Slingshot’s Vince Nairn caught up with G2 Esports coach Edouard “SmithZz” Dubourdeaux during the ESL Pro League Season 5 Finals to talk about his transition to coaching, dealing with criticism from the Counter-Strike community and when the team started to come together.
Vince Nairn: For you, what’s been the biggest transition about becoming a coach after being a player?
Edouard “SmithZz” Dubourdeaux: It’s a thing I really wanted to do since the last six months of my playing career. I was the oldest experienced player in France. We didn’t have a coach in France, so it was logical that it was me taking the role. It doesn’t change much. Of course, I don’t play, but I’m still around. I’m still helping with strategy stuff and everything I was doing as a player. It doesn’t change (much).
VN: Being a player and knowing how to execute in a game is one thing, but seeing it as a coach and directing a team to do something is different. Was there anything you had to do differently from a tactical standpoint?
ED: As a tactical point of view, I think apex (Dan Madesclaire) and Richard (“shox” Papillon), everyone is on the same point. Just me, I have more (outside) views when they’re playing, so I can help them during timeouts with what’s wrong. But my role is principally to help Kenny (“KennyS” Schrub) and all the players reach their peak and make them keep a good mentality because CS is all mentality. It’s important to stay as a unit. All that kind of stuff you don’t really see in game.
VN: There was so much excitement when this team formed. The “French super team” or whatever. But it didn’t start so easily. What did it take to get the team to start playing together and playing well?
ED: I think it was just a question of time. We still didn’t reach our peak. We have much more potential than what we showed now. The beginning was really hard. I can’t really explain. What I can explain is we knew it (would be tough). We didn’t call it a super team or whatever. Any time you put five star players or five best players at their role, if you just let them go out there (with no structure) it won’t work. Work is everything and work will pay off, and that is what we said to keep going.
VN: Was there any particular moment you felt it start to come together?
ED: I think it was after first boot camp that we had in Berlin. For me, the outside reality life matters a lot. To have a boot camp to see everyone, to link the players and to work face to face really helped us. It was (those) days working that made us reach this level.
VN: I know you, personally, the last few months of your playing career were really difficult. Your form wasn’t good and it seemed like the community really tried to pick you out a lot. How did that affect you? And how did it motivate you now being the coach of the team?
ED: It probably played a role in my decision at the end. But like I said before, I was thinking of taking this road. It just made the job easier, I can say. I think the community is really hard with some players. It was really difficult (for me), but I think it’s part of the job as well. You receive compliments and criticism, and you just need to deal with it. It’s just that when it’s too much, the community is pretty young and they like to jump in with the bandwagon hate and fuck up a player. It can be pretty hard, but it’s something you have to deal with.
VN: It’s a very volatile community. Is that something you have to train yourself for mentally? Just realizing the visceral reactions that can happen?
ED: It’s growing so you need to have that mentality and have more strength mentally and not get fucked up by all the comments and hate. You need to stay in your bubble. When it gets to you, it’s really hard to step up.
VN: Who is one player in the world right now who is incredibly difficult for your team to play against?
ED: I don’t really know. There is some snipers. Kenny is one of the best snipers in the world. If there is a sniper on his game (who) can counter it, it can be really hard to come back from. But there are plenty of amazing players like coldzera (Marcelo David) who on a good day can be really hard to play against.
VN: What was the favorite moment of your playing career and why?
ED: I don’t know that I have one precious moment. Maybe the victories? Maybe the ECS victory with G2 (last year). Maybe on Source, the ESWC. I have many.
VN: What’s one thing in Counter-Strike you don’t like or think could be improved?
ED: It’s a good and bad thing. We have so many tournaments in CS that it can be bad. But the scene is so big that there’s tournaments for everyone. Tier 1. Tier 2. Tier 3. I think it’s what makes CS beautiful and the strength of CS. There’s so many things to watch and teams to cheer for. It’s good but it’s also really bad because with the amount, teams practice less so there is less really good CS. But it’s what makes CS good because there will be a different winner at every tournament
VN: Over-saturation: Do you see that differently as a coach now? Are there qualities you can pick out if somebody is getting burned out?
ED: Not at the moment. We are at the mid season. We will do three or four tournaments in a row now. I can tell you in August how it is, but I don’t know right now. We’re still a young team. We’re still really hungry. We still want to win every tournament. We are so happy to qualify to anything.
Cover photo by Jussi Jaaskelainen/DreamHack