae-hee “Crusty” Park to establish himself as one of the best Overwatch League coaches in the world. After a lengthy winning streak with the Boston Uprising, Crusty became the head coach of the San Francisco Shock who he’s lead to two Grand Finals victories, a feat that has yet to be topped by any other coach. TGH spoke with Crusty about his lengthy Overwatch League history, coaching philosophy, and hopes for this year’s Playoffs, as well as his experience integrating fresh new talent into the well-oiled San Francisco Shock machine.

For those who don’t know you, how about you tell us who you are and what you do?

My name is Crusty. I’m the head coach for the SF Shock, and I’ve led them to two Grand Finals wins. I like to win, and I hate to lose. 

Now, there isn’t one easy avenue into a career in esports. Some people start as a casual player and stumble into it by chance, while others see a game they like and make a career in it their ultimate goal. What was it for you that really kicked off your career in coaching? 

Well, the first time I played the Overwatch Beta, I was having fun with the game. Then I realized “hey, I’m kind of talented”! I quickly made a clan, and started guiding lesser players. Then, when Overwatch officially came out, I kept playing. But I knew my maximum. I knew my limit. So when the game first came out, I didn’t try and play directly on a team. Instead, I tried to build up my coaching experience. During that time, I signed a lot of new players, and said goodbye to players, too. But every time when I’m coaching, I’m really happy that I get to teach. I love teaching players and then seeing those players perform better the next day. So that’s why I started coaching. 

And which player has your coaching methodology been the biggest success for? Which player do you think has seen the most improvement as a result of your coaching, whether on the Uprising, Shock, RX Foxes, NC Wolves, or otherwise?

Crusty San Francisco Shock With Casores
Courtesy of The San Francisco Shock

That’s a hard question. I think that every player, especially new ones, all improve a lot. They can be flexible, but before I work with them, they haven’t hit the limit in their style. I think Viol2t was that type of player, along with Striker. Sinatraa was that kind of player, too. I feel that, in every player, I have confidence that I can make them hit their limit. 

Along with being a fantastic coach, it’s no secret that you are a fantastic chef. And it’s also said that coaching shares a lot of similarities with cooking. After all, both take a massive amount of patience, skill, and precise detail work to do properly. But more importantly, both require ingredients. What do you believe are the most important ingredients of your coaching style that makes it so effective? 

First, is passion. That’s the most important thing. Even if you get tons of stress, or get really tired, you need to figure out why you’re losing. And you need to believe that, if I change this player, one of the ingredients, I can make this team win. Whenever I give feedback to a player, it improves the whole team. I try to improve each player, one by one. And that makes a perfect team. I want every player to think like me and act like me. That’s what I feel is the most important ingredient. 

Over the past year, we’ve seen a number of players and coaches leave the San Francisco Shock. Which of these losses do you believe has had the biggest impact on the Shock, whether that be in gameplay or team environment?

Crusty San Francisco Shock Review
Courtesy of The San Francisco Shock

To be honest, I want to say Sinatraa, even though he left the team pretty early. I had really taught him how to utilize each player, and the team as a whole. And even after he left for Valorant, he kept playing really well. But when he first joined the team, he didn’t have great teamwork. He was really just playing his own game. But then I taught him how to really use the team to his advantage. To make the team his team, and each player his player. And after that, he really understood how to lead, and how to shotcall. So we really felt it when he left- even though he still played really well when he went to Valorant. 

I can’t imagine that filling some of the gaps left by these players has been an easy job. But it seems like you’ve managed to find the right talent for the job. So I want to ask, would you be able to break down what you and the rest of the Shock coaching staff were looking for throughout the offseason trialing process?

For me, I watched for the potential, and tried to see talent. You know, some talent is hidden. So trying to find that talent can be pretty hard. But I feel like that’s my skill. But if you’re confident in the talent, and you force them to their limits (even if you think they could fail), trying to make him your best player, even if he isn’t flexible or doesn’t talk, he’s gonna hit his limit eventually. Then, I try and fit them into my team, and think about when I could use them. If I think they could be good for a certain meta, I just put them in. 

So, I’m a big fan of a lot of the talent you’ve signed this year. But could you break down for me, in particular, what stood out to you about Glister as a player? And how easy was it to integrate him into the team?

Glister San Francisco Shock
Courtesy of The San Francisco Shock

So, when we were signing new players this season, we didn’t really do tryouts. After two championship seasons, both the coaches and the players were feeling tired. So we all needed a break. But when I first saw Glister, he was in London, and he was the carry for that team. And I saw that he could be really flexible, not just on the hitscan role. So when I signed him, I tried to work with him a lot. And the first few times, he really had his own character and ego. He was on London for a year, but after spending tons of time with him, he started to understand and respect me. He was a very gifted player before we signed him, but after we signed him, he got much better.

And, similarly, what stood out to you about FDGod, and how did you develop him?

FDgod San Francisco Shock
Courtesy of The San Francisco Shock

Well, what really stood out about FDgod was his great mechanics. That was one of the biggest reasons we signed him. But I also saw that he was very risky. So after we put him on the roster, we really tried to fix him. We saw that he was really relying on his own ability to win. But then we thought, “what if we could get him to use his great mechanics in team play? That would be really great”. 

But also, for FDgod, he was playing a totally different game when he first joined Shock. He wasn’t really focused on team stuff. He wasn’t doing a great job the first few times. But now, he’s adapting. He’s doing a much better job compared to when he started.

And finally, what about Nero made you decide that, out of all the players you trialed, he was the best fit for the team? And how did you mold him to match the SF Shock Style?

Nero San Francisco Shock
Courtesy of The San Francisco Shock

What stood out about Nero is how mechanically amazing he is. I mean, each player I signed has amazing mechanics. But I tried to give Nero the job of leading the team. I tried to get him to control the team in-game. But it was hard to get Nero to that point. He had a really passive style, and wanted to focus on himself. But every time we play, he improves at talking to his team. To be honest, he’s still not doing 100%. But at least now, he understands how to use his team, and how to maximize his value. So I feel like Nero can show a really great performance in Playoffs. 

Now Crusty, the San Francisco Shock have had a dominant season this year. Though you weren’t able to get a bye into the playoffs, you still made them, and touted a fantastic regular-season record. This means that, though you couldn’t make Hawaii, you still made life miserable for a lot of teams. Which win this year are you the proudest of?

To be honest, that’s a hard question. It’s hard to say which win I’m the proudest of. Because I always get a lesson out of the games we lose. Like when we lost to the Gladiators last time. Even though we lost, our team got in better shape than before. That’s when I really feel it. When the game’s really intense, that’s when I feel the proudest. I don’t get proud when we win (unless it’s in the Finals).

Would it be fair to call your recent defeat against the Glads your most agonizing loss this year?

Yes, I think so. 

Now, speaking of wins and losses, what’s a personal victory that you’ve achieved during this past season? 

Crusty Sitting on Ta1yo San Francisco Shock
Courtesy of The San Francisco Shock

Before this year, I always tried to think about my team as a team. I tried to make the team as a whole more solid. But this year, I’ve thought much more about the individual player. I’ve tried to use them in the right metas. When we first came into the season, we mainly tried to make the team super coordinated. But that was really hard. So instead, we’ve tried to maximize every player. And in the end, that style worked. So I’m very satisfied with that.

So, changing topic a little bit here. Doing well on the field as an OWL player obviously isn’t all about mechanical skill. It’s also about mental, physical health, etcetera. What’s an idea or practice that you’ve really tried to hammer into your players to make sure they’re taking care of themselves?

To be honest, that isn’t really me. I’m forcing everyone to practice more, and to be the better player. I’m the coach that pushes players hard, and makes them feel the slump. But I can say that, for every player I coach, at the end of every session, they all say “I grew stronger”. 

As our final sort of sidepath, I’d like to talk about the playoffs next week. You’ve obviously got a very tough match against the Shanghai Dragons in your first week. Was getting picked by them a shock? What was the team environment like after that statement pick? 

SFS Hangin Out
Courtesy of The San Francisco Shock

At first, we were pretty surprised. We were a pretty low seed, but we weren’t in bad shape. So alright, ok. They picked us because they lost to us last season. But the thing is? We don’t care. Whatever. We’re meeting each other at some point. So we need to just win, you know? So all the players were pretty surprised, but it doesn’t really matter. If they’re going to pick us, we just need to focus to win. 

Let’s say you and the Dragons had switched places, and in the place of Moon, you got to pick whoever you liked for the playoffs selection. Who would you have chosen? And why? 

I might choose Shanghai! To be honest, I respect them. And because we respect them, we want to face them. Even if we go to the losers bracket, we gain experience. And if we win, we’ve already defeated our best enemy. We can get the momentum to keep going. So I think that the Shanghai Dragons pick would be pretty smart for me.

So Crusty, the Dragons obviously aren’t the only team the San Francisco Shock will be facing off against during the Playoffs. Of all the playoff teams you’ll likely have an opportunity to go toe to toe with, who are you most looking forward to facing? Are you still the most excited to face off with the Shanghai Dragons? Or are there some other teams you’re eager to dig your teeth into?

To be honest, Shanghai is definitely the team we’ve been the most excited for. They’re the champion APAC team. And sure, we’ve faced off with, and lost to, the Gladiators. But we haven’t fought the Dragons this year. So even if we lose, we’re looking forward to facing them. 

Now, I’ve got a couple of oddball questions here, while we still have time. FIrst of all, what are you, as a coach, most looking forward to about Overwatch 2? 

Crusty San Francisco Shock
Courtesy of The Overwatch League

Before I make an opinion, I’ll need to study it a lot. And I’ll need to think like a player. If Overwatch 2 came out right now, we’d be playing a totally different game. So I’ll really need to study the game a lot before I take a position.

Speaking of Overwatch 2, it was announced a while ago that the game will be 5v5, removing a tank. Now, Crusty, the San Francisco Shock have one of the best tanklines in the League. Have you and the rest of the coaching staff put much thought into how you’re going to utilize your three-man tankline in these one-tank compositions? 

Honestly, the game hasn’t come out, so I’m not clear about that. But I feel like we need to see the game more first. I don’t know what tank we’ll need for 5v5. We have a lot of questions. Each player in our tankline is maximized for their own style. Super, Smurf, and Choi are all incredible at different things. So we’ll need to figure out how each of them can fit into that Main Tank role. 

As one final aside before we wrap up- what’s the Shock’s current plan for utilizing Ta1yo? 

 Ta1yo SFS
Courtesy of The San Francisco Shock

Honestly, Ta1yo gives a ton of feedback. He gives a ton of feedback on strategy during scrims. He really helps us make a plan, and he gives us a player’s perspective. That really helps the team when it comes to making strategies or communicating ideas and improvements to players. Ta1yo picks up on it easily. So he helps a lot in that way. 

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Thank you again to Dae-hee “Crusty” Park and the rest of the San Francisco Shock for this fantastic interview, and good luck in Playoffs!

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