NRG announced a change in their coaching structure today, with former coach oPlaiD officially parting from the team to be replaced by new head coach Seamoose. Their new coach has experience working with Method and Tempo Storm, as well as serving as an observing director at a number of large Overwatch LAN events including the 2016 World Cup.
NRG have been through a massive rehaul recently; they signed their brand new roster in mid-March, completing the team with harbleu and Ajax, and immediately found themselves down their former focal point and PR superstar Seagull.
NRG always have a mountain of pressure to perform, applied by their hungry fans, and now that rings true more than ever with a roster stacked full of ‘big names’: Ajax, dummy, numlocked, iddqd, harbleu, and most recently trials/substitutes Mendokusaii and ultimawep. This is a roster - as yet not officially completed - with real potential that Seamoose has been tasked to forge into a top team.
I had a chance to sit down with Seamus ”Seamoose” Anderson and explore the challenge with him:
Could you briefly explain how you came to be looking for a new team after being with Tempo Storm for a while?
It was a bit different from the last time I moved to another team. When I went from Method to Tempo, I knew that I had another team I'd be working with. There was a time after Tempo that I was looking for teams but didn't find any, so I was planning on moving and looking for other work. However, I was contacted by one of the NRG manager's and he asked me if I was interested in trying out for the team. So I did, and eventually things worked out!
Do you know why NRG were looking for a change in their coaching staff?
I heard good things about the previous coach as a person (work ethic, personality, etc) but that he wasn’t a great fit for the role. To the best of my understanding both he and the team thought it was a good decision to part, and they did so happily.
How would you describe yourself as a coach?
I'd say initially my focus was more of an analyst. Discussing the game, bringing up statistics as a reference to improve a composition, studying the effects of different strategies, and in general working on facets of Overwatch-specific analysis. However throughout my career I've worked heavily to educate myself on the performance aspect of competition. In many cases the players have a strong understanding of the heroes and how they perform, so I influence those types of decisions less (though still do occasionally). As a coach now I spend more time trying to help players work on their mindset, team communication systems, and how to best bring the individual skill of the players together.
What’s it been like working with the new NRG team?
It's been great! The team itself hasn't had much time together in a competitive setting, but there is a wealth of talent across each position which is excellent.
Was it a draw to you that this was a brand new roster? Does that change how you think about things with NRG?
The challenge of working with a brand new roster was definitely interesting to me, especially when you consider the pedigrees of essentially all of these players. I don't really think it changes how I think about the team, though I will say I've been brought onto established rosters in the past and been involved in creating a new one, and I definitely like working with established rosters more haha.
I should clarify, that while the team is a "new" roster, I was brought on after the players were confirmed, so to me it was already "established".
Can you give us some flavour of what to expect from this team? There's star talent along with popular players, and a lot of them have singular heroes they're known for, how do you see them working in tournaments?
You'll definitely see some "fan favorites" as far as hero choices are concerned. As of right now we'll be looking at our future competitions as preparation for the Overwatch League. We're keeping expectations within the team low as we're still a young roster that has a lot of development to do. While I hope we're successful in competitions coming up in the near future, we'll be looking at all of them as learning opportunities as we near the Overwatch League, which we hope to participate in.
Tournament pressure is quite different from scrim pressure, so even if we had a fantastic scrim record going into some of these events, I'd expect there to be issues we may not have encountered before. As a result, short term "success" in NA may take a while, but I'm confident that this team could be one of the top teams in NA with time.
Is there a pressure that you and the team have to deal with regarding fan expectations being high due to your popularity? There’s been a range of backlash recently after the invite to Korea and then poor results in tournaments, do you have to deal with that kind of stuff from fans affecting players ever as the coach?
The pressure "exists", but there is no value in thinking about it. In a way, not focusing on it essentially eliminates it. With popularity comes expectations from fans, and while all of us want to have a great relationship with our fans, having both positive (or negative) expectations is something that takes the player away from their job - to focus on the game. I suggest to the players that they don't check their social media notifications or reddit threads involving them, since in all honesty the positives could be distracting as well (ie a player receiving praise for something and thus having his ego elevated to where he thinks he needs to improve or try less than his teammates).
They still check socially media occasionally, and when potentially distracting things have come up generally everyone's been pretty good about it and had a good laugh. Comments that conjecture on behind-the-scenes information are some of the most amusing. A player's value is more than his statistics, and a team’s success is more than what's shown on a broadcast. Given some of the stories posted recently, everyone still seems very focused, which makes me proud to see as a coach.
What are some of your aims with NRG over the coming months up to OWL, given you said that's the team's focus? What are some of your priorities with this squad?
Priority is definitely improving communication and its systems among the team. We have a talented roster sure, but none of that means anything if your team doesn't communicate well and work together effectively. By the time the OWL starts, whatever the meta, I'd like us to be effective on a variety of styles, able to swap our shot-calling style if need be to best suite the type of gameplay. Teams with flexible hero rosters, such as ours, can have an edge over the competition by transitioning seamlessly from meta-to-meta, but it takes work to get there.
You just reminded me about the calling structure - previously that was an issue for NRG, I assume the addition of Ajax has helped that?
It has! Ajax is an incredibly motivated and talented young man and I was impressed with his ability to call. The most recent patch had a pretty significant Lucio change however, which means he may not always have all the information he needs to make the most effective calls. Determining how we should evolve calling around this change is one of the things we're currently working on!
Let's focus on the recent disappointing results for the team. How do you feel about the performance of NRG so far?
The results so far certainly haven't been great, but we were in a pretty difficult position. Having to play in tournaments with players whom we've only played with for 1-2 days is tough enough, especially when we we still had much to improve on as a team of five. One also has to consider that we played against strong, established teams, many of whom had housing to grow together. These may sound like excuses, and we certainly aren't proud of our results or performance, but these things do matter.
With the recent tournaments really testing NRG, presumably this showed faults that weren't obvious before. You previously highlighted the communication system and shotcalling as an area to focus on before OWL - have the tournaments made any changes to your priority list?
Not really to be honest. Since being brought on the team, communication was always a priority of mine to improve. The tournaments were a bit of an eye-opener in terms of its improtance though. I mean, we got stomped man, that really doesn't feel good. But that kind of loss, especially in that fashion, can motivate players and show them how much there is to learn. I'm glad we're learning these lessons now and improving our team and its culture instead of coming out of the gate strong, thinking we're the next big thing, and not working towards improvements.
How is the process going of finding a sixth? You've played with a couple of different people, of whom Mendo is now in a new 'streamteam' of VALFARD, what's on your mind regarding that open slot?
On the one hand, we'd really like to lock down a sixth as soon as possible to grind tournaments before the OWL starts, but on the other we have a ton of time to determine who the right fit is. So far we've seen some pretty interesting talent, so I don't doubt that we'll find a great fit to round out the roster.