I interviewed the Crosshairs' coaches as they enter the spring tournament to find out what they've been planning for the team. The BEA tournament is currently postponed until April due to safety concerns around Covid-19, however, this means that they have more time to practice and strengthen as a team.
Gregory Naika-Taylor, the Crosshairs external coach and student coach, Jacob Tonge, talk about their responsibilities as coaches and what that entails. With two different perspectives on their approaches towards the team and play styles, it’s clear to see there is a professional balance between their two approaches, which is beneficial to all players and the teams success.
Greg was first bought in in help the Crosshairs with scouting and analysis for Digital School house’s Overwatch 3v3 Elimination tournament in 2018/19 and then took on the role as head coach in 2019. "As we transitioned over to the British Esports Championships, as I already knew some of the players from the 3v3 tournament, I was asked to help organise the team for our first season in the championships" This was when Jacob first entered the Crosshairs as a player, whilst studying at Coventry College, where he was approached by myself to trial for the support role. This was key in demonstrating a professional process to the competition.
Both Greg and Jacob agree that the 2019/20 tournament had its ups and down, with Greg saying "we got knocked out by the eventual winners, however for a first season, to finish in the top 4 in the whole country was a massive achievement and so when I was asked to stay on as coach in 2020/21, I was really excited to rebuild the team and try and push even further this year.”
"This season, the team to become more involved and self-sustaining” Greg explained, “and so I asked Jacob, who had proven himself to have a deep understanding of the gamee, to join the coaching team as our first player/coach". Jacob also felt that his role as coach started developing as a player who had expanded his roster of playable heroes and learning how they complimented different roles in the game, as well as taking a huge interest in the Overwatch league, a professional worldwide esports tournament.
After finishing at the top of the tables in the the winter qualifiers, the coaches intend to stay at the top. Jacob declare that he had been " taking the lead of the first teams practice regime by having weekly scrims and practice sessions to help make sure everyone is at the top of their game when the tournament starts up again" whilst Greg has been taking an active role in recruiting new players to " widen our team’s overall hero pool to reduce the gaps in our team while also adding some competition for places. “We held successful trials over the Christmas break and added 4 new players to the team, some of which will be making their debuts in the spring divisions." Coventry Crosshairs announced their new players shortly after the end of the Winter qualifiers as a way of celebrating and honing in on all the good work done by the wider team as well as the players.
The pressure is most certainly on, as the team have been generating interest and hype online through their self-managed social media channels, as well as the encouragement from online users. Coventry Crosshairs are being talked about in the local news and are spreading the awareness of the esports industry at their local college. Greg pointed out that "Last year we were the underdogs, but with the success our team had, followed with our success in the winter groups, we will be a team that people are looking to beat. However, I do believe that the senior members of the team will do a great job in setting a tone and easing the pressure on the newer players."
With the pressure and the expectation to do well, Jacob approach as both a player and a coach is to "be positive, even if the team is being put down, I believe that in the long run this will hopefully help the team and help them stop tilting and know that this our practice practise sessions are there as a way to improve" which is also great advice for anyone wishing to follow a career in esports coaching. Having a good mindset goes a long way, as Greg adds "If you work with the players on their level, playing to each individuals strengths and their learning process, they will appreciate the time you have taken with them more and will try harder, which will also see their performances improve too".
It is evident that both Greg and Jacob cherish the challenges that come from being a coach, both agreeeing that the best thing about coaching is being the person responsible for a successful strategy. Greg proclaims "there’s nothing better than seeing your team succeed using a set play you devised or strategy you helped plan that works in shutting down the enemy team". As challenges are put in place, receiving feedback for coaches are vital, and having hard work paid off by winning, is the ultimate recognition that Greg and Jacob are succeeding in their roles.
As the Crosshairs have grown since their 3v3 tournament, it is noticeable that the players themselves have improved and enhanced their abilities to perform with their team. Coaches would also naturally strengthen their capabilities for the benefit of the whole team. Jacob revealed he was surprised by his confidence and how coaching aided him in being a good in game leader and how it has allowed him to come out of his shell and be more interactive with others. Evidently, this also proves how esports is more than just about the games and it can help build those wider skills developed through participating in tournament and being accountable for the role you undertake. Greg learnt more about his skillset within the game and the tournaments hes helped with, stating "I'm a better coach than I am a player" which shows that his game knowledge does not go unnoticed by the players, and they all appreciate the work the coaches put into the team.
Greg and Jacob have both been busy with the Coventry Crosshairs; organising scrims and new training methods to prepare for the next rouond of the BEA Championships. Check out their most recent 'Highlights' video to celebrate the best plays.