Counter Strike coaches started coming to life in 2014, but it was not until 2015 that coaches became something that players, organisations and fans took seriously. Coaching became a legitimate job, where they were paid salary and a portion of the prize money that the teams won.
In late 2016, Valve announced their decision to shake up the coaching position by introducing a new rule. This rule limits the communication a coach can provide. Instead of being able to communicate throughout the game, coaches can only now communicate with players during the warm-up, half time, or one of four 30 second time outs that the player or coach can call.
From the middle of August onward, most top tier tournaments have followed this rule. In turn, it had the potential to limit teams that fielded coaches, such as FaZe, Astralis, fnatic, NIP, Na’Vi, Liquid & Cloud9, just to name a few.
The potential limitation has been rather evident in North American teams, if you look at the post-stanislaw OpTic, Team Liquid before the addition of stanislaw, and Cloud9, who, ever since the departure of seangares and later on Slemmy, have seemingly lacked tactical diversity on some occasions.
Teams with in game leaders are obviously more regimented than those without – and there is no doubt that coaches are able to help on the side, but on the field, the limitation of coach communication has put a limitation on the quality of Counter Strike overall. Furthermore, the limitation on the coaching role in general has made it so individual players have to dedicate themselves to being in game leaders, which in itself is not necessarily a terrible thing. However, their dedication to the role compromises their ability to add to the scoreboard. There are a few exceptions to this, such as gla1ve, karrigan & stanislaw, however players like seangares and pronax, who are extremely smart, innovative leaders who are able to read and study their opponents may often find that their contribution is limited from a fragging perspective.
Once again, this is not necessarily a bad thing.
So, I have been sitting on these thoughts for a while, but I’ve always personally hoped that the coaching rule would be reversed tomorrow, or today. It’s just something I want. At the moment, I feel like the quality of Counter Strike has plateaued. Whilst most fans in general appreciate the flashy plays that players or teams are able to give us, those extremely close or amazing plays, whether executed by a team or an individual. I am also a fan of tactical, innovative, execute based Counter Strike. Counter Strike where I learn something.
Here’s what I think would happen if the rule was reversed tomorrow:
The End Of The Player-Coach
This is probably the most obvious one, but this phrase has two meanings to me. The player-coach, as in players like pronax and seangares. This is in reference to players who are innovative, tactically diverse and manage their teams as to constantly provide structure and often execute based strategies. These players would become obsolete in the server, and would more than likely be reduced to coaching roles. These players are innovative, intelligent players who like to study & read their opponent, as well as manage their own team properly and set up a structure that is ripe for good defence and solid offence. These players would more than likely fit well in the coaching slot, and with the addition of an extra fragging player that has a slight bit of brain, they do what they have been doing in the server in the coaches slot. Being able to manage and direct your players as a coach standing behind your players as opposed to trying to focus on your game and the whole team’s game is more than likely significantly easier, and it will not only improve the quality of Counter Strike, it makes their job of in game leading easier. Players like Sean, Ex6tenz & pronax would make excellent coaches due to their immense game knowledge and long playing career.
The end of the player coach also refers to the end of the coach opting to play again to fill the slot of in game leader. This was seen with pita, who opted to step into the playing shoes for CLG to in game lead. It ended with him leaving CLG. Another instance, although slightly better, was zews leaving Luminosity/SK Gaming to play for Immortals. Whilst that run was somewhat better, it ended with zews leaving Immortals to coach Team Liquid. (Although that could be referenced to as coach-player?)
A slight, but noticeable increase in demand of “on the fly” callers
Players like stanislaw & gla1ve may have an increased demand, more-so than there already is for players like those (or IGLs in general). All high level Counter Strike players are intelligent. There is always some level of thought process and split second decision making behind everything a professional player does. They are all intelligent, yes. Few of them are leaders. Some have stepped up, an example is Stewie2k and his run with Cloud9, which lead them to win the Pro League Season 4 Finals. Every top flight player is intelligent in their own right, few are able to apply that intelligence into a leadership role, and thus become an in game leader, and obviously branch out and guide their team. There are going to be times where coaches are going to draw blanks during certain high pressure situations. That’s where players like stanislaw, in particular, come in. Players that are able to make a decision on the fly, no matter where the round is, under any sort of situation. At least one of those players and a coach makes a team infinitely better. Whilst those instances may be rather rare, a player like that would be handy to have if the situation did arise. If players who are able to make such decisions quickly are implemented into the team, delegation of calling between coaches and said player is entirely possible, but the actual necessity for the player is not absolute.
The demand for IGLs overall will always be high/IGLs may switch to coaching roles
There is a significantly low amount of decent in game leaders overall, and when this generation of in game leaders are done and move on to coaching and/or analysis, there will still likely be a high demand for coaches, once again, still assuming the rule is reversed tomorrow. Naturally, since all teams will not be able to fill their demand for a coach, the demand for an in game leader will remain. Although, they will not be the in game leaders that lag behind on the scoreboard. The age of the small time fragging in game leader is gone, and in game leaders are slowly starting to polish their individual game whilst maintaining their dedication to the overall team play. More in game leaders like those mentioned before will be available in the future, but that all depends on whether or not teams value the in game leader role if coaches are allowed to communicate all game long once again, and considering coaches that were former high profile CS players are likely in the near future, they would be snapped up quickly, leaving many teams seeking out some form of leadership. Some teams would simply refuse to pick up a coach, and would prefer to stick to someone in the server, or if a team is unsuccessful in picking up a coach, an in game leader is an option they always have. Considering the demand for the in game leadership role is relatively high, and is needed in regions such as North America, the demand will never be satisfied, and could likely grow if all the coaches are snapped up.
Another important note would be that in game leaders may opt to coach instead of play, or some would be forced to. Whatever the scenario, this is also highly likely. NRG in-game leader daps tweeted that being in a coaching slot means you can see and hear everything, and if in game leaders prefer this, many would make the transition in a heartbeat to make their jobs easier. Some may transfer freely, whilst others may be forced into the role.
The Best Of Both Worlds
Mentioned briefly throughout this piece, fans, commentators and analysts alike would get the best of both worlds. With a coach calling the shots, there is a high probability that a mixture of tactical, innovative and structured Counter Strike would become more prominent amongst teams with coaches. Whilst the coach is in the lab drumming up new strategies, the players would be able to hone their own knowledge and game skills, thus allowing them to perform at a higher level. No longer would there be one dedicated player that has to worry about the next round, because, for the most part, the coach would be at hand to call the strategy for the next round. You would get, on one hand, sound and structured executes, strategies or reads, and on the other hand you get to see the collective and individual skill of the five players in the server through those displays of skill the fans love so much. Whilst at the moment there are smart in game leaders providing us with some tactical Counter Strike, as well as the players on their team providing us with some “WOW” moments, example would be coldzera and fer from SK, with FalleN doing the leading, there simply is not enough of that to go around, I feel like, and the appetite for strategic Counter Strike is satisfied temporarily, but never on a long term basis.
This is all under the hypothetical/theoretical premise that Valve lifts the coaching restrictions. One must also understand that if this were to occur some teams, such as SK, would simply not need coaches, and players like seangares and pronax would just as easily find a place on a team as a player as they would a coaching role. I definitely do believe that we are lacking in some tactical Counter Strike, and with the addition of the coaches to do the leading, that could be easily fixed. However, the level that Counter Strike is at right now is slowly starting to stagnate, and considering most of the talent coming through are not poised to be in game leaders, there will likely be an in game leading drought, especially in North America. In that regard, many teams in the region may struggle to compete on an international level because they don’t have someone like Sean or stanislaw guiding them throughout the game, round by round, in their own individual leadership styles. However, I am a firm believer that reversing the coaching rule will improve the Counter Strike we see at the highest level, and allow professionals to flourish to their strengths, as opposed to having someone compromise their strength for a weakness they will likely never be used to.
What would actually happen to the in game leadership role is an interesting idea to toy with, should the coaching rule be reversed. I firmly believe that it will remain a constant demand throughout the course of Counter Strike, whether or not coaches are allowed to communicate freely. Whether or not it would become obsolete is also another interesting idea to toy with, but not one I personally agree with.