The European Contenders scene has always battled with North America for the title of the best western region in overwatch. Although at the forefront of this back and forth are the players in their matches. Behind the scenes, coaches and managers make sure that their teams run smoothly. The following is an interview with three European Contenders Managers that collectively have nearly five years of experience in the scene.
Ysabel “Noukky” Müller, from Germany. Current Manager of the British Hurricane
Noukky has been part of the Overwatch competitive scene well before becoming a manager. She was an up and coming support player in 2017 before moving unto management and also organized various tournaments in the region. She has also been the head manager for Team Germany since 2018. You can follow her @Noukky.
Nicolas “Skwal” Sautron, from France. Current Team Manager of Eternal Academy
Skwal is now the team manager for the new and improved Eternal Academy. He has also worked inside the legendary team Angry Titans for just short of a full year and joined Team France’s management team last year. You can follow him @RMSkwal.
Jegu “YounaCha” Charlotte, from France. Current Owner and Head Manager of Not in Contenders
YounaCha has been hard at work this past year going from tier three to now Contenders. She owns and manages the ironically named Not in Contenders who recently qualified through open division and trials to participate in the most recent season of Overwatch Contenders. you can follow her @YounaCha.
The following group interview has been edited and condensed for clarity and length – Originally conducted on March 10th, 2020.
Sebastián Quintanilla: What is or has been the biggest hurdle in your careers as a manager so far?
Noukky: Finding good staff to populate your team is a huge struggle. It’s always hard to find coaches and assistant managers that you can trust. Especially if you are part of a bigger organization since you are likely working on much more than just a single team. At the same time, you need to avoid becoming a helicopter parent for the teams. That is something I learned recently as I got more involved with Cloud9. Delegating is a skill you need to learn.
Skwal: Choosing coaches can be very hard since it requires trust. Especially when you don’t know them yet. Even more so when you need to quickly build a team. Thatis my experience at least. At the start, I also struggled a lot with networking. I didn’t really view it as something I should necessarily focus on since I though doing well was enough, but it wasn’t. It took me some time to realize I should have been networking a lot more in the beginning.
YounaCha: My biggest obstacle as a manager was having the necessary contacts at the start. Whether to find the right players/staff, how to do things, etc. Because when we start, we don’t necessarily have someone to guide us, to show us how to deal with players. We are more or less alone. I almost had to train myself on how to be a manager. The fact that I started as a player and later I became a manager, it allowed me to put myself more easily in the place of my players at the beginning.
[Related: Overwatch Contenders 2020 Viewing Guide]
SQ: Florida Mayhem’s social media manager, Thibbledork, recently talked about the duty of teams to build a brand for the team and their players, and that some were not doing even the simplest stuff. What do you make of that sentiment?
Skwal: I think it’s true. We had some people working on this. So it’s not really my job to do that. But I completely agree. In my previous teams, I would usually tell my players to get me gameplay videos of them to post, so I did that myself.
Noukky: For managers that don’t have a bigger organization structure behind them or a social media manager it can be really hard to put out that content. But in general, I think that it’s definitely something important like for example the interviews after contenders matches or social media stuff, putting yourself out there is super important for the players to also network like everyone else. In general, for esport, it’s super important to build a network. For teams without sponsors, it can also help get fans involved and secure a better position for themselves later. What I do with my players in contenders interviews as I let them actually rotate those interviews, so everybody does at least one.
YounaCha: I completely agree with him. In my opinion, a team should really push for social media exposure for its players. Just announcing the match results is clearly not enough. Nowadays, you have to make people want to follow your team, and twitter is so important, alongside streaming, for a player to get scouted and therefore have better opportunities.
Some discussion going re: more involved content creation vs running a bare bones op. I think many teams face a valid struggle of trying to build branding while balancing work, school, etc. Almost all unsigned t2 orgs operate with NO money, & that's a valid barrier to many things.
— thibbledork 💕 #OWL2020 (@thibbledork) February 19, 2020
SQ: How do you personally approach signing coaches to your team?
YounaCha: Generally, I will learn about the coach before giving them a trial. Whether it is on their previous experiences, their mentality, their way of doing things, etc. I will ask trusted people who are on the scene if they know them, about his level of coaching, etc. Obviously I listen to what I am told and if it is rather positive I send a message to the coach.
I introduce myself, I present my team, our background and our motivations. I ask them for their resume, how they work as a coach among other things And after I set up a trial over several days. At the end of this trial period, I ask my players how they feel about this coach, if there is an affinity with them or not, because sometimes a coach may not click with the players. If the players like them and the coach likes the team then we move forward with them.
Skwal: We kind of know who are the free agent coaches. Usually, if I like a coach I contact their agent or themselves and then the process can be very fast. We set up a trial period of a few days, maybe a week and then we let the coach do their thing. Basically they act as the coach for that week. After, our players let me know how they feel because at the end of the day they are the ones working with the coach. If they don’t like them then we continue looking.
Noukky: We do basically the same thing. But I’m always a really big fan of like giving players the chance to coach. I had really good experiences with players becoming good coaches. A lot of them can do great work as assistant coaches or even full coaches if given enough help. The most important thing for me is that their goals are aligned with ours. At Hurricane, we build players up and get them ready for the Overwatch League first and to win championships second. We don’t work to stomp our competition and neither should our coaches.
SQ: What do you think are the pros and cons of the new Path to Pro system?
Noukky: Each iteration of Contenders has brought its own set of benefits and drawbacks. I think this new tournament system can help lower-tier teams be able to rotate in and out of contenders. A caveat to that is that if you are top contenders team you only play once every two weeks while trial teams have to do so every week. Hero pools exacerbate this. Most of the top teams will likely just scrim among themselves. So this creates a bit of a bubble for the scene that might not be that good. But it remains to be seen how it pans out in reality.
Skwal: Yeah, we have three days to prepare for a new meta since last week there were no hero pools, now there is and then again a new hero pool. It leaves us very little practice time.
YounaCha: I think it gives tier three teams a lot of chances to prove their worth. Players and staff. If contenders teams who had their secure places before no longer have the level they can lose their places. So basically, now you have to be in the best teams to keep your place. At the same time, we could potentially face up to four contender teams this week, which would be both great but scary.
SQ: What Overwatch League manager do you see as an inspiration, mentor, or just someone to learn from?
YounaCha: Well, if I had to say a name I will probably say Albless. Even if I don’t know him personally, he gives me the impression of being a very human person, very attentive to his team. In the past when he was a caster, you could feel his passion for Overwatch and we could see his professionalism.
I know a T2 manager that I can clearly say that I see as a mentor. A few months before I create NiC, I started to talk with him, and he’s with us! it’s Skwal. A french manager like me who started as a player, he became a manager for his team later. I really like how he manages his players. He really cares about his player and his team. He’s someone professional and for me, it’s so important to be professional in Esports! He’s an example for me!
Skwal: Honestly, I might sound arrogant or cocky, but I don’t have any. I don’t see the work managers do in the Overwatch league so I can’t really think of anyone that might be an inspiration. But I do take some notes from traditional sports. NFL NBA managers are decades ahead of us in the esport scene when it comes to efficiency, professionalism, etc. So I try to look at what they do. But I do want to say, and not just because she is here, Noukky is likely the best manager in Europe. She is very professional and has a great work ethic. She is the one person that I think I can learn something from in contenders.
Noukky: Same for me, I can’t really see what managers in the Overwatch League are doing. I do learn a lot from other managers in Cloud9. Since they sponsor so many teams I have a chance to learn from a lot of managers, ask for help, discuss, etc. I do think Gaylen, cloud9’s senior general manager has helped me so much and inspired me a lot. She coordinates all the teams and does an amazing job.
[Related: Looking Over the 2020 Contenders Changes]
SQ: Anything else you want to say to up and coming managers to know?
Noukky: I just want to say to aspiring managers that they just have to have to keep grinding and building a network as we touched earlier because building a network is actually what gets you further in esports. Try to do a good job, try to stay professional and try to get in contact with the people that actually matter. You should treasure your current connections in say tier three, but don’t be afraid to reach out to the people at the next level. Those people are the ones that you can learn the most from and that might one day help you take the next step. Keep the grind up.
Also, support tier two!
Follow me on Twitter: @Adico_OW for behind the scene insights on the Overwatch League and Coaching.
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Featured Image Courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment
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