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An esports coach that is teaching an esports player how to learn a new skill and teaches how to play

The 4 Stages Of Teaching Anything As An Esports Coach

coaching communication professionality Jun 21, 2022

How amazing would it be if you could teach anything on any level to your players as an esports coach? First, we will dive into the 4 stages of competence so you know on what level your players are, and then we will introduce the 4 stages of teaching anything that will level up your coaching and learning for your players by a ton!

What Faker, s1mple, MsDossary, and other GOATS have in common

If you were to compare your players to a hall-of-famer like Faker (LoL), s1mple (CS:GO) or MsDossary (FIFA), how good are they at their chosen game? What’s the difference between your players and the best of the best?

Some say it comes down to factors such as raw talent, circumstances or even luck. Although these factors play an important role, fundamentally, it comes down to countless hours of more effective learning.

Why effective learning is so important

Why is this important? Because we know that you want to help your players reach their highest level of performance. So, in this blog, we’re going to lay out the basics of doing just that.

How? By using ‘The 4 Steps of Competence’ and how you can apply it with your players each step of the way.

What is the learning process?

The 4 Steps of Competence is a basic human learning process that every human does intuitively. Yes, including you. It’s the process you used to learn how to walk, talk, read, write, and much more.

The steps are simple. Each one represents a stage of learning. Continuously cycling through steps 1-4, year after year, is how the best of the best got that good. And it’s also how your players can reach their potential.

You want to skip steps but you can't

Your job as a coach is to help your player's transition from step to step without skipping steps! Do this, and your players will always be learning effectively while feeling more motivated and satisfied than ever.

If you don’t do this by skipping a step at any point, they can very quickly become frustrated and demotivated. And as a result, improvement will stagnate.

So let’s get cracking.

The 4 steps to see on what step your players are

What are the steps? Take a look at the image below.

How are you going to use this framework to help your players learn? First, we’ll go through the steps as they are. Then, we’ll lay out how you can teach your players during each step. Sound good?

To get started, let’s apply this framework to a FIFA player currently learning a new skill - how to use space effectively.

Step 1 – Unconsciously Incompetent

This is when the player isn’t aware of how incompetent he is. He’s blind/ignorant of this fact – in FIFA he doesn’t know how to use space on the field effectively, what ‘using space’ means, or even that he needs to learn this skill to progress as a player. During this step, players:

  • Are confused
  • Are getting results that they don’t want or like
  • Don’t know what’s going on
  • Don’t know how to improve

Step 2 – Consciously Incompetent

This is when a player becomes consciously aware that he’s incompetent at using space. He realizes that he doesn’t know how to use space effectively, even when he tries. He starts to educate himself and even receives some coaching. During this step, players:

  • Seek and get the help that they want and need
  • Study the game
  • Analyze correctly but are still not good at the game

Step 3 – Consciously Competent

This is when the player puts in  the conscious practice and, as a result, learns how to use space effectively. He can move into/use space to put himself in an advantageous position. During this step, players:

  • Practice, practice, practice
  • Start to get good at the game
  • Become proud of their skill/what they’ve learned

Step 4 – Unconsciously Competent

This is when the player can automatically and competently use space effectively. He can use this skill without thinking. This new skill helps him to get better results and win more matches. During this step, players:

  • Have automated a skill at a high level
  • Don’t need to think about what they’re doing to get great results
  • Describe the skill as “just the way that I play. I don’t think about it.”

Each time your player cycles through these four steps, he’ll have added to his competence and improved as a player. The next thing to do is start from step 1, but this time with a new/different skill. 

How to coach and teach on each step

Great, so how do you coach/teach during each step? 

To do this, we will adapt the framework above and change it to ‘The 4 Steps of Teaching.’

Step 1 – Teaching Unconsciously Incompetent players 

The player has the wrong intuition.

How to teach them:

  • Give feedback - feedback about their current level of performance in the skills that you as a coach see room for improvement, e.g. using space in FIFA
  • Plant the seed by asking subtle questions – e.g. “hey, take a look at this play, what do you notice about it?”. Help the player to think for themselves to discover what they can improve for themselves, rather than bluntly asking them or telling them what they need to improve.
  • Give a task that exposes the shortcomings – e.g. if the player is constantly attacking up one side of the field, give them a task to split their attacks 50-50, using both sides of the field.

Step 2 – Teaching Consciously Incompetent players 

The player has the wrong analysis.

How to teach them:

  • Give positive feedback – “you’re putting in a good effort, great work, you’re going to get there, you got this”, etc. 
  • Avoid negative feedback – giving negative feedback to a player that is aware of their own mistakes can be detrimental to their confidence.
  • Connect to the emotions of the player – see them as a person, focus less on mechanics, technique, and skills at this point, and connect with who they are
  • Show them understanding and help them develop necessary skills by giving tasks.
    • I want you to practice task (abc) for (x) days/weeks.
    • Encourage them to keep pushing and putting in the effort to learn, as this is the point where they are learning to learn. 
    • They are vulnerable at this stage so support them emotionally.
  • Experiment – after introducing and practising a few exercises, ask the player, “Hey, what kind of exercises can you think of that we could do and practice?” This helps them to stay focused and motivated.

Step 3 – Teaching Consciously Competent players 

The player has the correct analysis but is sluggish to perform.

How to teach them

  • Repetition of skills and drills – keep the same pace and exercises. This step can be called “the grind” using conscious and deliberate practice. Practice, practice, practice!
  • Focus on achieving objectives rather than the skills themselves. E.g. “I want you to make a scoring attempt when you’ve made effective space while on attack” – this is critical if you want the player to move to the next step.
  • Compliment their effort and perseverance – this builds confidence in the player as it ties in perfectly with the fact that they have started to experience good results.

Step 4 – Teaching Unconsciously Competent players

The player has the correct intuition.

How to teach them:

  • Focus on challenging the player – this keeps the player away from complacency and comfort while promoting continuous learning.
  • Focus on learning how to win – putting it all together. How to use everything that they’ve learned (from the previous steps) to win the match
  • Coach on concentration – they already know what to do and are competent at it, so coach/encourage them to keep their focus, keep going, and be persistent. 

Simple yet effective

And there you have it! It is a simple framework for helping your players reach their next level, no matter what that your player’s next level is. 

Your next level as an esports coach

If you want a deeper dive into this topic, including more Esports examples and a weekly Q&A with other Esports coaches, then 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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