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How to structure your esports practice and scrims as a coach

coaching practice professionality scrims well being Jun 27, 2022

How do you structure your esports practice and scrims coach? You might run your practices as usual. Players come in, you jump into a game, give some pointers, and then you end with a VOD and set goals for the next practice. Although this is commonly practiced, you’re missing out on a lot! It is not the most effective and structured way to go about your practices or scrims. You want to structure it properly and set a good framework that benefits the development of your players.

You are the coach

Today we're stepping into the shoes of a coach that's just finished a split. There’s a four-week break till the next split begins and a few significant improvements that the team needs to check off if they want to achieve their goals for the next split. 

The team practices five times per week, 20 sessions total. This isn't a lot, especially if practice time is ineffective. Every minute wasted due to ineffective practice puts more distance between where the team is and where they want to be.

Make every minute count, everything has a purpose

They don't want to find themselves two weeks into their break without having improved or even guessing whether they've improved or not. 

Their best chance at improving and reaching their goals is to make every minute count during practice. How? By using a simple and effective structure.

The 12 steps

Let’s run you through how an effective coach would structure his team's practice with these 12 steps. 

Piece of theory

The steps are:

  1. Preparation
  2. Connect with the team
  3. Practice/match routines 
  4. Reflect on the last match practice and goals
  5. Set clear objectives for the practice
  6. Pre-game routines
  7. Give concurrent feedback and collect terminal feedback
  8. <1 min summary of the match
  9. Short break
  10. Engage with the thoughts/feelings of the players
  11. VOD review
  12. Select points of attention for the next practice
  13. End on a positive note

Let's run through what the coach could do each step of the way.

  1. Preparation

Well before the scrim, the coach gets crystal clear on what the team wants and needs to work on and exactly how they will do it. After all, good preparation enables good practice. He achieves this by setting a small number of goals, 1-3 max.

The goals get set. Now, the coach prepares ways to help the team learn and keep them engaged simultaneously. He creates interactive material such as short VOD clips, pictures of situations, or recordings of pro teams. He will use this material by asking the team questions about what they see and hear, promoting discussion and critical thinking - helping to keep team engagement high while stimulating variety and fun.

  1. Connect with the team

Here's when the coach checks in with the players and feels where they are. What is their energy level? How are they feeling? 

He also sets the right tone for the upcoming practice with a stern yet caring attitude, letting the players know that he means business and expects them to be focused and ready for their upcoming scrim.

During this time, he puts effort into building and preserving the culture that the team is striving for, encouraging the team to laugh, tell jokes, share compliments, and show each other what they've recently learned.

He also thinks about how he will lay out clear expectations for the upcoming practice and weeks to come. He recites what he's going to say in his mind - "Alright, team, as you know, we've got four weeks till our next official match and some concrete goals that we want to achieve. While we work towards these goals, I want to see two things. I want to see everyone putting in their best effort, and I want to see you all enjoying yourselves along the way and having fun. So let's get into it!"

  1. Practice/match routines

This step has been communicated by the coach ahead of time. He has told the team to prepare themselves for the upcoming scrim tonight by warming up individually and as a team. Ensuring they'll be as ready as they can be mentally and physically.

  1. Reflect on previous practice and goals

Many coaches jump into their next scrim without thinking about what happened during the last practice and which goals they will work on during this scrim. But not this coach. This coach avoids that common pitfall and counters it by consciously connecting his team with the goals for this practice and ensuring everyone knows what they're working towards tonight.

  1. Set clear objectives for the practice

The coach and team have discussed the previous scrim and tonight's goals.

The step the coach takes is explaining how the players are going to work on their goals. In this case, the team's goal is to work on less clutter over comms. Two players are responsible for this as they tend to clutter comms by giving unnecessary information. The coach provides specific instructions, for example, "player A and B, you need to do X when Y is happening. If Z happens, then revert to default. The rest of you, play as we have agreed. We will do this for 3-5 rounds and then re-evaluate". 

  1. Pre-game routines

Once the team knows how they will be working on their goals during tonight's scrim, the coach quickly runs through topics such as match-ups, defaults, win conditions, playstyles, what their opponent is known for, and does their team shout. The coach facilitates this process, which takes 3-5 minutes.

  1. Give concurrent feedback and collect terminal feedback.

Scrim has begun. During this step, the coach observes the team and engages with two types of feedback. The first is concurrent (giving feedback while the action is happening) and terminal (providing feedback after the action has occurred).

He gives concurrent feedback by asking the team to pause the scrim whenever he feels the team needs feedback or is drifting away from their goals. He isn't concerned with the number of pauses as he knows that scrim time is not necessarily always about winning, it's about learning, and concurrent feedback is a crucial part of learning. 

He also gathers feedback that he can present to the team later (terminal feedback), whether after the scrim or in the coming days.

  1. <1 min summary of the match

The scrim has ended. The coach springs straight into the action and gives a concise (under 1 minute) summary of the match. He avoids talking about details or specific plays because he knows that can trigger a long, in-depth discussion. He tells the team, "that was a good scrim overall. We've got some things to improve on, too. After your short break, we're going to quickly review the match by looking at topics A and B. See you all in 5 mins".

  1. Short break

During the short break, the players detach from the game and walk away from their PC. They're stretching their legs, drinking water, going to the toilet, and doing whatever else they need to mentally and physically reset.

The coach is efficient, so he uses the time that the team is away from their PC by preparing his VOD review and any other feedback points he plans to present to the team once they return.

  1. Engage with the thoughts/feelings of the players

The team returns calm and reset, ready to talk. The coach knows that engaging with the team's thoughts and feelings is extremely important. He asks questions such as:

  • What was the overall feeling of this game?
  • How well did we work on the goal this game?
  • What went well? What can be improved
  • What felt good and what didn't feel good? 

He gives time for every player to answer these questions.

  1. VOD review

After he has engaged with the thoughts/feelings of the players, he uses the timestamps that he noted while watching the scrim (terminal feedback) and shares his screen for an ideally quick, 5-10 minute VOD review. He knows that this is ample time to stimulate learning. He uses his time effectively and focuses his feedback on the 1-3 goals he set during Step 0 (Preparation).

He knows that if he wants to go in-depth with his VOD review, he will save it for later.

  1. Select points of attention for the next practice

The VOD review is done, and feedback is delivered. 

Next, he and the team select what they want to work on during the next scrim. He guides the team in choosing goals essential for their improvement rather than going for the easy "good feeling" goals that can pop up during practice. 

During this process, he ensures that he always strikes a healthy balance between working on the team's pain points and having fun. 

  1. End on a positive note

At this point, today’s practice has come to an end. The coach knows how critical it is to end the practice positively. He does his best to have all players leave with a good feeling. He also uses this time to celebrate what went well and communicate what is coming up for the team, such as essential updates, off days, etc.

Reflect and evaluate

So, how can you implement these steps into your practice/scrim structure? You can start by reflecting on your current structure. What steps do you follow? Why? Are they effective? Then, think about what you can add, remove, or tweak.

And, as always, you want to modify your process to fit your players and team.

Your next level

If you want a deeper dive into this topic, including more Esports examples and a weekly Q&A with other Esports coaches, join the Esports Coach Development Program. 

Every week we deliver a Masterclass for esports coaches. These Masterclasses are a part of the Esports Coach Development Program, where we cover esports topics and questions from coaches. To join the masterclass, click [here] to join the Next Level Esports Discord and just send a message in general chat or a DM to get access, everyone can join one time for free to check it out!

See you there, coach!

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