Coaching in esports
All over the world, Esports is a fast-growing sports industry, with games like CS:GO and League of Legends becoming very popular with enormous platforms. The competition in these games increases, therefore players and coaches must practice many hours a day to perform on a professional level. This calls for the need for knowledge regarding esports training and coaching. However, even though research in esports is becoming more prevalent, coaching in esports is not a very big topic in research. Therefore, this study aims to examine the current research field regarding coaching in esports and asks questions like; what does coaching look like in esports? What important factors are important for coaching in esports? How does a coach on an esports team coach their players, in order for them to perform better? With these questions in mind, this article aims to give a broad insight into the knowledge we have so far, from a research perspective.
The following section describes the methods used in this review. Firstly, the table below (table 1) illustrates inclusion- and exclusion criteria used in the search progress.
|Inclusion criteria||Exclusion criteria|
|Coaching or feedback of training (with focus on design of training as a coach)||Language not written in danish or english|
|Gaming or Esport||Addictive gaming|
|Texts/reviews that are fully accessible||Demographic focusing on disorders|
|Games created by the author (not a real game)|
In this review, we were looking for coaching in esport or gaming. Therefore, coaching or feedback of training (with focus on design of training as a coach), was included. Gaming or esport made the list for similar reasons. Texts or reviews, that are fully accessible, also made the inclusion criteria list. If the texts were not fully accessible, we would not be able to read the studies and results.
Regarding the exclusion criteria, it was very important that studies focusing on addictive behavior or disorders was not included. In this review, the goal was to examine, what we know about coaching in esport. How do trainers/coaches design a training program for their team/players. The study was not looking for a particular group of people, hence the exclusion of studies focusing on people being addictive to gaming or people with disorders. Also, serious games met the exclusion criteria, mainly because serious games are made to be educational in their designs and thereby could skew the results. This study focuses on entertainment games and how coaches develop training programs for players playing these games. If the study included games created by the author or serious games, it wouldn’t be generalizable compared to the area that we wish to examine.
For the final search synthesis, the databases PsychInfo, Scopus and Google Scholar were used. These databases were used, mainly because they would cover a broad range of articles with both psychological and gaming/esport themes, which is relevant for this review. Below is a
table (table 2) illustrating the search matrix. This search was done with all 3 databases. All 3 databases have a Boolean search function, where all words from the search matrix can be combined with “AND”, “OR”, or “NOT”. The final search was conducted on September 20. – 2021.
|(Esport or Esports or gaming or Gamers or e-sport or e-sports or videogaming or video-gaming)||AND||Coaches OR Coaching OR Coach OR Feedback OR Performance||AND||Longitudinal study OR
Prospective study OR
Follow-up study OR
Timeseries study OR
Register study OR
Cohort study OR Systematic review OR Experiment OR Intervention OR Assessment
After the search was conducted, the website www.covidence.org, was used for selecting articles. Covidence is a website that stores and organizes selected articles. At the same time, the program helps to organize the screening process. Cochrane recommends that two researchers independently screen the articles, which this review followed (Higgins, 2019). Titles and abstracts were screened independently. The studies were rated YES / NO / MAYBE. Disagreements over the inclusion of articles were discussed subsequently. The included articles were then read in full text and assessed according to the set inclusion and exclusion criteria for whether they should be included in the analysis. See Figure 1 for PRISMA Flow Diagram.
Below follows a brief overview of the results found in this review. These results are based on the included reviews (n=3). See figure 2 for a more deeply description of every single article.
Nielsen & Hanghøj (2019) interviewed and observed 9 CS:GO players in a sports college. They also interviewed their coach. They found that, according to the coach and the players, communication is the core mechanic. This includes all kinds of communication, like verbal communication and non-verbal communication (understanding cues in the game). For the players, not swearing at practice was also very important. Proper language increased “healthy gaming culture”, which the article also finds to be a very important factor of playing in as a team (Nielsen & Hanghøj, 2019).
Cho, Tsaasan, & Steinkuehler (2019) examined learning opportunities for players playing League of Legends. Interviews were conducted with 39 student players and 11 teachers participating. Focus groups with experienced coaches (n=5) were also conducted. The article explains that coaching can vary widely. Some coaches included physical activity in their practice, heavy lifting as an example. Other coaches focused on roles on the team and made the players be more introspective. This included taking more control of their own toxicity and try to see, what oneself could do better. One thing all players and teachers found important, was having a coach. Not all the players at first wanted to have a coach and participate in workshops, which they later would be disappointed about. The coach can help the players work better as a team and establish a fundamental trust, which makes the players become better (Cho, Tsaasan, & Steinkuehler, 2019).
Ojala (2021) conducted a study focusing on the relationship between role ambiguity and athlete satisfaction, and how the role of a coach plays a key part in this relationship. The article finds that the absence of a coach can easily cause problems for the players in a team regarding roles. By having a coach in your esports team, roles can more easily be assigned, as the coach often is the role-sender. By knowing your role as a player, the team works better as a whole. This also increase communication and trust in the team, which is essential for performing in esports. The article also explains the importance of coaches in an esports team and that, sadly, many teams do not have a coach on their team (Ojala, 2021).
|eSports Skills are People Skills – Nielsen, R. K. L.; Hanghøj, T. 2019||9 young CS:GO players enrolled in an esports program in the greater Copenhagen area.||Qualitative methods.
– Observation of the coach and the players. Observed 3 practices with the esports class.
|Results were found through thematic analysis of the interview and observation data. The core thematics from the interviews were:
-Communication as the core mechanic.
– Healthy game culture
– Development and growth.
|The need to communicate incentivizes the players to become proficient in English. However, good CS:GO communication is also about the words that are used (e.g. not swearing); whether the tone is one of encouragement and support; the emotional valance of what is said; knowing how online versus face-to-face communication differs; and the pitfalls that this difference entails. Being a good CS:GO player, however, is also about eating right, getting enough sleep and getting physical exercise.|
|The Building Blocks of an Educational Esports League – Cho, A.; Tsaasan, A. M.; Steinkuehler, C. 2019||65 participants
– students (n=39; 35 male, 4 female)
– 11 teachers in charge of the teams (GM’s)
– 5 Coaches
– 10 parents
– Approximately 20 hours of field observation of school teams
– Approximately 18 hours of field observations in student weekend workshops
– Focus group interviews with participating students (n=39; 35 male, 4 female)
– Focus groups with League GMs (n=11), including one Asst. Principal
– Focus groups with Coaches (n=5)
– Interviews with parents of participating students at the
championship event (n=10)
|Coaching varied widely. At School 2, with a GM with no game knowledge, the coach (who was also local) did heavy lifting on in-game training, met with the team in-person, and also helped manage scheduling and even discipline. At another school with a game-knowledgeable GM, the coach (who was remote) was viewed as not very useful and the GM, who had preexisting experience with League of Legends, did a lot of training.||There is potential for learning across several domains for esports in high school.
Coaching can vary a lot. Some coaches give homework for the students. Some coaches incorporate physical training in their coaching. But most importantly, besides training in-game (aim, ping etc.) teamwork is important. And teamwork comes with communication. Communication is essential.
|Role Ambiguity and Athlete Satisfaction in Team Esports – Ojala 2021||102 participants who were CS:GO competitors in the age of 15-18 years. 96 of the 102 participants were males.||Quantitative methods
– A quantitative survey questionnaire
– Correlation analysis was used to measure correlations of role ambiguity and satisfaction dimensions.
|Role ambiguity dimensions were intercorrelated with weak to moderate correlations (0.37 ≤ r ≤ 0.58) and the two dimensions of satisfaction were moderately (r = 0.45) correlated.
There were weak (0.14 ≤ r ≤ 0.27) significant correlations between dimensions of role ambiguity and satisfaction, of which the Role Behaviour dimension had the strongest and most significant correlations to both STA (r = 0.19, P < 0.01) and SIP (r = 0.27, P < 0.01)
|The infant state of coaching and youth programs in esports is likely an issue that affects various aspects, such as role ambiguity. In the absence of a coach, how does the team assign and communicate roles? Problems can easily arise between players in a team if they do not know who evaluates them and whom should they evaluate or give guidance to.
The results of the current study indicate that lower role ambiguity, which manifests as higher clarity in the multidimensional model, was associated with higher satisfaction among esports athletes.
By looking at the results found in this review, they point towards that coaching in esports can help increase the performance on a team. One of the important factors in coaching, found in the results, is communication. Helping the team in esports communicate better, seems to provide a more “healthy gaming culture” and create mores trust between teammates. This includes all kinds of information, like in-game communication, out-game communication, and proper language (Nielsen & Hanghøj, 2019). Also, Cho, Tsaasan, & Steinkuehler (2019) found that coaching could differ widely in an esports team, but that having a coach in general, is essential for the team to develop. Another important factor is role ambiguity. Ojala (2021) found that athlete satisfaction were higher among esports players knowing their roles in the game, compared to the players not understanding their roles. And that these roles were better assigned with a coach on the team. Thereby, the findings in this review underlines the importance of having a coach on an esports team.
However, few things still need to be considered, even though the results in this study show promising support regarding having a coach on your esports team. First, this study shows only results from 3 articles, which is not much, considering the databases used in this review. It can therefore be argued that more databases could be included, in order to provide more articles. In this study only 3 databases; PsychInfo, Scopus and Google Scholar were used. Nevertheless, it can be concluded that more research needs to be done to provide further evidence regarding coaching in esports, since the 3 databases used would have covered an extended field of the available data, and it only provided 3 usable and relevant articles.
Secondly, the articles included in this review, focuses on CS:GO and League of Legends. Even though CS:GO and League of Legends are among the most popular esports games, the coaching in it is limited to information on these particular games. There are many other popular esport games out there, like FIFA, Rocket League or Dota 2, that may have their own take on coaching. One can argue, that coaching in CS:GO and League of Legends can be used in other esports games as well, but since it is still different games, and therefore different settings, and we lack information and research about coaching in these games, there is no way of knowing for sure. Therefore, as noted earlier, coaching in esports, as a topic, needs more and wider research in order to make any generalizable conclusion.
This article examined, what we know so far about coaching in esports, from a research perspective. The results in this study show, that coaching in esports is important for players to develop, both individually and as a team. Some of the factors important in coaching is communication and proper language, which also factors into “healthy gaming culture”. Also, role ambiguity can lead to more athlete satisfaction among players. Therefore, talking about roles in your team is also important as a coach. Lastly, coaching can differ widely, but in general having a coach on your team, can help your team perform better. However, this review is based on few findings and therefore further research needs to be done in order to provide further evidence supporting the above findings.
Cho, A., Tsaasan, A., & Steinkuehler, C. (2019). The building blocks of an educational esports league: Lessons from year one in orange county high schools. Paper presented at the 1-11. https://doi.org/10.1145/3337722.3337738
Hanghøj, Thorkild & Nielsen, Rune. (2019). Esports skills are people skills. 10.34190/GBL.19.041.
Higgins, J. P. T., & Cochrane Collaboration issuing body. (2019). Cochrane handbook for system- atic reviews of interventions (Second;2; ed.). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell
Juhana Ojala: Role Ambiguity and Athlete Satisfaction in Team Esports: A Study on CounterStrike: Global Offensive M. Soc. Sc. Thesis University of Tampere Master’s Degree Programme in Game Studies April 2021