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lurppis: Coaches aren’t doing players’ jobs, but vice versa

Valve dropped a bomb earlier today in the shape of a new ruling that effectively ends the coaching era in Counter-Strike – at least for the time being.

Full-time coaches such as Natus Vincere’s Sergey ‘starix’ Ishchuk, Liquid’s Luis “peacemaker” Tadeu and Ninjas in Pyjamas’ Björn “THREAT” Pers were acting as their respective teams’ in-game leaders, thus allowing the team to field a better player in their stead and improving the overall level of play in our scene.

That will no longer be allowed going forward, as Valve’s ruling, revealed earlier today to everyone’s surprise, explains:

With unrestricted communication with their players, coaches can currently function as a sixth player, and not solely as a source of guidance or training. Activities such as keeping track of the economy, calling plays, and general situational awareness are important components of CS gameplay. If a person is performing these actions, we consider them a player.

Since the goal of our events is to identify the best five-player CS teams that exhibit the best combination of all CS skills, the current participation of coaches in the game is not compatible with that goal. To address this problem, future Valve sponsored events will enforce the following coaching rules:

During a match, the coach may only communicate with the players during warmup, half-time, or during one of four 30 second timeouts that the coach or player can call.

Obviously, third party events can use whatever rules they want but if you want to align your events with ours then we recommend using this coaching rule.

With coaches now only allowed to communicate during warmup, half-time and during timeouts, it will force all teams to take the role of in-game leading more seriously again. Few will revert back to their old leaders if it means changing players, but it is a tough hit for many nonetheless.

The rule is not enforced on all tournaments worldwide, but Valve stating that any tournament organizer hoping to host a major should be following these rules effectively forces it down everyone’s throats.

The Boston Celtics won the NBA championship in 1968-1969 with all-time great Bill Russell acting as a player and a coach at the same time. But who would ever consider doing that in the modern era of any sport?

The Washington-based developers are not incorrect in saying the coach helps teams out – that is the entire point. We are supposed to progress towards making the game more competitive and pleasant to watch.

It feels close-minded to assume that simply because for the first 10 years of Counter-Strike’s history something was done one way, it should always be so. In fact, if esports blows up, these first years will be discounted similar to how we now discount the Stanley Cups the Montreal Canadiens won in the first decades of the NHL — when competition was limited at best.

The best coaches are some of the most high-profile members of traditional sports teams. Think of the likes of Gregg Popovich, Bill Belichick, Phil Jackson or Pat Riley – they have shaped entire franchises, because their careers span much longer than their star athletes’.

Without this rule, the future of Counter-Strike would involve much more staff – you would certainly want to hire multiple people to watch demos and analyze both you and your opponents’ play. But I think it would go even further.

The closest comparison to Counter-Strike in my mind is American football. You have a huge number of different tactics, and the plays allow you to reset and get real input from coaches in a fashion similar to how rounds play out.

If this were allowed to develop enough, I see no reason why teams would not start fielding two coaches – one focused on the offensive side, and one on defense – because it would make them more efficient, and the best terrorist side callers are not always as good as counter-terrorists.

Valve’s new rule certainly allows them to determine the best five-person unit, with little additional help. But why are they then even allowing the coach to speak during timeouts?

I am afraid – and I cannot say I would know for sure, because Valve’s communication skills best resemble those of Sheldon’s in the Big Bang Theory – that Valve is doing this to have the majors mimic match-making, because what other reason could there be?

No modern game will be played for a decade by the masses if it does not have a thriving competitive scene. It is a damn shame that Valve time after time not only shows negligence towards ours, but in fact seems to completely ignore it.

Players such as Fnatic’s Olof “olofmeister” Kajbjer voiced their disappointment at the fact the game developers do not listen to what they are told. It is an old problem yours truly encountered when the game was in its beta phase, and unfortunately nothing seems to have changed.

Odds are this decision will not be reversed, and the players’ best attempts will likely be blocked – I have a hard time seeing them actually withdrawing from tournaments, and tournament organizers would likely be smart enough to call their bluffs.

But what this all really comes down to is the basis that this entire argument from Valve, and those against coaching who are stuck into how things were a decade ago, is off.

Both Valve and the community are looking at this wrong.

The coaches are not doing an in-game leader’s job in Counter-Strike, but instead due to how grass roots our game continues to be – even at this point, compared to some of the largest traditional sports – we have been forcing a player to do the coach’s job.

So, why are we handicapping the players instead of trying to put the best product out there for the fans?

Cover photo by Carlton Beener/ESL,


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