Many great Rocket League players have made some really great plays. And many teams have made incredible runs. But, behind a lot of those moments was a coach helping light the way.
In this interview, Dignitas’ own Rocket League coach Nicholas “Nick” Marrone discusses what it takes to coach at the highest level.
Alright Nick, I’ve got to ask this right off the bat. What is the number one misconception that you think people have about coaching a pro Rocket League team?
Nick: Team comms videos really do not tell the whole picture. A lot of people make big assumptions just based off three minute clips. But they just don’t know what really goes on behind the scenes, and that leads to a lot of criticism. I think the most notable one is probably [NRG Rocket League coach] Sizz. He gets called just a hype man and people think he doesn’t know anything about the game. But at the end of the day, he coached a team that won a World Championship. The dude has to be smart. There’s no way you can base anything strictly off of comms videos.
For people who might be aspiring coaches, what would you say is a good place for them to get started?
Nick: I would say the bubble scene. Even though the bubble scene is hellish. If you make some friends that are up there in the higher ranks, you can make that grind. There are consistent weekly tournaments. In the bubble scene, teams do break up like every week. But, even if you lose, you’re still learning how to coach, and you get a ton of experience from it.
Obviously, there are tons of faces in the bubble scene. And it can be tough to stand out from the crowd. Any tips for doing just that?
Nick: Getting results is truly the main thing. Coaching is all about your results determining your reputation. If you’re consistently getting good results in those tournaments, someone may give you a chance. I remember I tried out with Jamal Jabary back when they had Spyder, LJ and Toastie and they were willing to give me that chance because of results I had in smaller tournaments with Team Meteor. At some point, you will do enough to get the big shot.
As a U.S. based coach that coaches a team that’s in Europe, what are some challenges you have faced when it comes to timing?
Nick: Definitely waking up early! RLCS starts at like 9 a.m. for me. So I need to get up significantly earlier to get any sort of prep work in. I’ll be up at like 7 a.m. A lot of times though, when I work on stuff, it’s late at night. So I’ll send stuff over to the team, but there’s obviously a lot of delays when it comes to communication. But the five or six hour difference isn’t too bad, it could always be worse.
Okay, so what is a typical week-in-the-life like for you as the coach of an RLCS team?
Nick: Overall, we look at about 10-14 hours’ worth of scrims. But then you add the hours in for replay review, both with everyone individually and as a team. We do have one consistent off day. I personally usually have meetings too, as well as the individual work I do for a couple hours a day. I’m always working on stuff and trying to figure stuff out and get things right, and then how to apply it. I’ve really learned to respect teachers, because man, explaining stuff properly is hard. But yeah, my typical week is more broken up into hourly segments as opposed to being the same thing every day throughout the week.
So, obviously, throughout your time coaching, you’ve been around a lot of players. How important do you feel it is to build personal relationships with them, in addition to coaching them in the game?
Nick: It’s definitely a hard balance. You have to have that respect and trust in your relationship with them so that they’ll buy into what you say. Everyone has to feel respected and safe to express their opinions as well. They have to have the respect for me so that when I tell them that something needs to be done, it’s as simple as that, it needs to be done. However, I also have to have that same respect so that I can understand how they feel about any given situation. It all comes down to developing trust. The player that has that trust in their coach is going to perform better. How you talk to a friend and colleague are definitely going to be different. Like in school group projects, if you do it with your friends, it may be more fun, but maybe less productive. However, if it’s with peers and you respect them, it’s more about just getting the job done. It can be very hard to find the right balance.
So the RLCS is a very long season. What do you think a coach needs to do to help their players maintain consistency throughout a season?
Nick: Making sure they don’t burn out is huge. The season is a marathon, not a sprint. I think a lot of times, it’s easy to get caught in the mindset that it is a sprint. Just one good result will get you here, and then the next one will get you there. But the thing is, we want to stop ourselves from overthinking it. That way we don’t overdo it, especially in a short window of time. It just never tends to end well. It was a big thing during RLCS X, as that was the first season like this. I took a 2 month break from Rocket League after that season. Even I got burnt out from that.
For those who have maybe dabbled in coaching and have gotten a brief start already, do you have any tips for them to maximize their ability as a coach?
Nick: Get everyone you can’s opinion and listen. Obviously, there’s going to be situations where people will just want to chime in for the sake of chiming in, but I’ve worked and talked with so many people that have different ideas about the game. What does and doesn’t work, what the next innovation is…just take it all in. Be respectful of people and try to have the mindset that this person you’re talking to may have something. Maybe they don’t, but maybe they just think about the game differently and that’s not a bad thing. It just means it’s different. There are positives in how you already think about the game, but there’s also positives from other perspectives. It’s just respecting people and realizing that some people may be on to something.
Nick, thanks so much for taking the time out to talk about coaching! Where can the people keep up with you, and do you have any parting words for any aspiring coaches?
Nick: No problem. And good luck! Getting into the pro scene is definitely tough, but I wish you good luck. And you can keep up with me @NickOnRL on Twitter!