Coaches Corner: Carrie Holakovsky

My name is Carrie, also known as “Zabi” and I’m a esports coach for Connected Camps and NASEF. My origin into esports started when I was younger. I grew up playing games on the Nintendo 64 and Playstation 2. I often played a variety of games and followed my interests year over year. I became a huge fan of the “Mortal Kombat” and the Tony Hawk series. 

When I first got a computer, I started playing a game called “Runescape.” I ended up playing it for nearly eight years. It was one of the first times I remember feeling like a part of a community and working passionately towards building new skills. In 2011, I was introduced to a game called “Team Fortress 2” by one of my friends.  After a few months of playing Team Fortress 2, I joined a clan that taught me about the competitive leagues within the game. From there, I decided I wanted to start playing competitively. 

I wanted something to push me to become a better player at a game I loved. I wanted to gain more knowledge about how each role was played in the game and to keep improving my aim. I played on teams that would practice three days a week for a couple of hours each session and then we would play in tournaments on top of that. I played Team Fortress 2 competitively for about seven years. During my time with Team Fortress 2, I also was an administrator for a community and a league that ran esports tournaments. When I wasn’t working or playing competitively, I coached teams and players individually. I would sit down with them and review their gameplay, then give them as much feedback as possible. 

When Overwatch was released in 2016, I was intrigued by how much depth there was to master. I’ve been playing Overwatch since its Beta and I started up my own team soon after. Since then, I’ve played on several teams and I’ve continued to practice long hours. Overwatch is a challenging game because there is so much happening and everything that is happening is really important to perceive and react. Ever since I started playing and leading teams in Overwatch, it has impacted my life in the game and out of game.

While playing Overwatch, I always had some sort of goal to look forward to, whether it was to get better at a hero or to practice strategies that would benefit my team the most. Out of game, it taught me how important good time management is. I was able to go to school, work, and continue playing on teams as long as I got things done at certain times. 

When you join a team, it benefits you so much more than playing alone, especially for a game like Overwatch. When you play alone, you get random teammates each time and some people want to win while others play whatever they want and just want to have fun. When you join a team, you’ll be choosing a direction whether you want to win or have fun, or even both. At least you’ll have players on the same page as you and it’ll help you improve more efficiently as a player. Being on teams also helped me learn to trust and be patient players. Everyone learns at their own pace and as long as they’re putting in time and showing up to practice, it allows you to trust that they do want to be there and learn just as much as you do. 

A few years ago, I started to coach individual players because I’m really passionate about helping people improve what they love doing. I started to coach some teams and helped them with communication and strategies. I would do a lot of one-on-one coaching and map reviews with the teams. 

When I started coaching with Connected Camps, I had a lot of new players to work with. My approach to helping them is to teach them the fundamentals of Overwatch. I had everyone figure out what role they like and what hero seemed best for them. It took a couple of sessions to find what everyone was comfortable with and what they didn’t like to play. Once that was figured out, I talked about how important communication and strategy is in Overwatch.

Communication is really important in Overwatch. Everyone should have a role in communication to help each other as a team. Whoever was speaking the most on the team, I had them be the “IGL” or “In-Game Leader.” This role is critical for team synergy and impact. Team leaders control the team compositions and the pace of the game. As a team, I also had them track their ultimate abilities. If the team isn’t aware when the enemy team is using their ultimates then your team will struggle. The next thing I taught is what team compositions are good and they had their own strategies with them. Even if they didn’t want to run meta, it’s really important for them to play heroes that are able to support each other. I really love to coach players and teams to get better at what they love doing. I really enjoy when players are learning a lot and improving but also having fun with it. I think the most important thing is having fun when you’re improving otherwise it just feels like a chore.

It’s very beneficial to have a coach for your team because you have that person watching and pointing out mistakes that you didn’t even know were happening. It really helps you improve more efficiently as a player and also can help you gain a lot of knowledge about the game that you weren’t aware of. I really hope that esports coaching will grow and be more well known. As long as high school esports keeps getting positive feedback and support, esports will continue to grow and make a great impact in your life just like it did with mine.