Coaches Corner: Bethany Pyles

This is the first of an ongoing series of blog posts by NASEF’s professional esports coaches. We’ll give you insight into the goals and practice of coaching, the personalities and experience of our team, and the way that esports weaves through various aspects of life. Look for “Coaches Corner” posts every month!


 

My first introduction to gaming was through my two older brothers. They would regularly bring home a new console or video game when we were growing up. As I got older, I started to take full advantage of the opportunity to play and learn different genres of games that we had collected. I even started to make new friends at school because of our mutual connection to gaming. At the same time, I was focused on refining my skills as a basketball player and a musician. And although my parents had hoped I’d study music like the rest of my family, I chose to pursue a degree in anthropology.

After completing my B.A. in anthropology, I studied Spanish in Central America and found work in South America where I stayed for several years. During this time, I found myself teaching English in a university, translating for doctors on the Amazon River, and coaching JV and Varsity basketball teams at an international school in Santa Cruz, Bolivia. When I returned back to the U.S., I used gaming as a way to reconnect with a community. I started playing Overwatch and made new friends online overnight. Meanwhile, esports was booming and I was intrigued by the idea that my love of traditional sports, like basketball, could be so closely related to my passion for gaming.

I joined NASEF in 2018 after several years working as a refugee caseworker and an advocate for survivors of domestic violence. I knew I was ready to combine my passion for youth education and the impacts I desired to see in esports (ie. inclusion, diversity, community and equity). NASEF stood out as the most impactful and student-focused national esports organization in the country.

My responsibilities as the Esports Coaching Coordinator include recruiting, hiring, training and managing esports coaches for our participating NASEF teams. When onboarding and managing the performance of our coaches, my evaluation and expectations of their position goes beyond the game itself. NASEF coaches are expected to provide well-rounded sessions that focus on social and emotional learning outcomes, the development of technical skills and game mechanics as well as cultivate a safe space for all players to grow and collaborate with one another throughout their season.

"It is essential that esports coaches have excellent communication, time management, active listening skills and problem-solving abilities. However, as esports evolves so have the standards for coaching."

Esports coaching requires a unique skillset that is not limited to an individual’s rank, reputation or mechanical skills. It is essential that esports coaches have excellent communication, time management, active listening skills and problem-solving abilities. However, as esports evolves so have the standards for coaching.

Esport coaching also incorporates knowledge of performance training techniques, such as mindfulness, meditation, breathing, nutrition, effective practice techniques and many aspects of sports psychology. During our coaching sessions this year, we had our performance coach go over the specifics in our Code of Conduct and pose critical questions about toxicity in gaming. Teams also created a “Team Charter” together with their coaches. Their Charters act as an agreement between players and staff and creates clear expectation, goals and objectives for everyone at the beginning of the season. All of these examples have components that aid a player’s ability to overcome toxicity, handle pressure, elevate self-esteem, manage their emotions and excel in a team environment.

Coaching adds a layer of mentorship that can guide players through the development of individual goals and expand their ideas of what they thought was possible for themselves. This past tournament season I witnessed the outpour of respect and admiration that students and players have for their coaches. Introducing and educating players about new ideas, techniques and methods allows them to develop skills beyond the game and feel connected to a larger community.

Esports coaches have a demanding yet incredibly rewarding job as they seek out new performance methods, stay up-to-date with the latest patch changes, mediate conflicts, track player goals, debrief matches and strategize with their teams all while incorporating strategic learning outcomes for each of their players. Coaching is an invaluable piece of esports that can quite literally change the game.

If you’d like to know more about our coaching staff you can visit Connected Camps website: https://connectedcamps.com/meet-the-counselors