Top 10 Esports Coaches To Follow In 2020
Coaches are one of the most important elements in any esports team. Believe it or not, having the best players in the world won’t always produce the best results — or any results at all. Players, especially young ones, need guidance; they need mentors. Someone to create a structure through which they’ll further grow and develop, both as competitors but as young human beings as well.
A coach is an experienced veteran, a leader in every sense of the word. A coach is cognizant of what his players are going through on a day to day basis and how it might affect not just their performance but also their physical and psychological health. It is an incredibly challenging, layered job and it requires a very specific, highly unique set of abilities and virtues.
Having top-tier players is just one half of the equation — having a good coach is perhaps even more important. Once those high-pressure situations come into play, having someone to lead the charge is of the utmost importance.
Esports coaches are, therefore, a key element that is unfortunately often overlooked. In this article, we’ll go over some of the very best ones in esports. Do have in mind, however, that no such list can ever be fully objective which means someone’s bound to be left out. That’s just the nature of a Top 10 list — it is inherently flawed to a certain extent. That said, we’ll definitely cover a couple of stellar coaches who deserve your full, undivided attention.
So with that out of the way, let’s begin!
Joey “YoungBuck” Steltenpool [LEC, League of Legends]
The legendary European coach is also known as the “six star general” for his six LEC titles — a record in the region. The fact that he won them with a couple of entirely different line-ups only further legitimizes his spot as the best and most accomplished coach Europe ever fostered. He led both G2 Esports and Fnatic, the only two long-term kings the LEC ever had.
He’s also fairly outspoken and focuses on all the right things: creating a friendly atmosphere for his players, prioritizing teamwork over individual skill expression, and giving his players structure. He’s an absolute veteran in every sense of the word and is a known quantity. That might not sound all that spectacular, but in a field that’s filled with people who aren’t qualified for the job, Youngbuck stands out as a consummate professional.
Jakob “YamatoCannon” Mebdi [LEC, League of Legends]
The man with the golden voice. Yamato is a veteran of the League of Legends scene and is as experienced as they come. His teams also found quite a fair bit of success (with multiple appearances on the World Championship stage), although the LEC title always eluded him. Yamato is the perfect kind of coach — he’s a mentor, a friend, and a leader. You’d follow him into war just after a five minute speech, in no small part because of his theatrical candor and baritone voice.
Take a listen for yourself:
His teams were, however, fairly similar style-wise: they preferred aggression and bravado-fuelled play to any subdued and layered macro, but they were always able to put on a show no matter the odds. He might not be Europe’s most decorated coach, but he’s certainly the one with most flair and a penchant for theatrics and leadership.
Bok “Reapered” Han-Gyu [LCS, League of Legends]
Reapered is a fascinating example. He’s a stellar coach (much like any other on this list), but it is his uncanny ability to turn rookies into bona fide superstars that definitely puts him in a league of his own. Cloud9, in fact, has consistently been the only organization in North America that has succeeded in developing and nurturing local, native talent.
He was never able to win an LCS title with Cloud9, but a Top 4 finish at the 2018 World Championship is worth perhaps even more than ultimate regional triumph. Under his guidance, Cloud9 became even more creative, unhinged, flexible and confident. They lacked that extra bit of oomph which was necessary to dethrone Team Liquid (and Team SoloMid before them), but they’ve consistently been a Top 3 team in the region for years.
Reapered has a different kind of an approach and it definitely bore fruit over the years.
Kim “kkOma” Jeong-gyun [LCK, League of Legends]
KkOma is as legendary a coach as they come. He’s a household name, and his triumphs even led to an appearance in the game itself (as a ward skin):
KkOma was the brain behind Korea’s most successful giant SKT T1. He was with the organization since late 2014 and has led multiple iterations of the roster to success. Three World Championships, eight LCK titles, and two Mid-Season Invitational trophies. That’s about as stacked of a resume as you’ll ever see. Kkoma’s systematic approach and dedication are unrivaled in the scene, and his long list of laurels and accolades tell the same tale.
If you’re looking for an inspiring tale, for a leader unlike any other, look no further than kkOma.
Danny “zonic” Sørensen [Astralis, CS:GO]
Zonic is a legend in every sense of the word. Many consider him the best Danish Counter-Strike 1.6 player of all time, which is saying something given the sheer number of extraordinary Danish talents throughout history. To say that his vast experience and knowledge transferred over and made him one of the best coaches in all of esports would truly be an understatement. Zonic is currently leading Astralis, the best and most dominant Counter-Strike: Global Offensive team in the history of the game.
With zonic at the helm, Astralis have won four CS:GO Majors, three of them in succession. They’re a team that has basically revolutionized the game and is still one of the best and most feared CS:GO teams in the world. They’re a success story through and through, and zonic, a veteran in his own right, has led this team to many monumental triumphs.
James “Crowder” Crowder [Atlanta Faze, Call of Duty League]
The 2015 World Champion has been a top-tier competitor for over a decade and is rightfully considered as one of the best coaches in the entire scene. He’s perhaps most known for his stint with FaZe Clan but we’ve already seen his coaching chops while he was on loan to 100 Thieves for the entirety of the 2019 season — the same year he got the “Coach of the Year” nod.
He’ll now look to recreate a bit of the same magic with Atlanta Faze in the inaugural Call of Duty League season. The team already started off on the right foot with two match wins (85.7% win percentage at the time of this writing), and it’ll be interesting to see if they continue such a solid trend in their late-February homestead.
Will Atlanta leave a mark in the grand scheme of things with Crowder at the helm? It’s too early to know for certain, but the odds are definitely in their favor.
Titouan “Sockshka” Merloz [OG, Dota 2]
A list such as this one simply cannot be complete with the head coach of OG, the only team in the history of Dota that has managed to win two Internationals in a row. OG’s run last year more resembled a dream rather than something you’d expect to see in esports.
But that’s competitive Dota at its best, and Sochshka and his stellar line-up were able to do what many thought was impossible. Now sure, OG don’t always perform as well as they should (as evidenced by their many underwhelming showings throughout last year), but when everything’s on the line, they always find a way to pull through and get the win.
The talented Frenchman will once again try to find success in 2020, although he’ll have a vastly different line-up to work with. Still, they won’t lack mechanical prowess or experience, so it’ll be interesting to see whether they’ll make the world take notice for a third time in a row.
Dae-hee “Crusty” Park [San Francisco Shock, Overwatch League]
The mastermind behind San Francisco Shock’s tremendous 2019 run. Under his guidance, San Francisco was able to reach the finals of each stage playoffs and have won the most out of any competing team. By the end of the season, there wasn’t a doubt on anyone’s mind that the Shock was the best and most talented Overwatch team in the world.
Fortunately, they didn’t “just” play for prestige, as they earned a whopping $1.6 million for their valiant efforts.
Eric “adreN” Hoag [Team Liquid, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive]
AdreN is currently leading North America’s best and most capable CS:GO roster. Now, Liquid has yet to attain any monumental success, but if they continue playing at such a high level, they’re bound to leave a mark sooner rather than later. They’re a Top 3 team in the world according to many different analysts and have been playing at an incredibly high level over the last year or so
After registering a couple of stellar wins last year (along with numerous first-place finishes), it feels like TL is poised to make the world take notice in 2020. Hopefully, this will be the year when they finally break through.
Aaron “Aero” Atkins [Dallas Fuel & Team USA Overwatch World Cup]
Aero is one of the best and most respected coaches in the Overwatch League. That said, his run with Dallas Fuel hasn’t exactly been that successful, or worthy of mentioning. They had a couple of flashes of brilliance, but they’ve disappointed overall. Still, once he got on board, the team was able to right many wrongs — they were more consistent, they had an actual structure in place, and they fought a lot harder than ever before. They actually looked like a solid, well-rounded contender (near the end of the 2018 season).
2019 was a different story, but it’s impossible to blame anyone in particular seeing how the GOATS meta seemingly came out of nowhere.
If anything, Aero once again proved his worth by leading Team USA to a historic triumph at the Overwatch World Cup mere months ago. It is a seismic achievement, and the fact that his team won against both South Korea (3-1) and China (3-0) is even further proof that he’s one of the best coaches in professional Overwatch.