You’ve been buzzing about our roster since its announcement back in December. Today, I’m going to take you through how we got here.
Player evaluation changes each year based on several factors including desired roster performance, budget, pre-existing players and infrastructure, and that year’s player market.
Many extremely talented players were available in this free agency window — drastically more than previous seasons.
With this in mind, we chose to begin with as clean a slate as possible, not wanting to rule any players or staff out due to language barriers or personality differences.
Onto this, we layered our competitive and financial goals for the season. Faced with an opportunity to redefine the competitive success of the organization, we knew we wanted to win — but as has always been the case with teams I run, we wanted to do it in a responsible and sustainable way.
With this foundation in place, we zeroed in on several qualities that matched up well with our goals for 2023:
- Skills and abilities that fit well into a top-5 team — Developing unproven players is always an admirable goal, but we’re focusing on redefining the Uprising immediately.
- Proven success in high-pressure moments — This is hard to flush out in tryouts, but imperative for a team with this caliber of players.
- Pre-existing synergy — Rebuilds can be difficult to mesh personalities and play styles, so once we had a good idea of a few core players, we prioritized building around them with players we knew would fit the team culture.
- Maturity and professionalism — Players with these traits are easier to manage, easier to sponsor, and allow everyone to focus on what’s going on in the game, not outside of it.
- Hunger to win — This helps us build synergy, de-escalate conflicts, and get everyone on the same page.
Evaluation of these players can be tricky — and how you unearth these qualities can be a delicate dance. These are some of the questions I like to ask to get to the heart of the matter and find out what these players are really all about.
What motivates you to play?
Most players will give a fairly generic first response to this question about wanting to win. But I like to dig into their history: “Why did you leave this team at this time or join this team?"
There are no “wrong” answers here. Players naturally have different motivations. But we need to know what makes them tick.
Tell me about a time you improved from coaching?
Every player will say yes when asked if they are “coachable”. This question instead forces them to come up with an example of when they learned from a coach. It gets to the root of coachability, and also sets the tone for what the players think about coaches. Do they think they are a helpful part of the team, or just someone getting in their way?
What kind of support do you expect from your coaches and staff?
This question is meant to eventually get to player weaknesses without the generic “tell me a strength and weakness” question. I genuinely want to know how we can help to get ahead of any issues, but also want to hear from players if they have a good read on their own ability. Do they need help staying organized? Staying motivated? Being a team player? We get some information on their self-awareness here and can also start building the systems needed to support them.
Are you comfortable coming off the bench?
We ask this even of players we never intend to bench. It helps get a read on their ego, and I will direct it into a conversation about how important it is to value every member of the team, and how it is everyone’s responsibility — even bench players — to make the team better.
What teams/players have you felt most allowed you to reach your highest potential?
This gets to the synergy point from above. This year it sometimes served as a scouting question of who we should add to our scouting list, but also gets us information on the type of environment we should create for players to allow them the best chance for success.
Almost all of these questions were crafted over many years in the league, finding what got in the way of players being at their best and doing everything we can to tease that out in the interview process. Every year in OWL continues to prove that while a player may be amazing in a tryout, if the fit isn’t right we will never see that ability reflected on stage.
In our next edition, I’ll dig more into how I got here, and how you can break into a career in esports.
It's been a wild first few weeks, with plenty of ups and downs. But to sit at 5-1 headed into the final weekend of Midseason Madness Qualifiers, with the best opening record in franchise history, is about as good as we could have asked for.
Thank you all for your kind thoughts and messages for Izayaki. We're thrilled that he's now feeling well enough to return to our training facility, and even scrimmage a map or two, as he continues his path to recovery. We were able to go 3-1 in his absence thanks in large part to the team’s ability to remain flexible and find ways to win even in less than ideal circumstances.
As we head into our final qualifying matches, we need every voice cheering as loud as they can at our upcoming watch party. Atlanta has stormed to the front of the pack, but I truly believe we're one of the few teams equipped with the players, coaches, and fans to give them a run for their money.
We'll need to keep spirits and energy high for Sunday's match against the San Francisco Shock. That will determine if we automatically qualify to fly to Korea (home for much of our team!), or need to duke it out in the play-in tournament.
Regardless of this weekend’s outcome, we're so grateful to the fans that have stuck with us as we continue to grow and improve. It means so much, and we will do everything we can to bring home some wins to thank you.
Aaron "PRE" Heckman