Back in early May, a laid-back British Hurricane British Hurricane Contenders EU Rank #3 exuded confidence ahead of the finals for Contenders Europe and North America in Poland. Despite their relaxed demeanor, there was no mistaking the fire within the squad. Each and every person on the team talked about wanting to prove something, not just in the EU Finals, but in the showmatch versus the North American champions, as well. They did just what they set out to do and won both.
The British Hurricane fresh off their victory in the European finals. Image credit: Blizzard
It wasn't just the players who were out to showcase European supremacy, however. Manager Noukky and coach Shifty were looking to prove just as much as the players. The effort each and every person put into showing their best was evident in every facet of the team's preparation for Poland, including in the team's strategies.
The Hurricane first had a tough time closing the door on their fellow Europeans. The European grand final went the distance as it took Hurricane a full seven maps to dispatch Team Gigantti.
"[Winning] EU Contenders was fucking amazing," Shifty said. "[It was] six months of hard work built up with a team that put their heart and soul six days a week leading up to that one moment."
The Atlantic Showdown then saw them go up against NA Contenders champions Fusion University, their opponents from across the pond.
"In the NA-EU showmatch, we did not necessarily use the comps we would normally use in those situations, which was pretty obvious," Shifty said. "There were two reasons for that. One is we wanted to prove a point - about our compositions, about quad tank, about EU comp. Two, we felt like Fusion University couldn't figure out how to stop those compositions at all."
"I felt like they had set compositions for a point, but they were never tested to adapt when those compositions didn't work, and we didn't think they would come across those situations," he continued. "And we felt like if they came across something that they weren't used to playing against, [they] would crumble."
The strategy worked well and the execution was superb. The Europeans beat the Americans 3-1 in the showmatch. The victory was vindication - vindication for their compositions, their region and themselves.
Shifty, with the baseball cap, celebrating with his players. Twitch screenshot
"Being able to tough it out and beat them was like proving to everyone they were wrong about Europe, and about us if they ever doubted us or our capabilities in a different region," he said.
The players of the Hurricane felt both the EU final and showmatch were important in their path to pro. Prior to LAN weekend in Poland FunnyAstro said, "That's why I think the EU vs NA showmatch is so important. If EU beats NA, a lot of the Overwatch League teams will probably take a look into Europe more." That weekend could have been just as important for the staff of each team competing as it was for the players.
"I am so happy to be able to accomplish [winning Contenders and the showmatch] and to help these players accomplish that. As for what it means as a coach in particular, I think it proves, if anyone had any doubts on my coaching abilities from the past," Shifty said in reference to his time coaching Team Dignitas Team Dignitas Inactive . "Not just how I've improved but how effective, not just in coaching, but also in getting the team to rise into this particular level, and hopefully it gets recognized."
Despite the success he and his team experienced at Contenders, there remains uncertainty as to whether it does have an impact on his future ambitions.
"It's one of those things you really don't know because you can win Contenders over and over but that doesn't mean anything with OWL necessarily," he said. "It's hoping OWL teams take notice but you don't really know until you get a call."
Alongside almost all of the players on the Path to Pro, coaches like Shifty also want to get a shot at the spotlight, especially the Overwatch League.
"I think [the path to pro for coaches is] partially [similar to the path for players], I also think it's more difficult to stand out as a coach because you're not on steam popping off or making great plays," he continued. "It's hard to see how big of an impact a coach has on a team, both positively or negatively, depending on the situation because the staff does so much behind the scenes."
From left to right, back row: Shifty, Kragie, FunnyAstro, Kyb. Front row: Hafficool, bock1, CrusaDe, Fusions. Image credit: Blizzard
Despite the difficulty of gauging the impact of staff members on a team from the outside, Shifty believes there are things coaches can do to get noticed and get their names out there. In fact, he can point to a particular example.
"The best way to get yourself known as a coach is to probably do what Jayne did," he said before laughing. "Stream, get yourself posted on Reddit, do social media, get interviews with players, get talked about. Finding ways to get talked about in one way or another that's not in a negative light."
Shifty believes there is a difference in a coach getting his or her name out there and actually proving their abilities. At least he believes there's a much more simple way to do that.
"As far as proving yourself and your capabilities: results. Win Contenders. Win tournaments. That's how you prove yourself there. Results speak loudly."
Fortunately for Shifty, he's done just that.