After Obey’s impressive performance in the Fall Split, Paul “Hayzer” Hay has guided his boys to the top of the SPL in yet another split. Even though he’s not on the front lines, his hard work to mold the boys into a cohesive unit is unmistakably core to the team’s success. I was able to chat with the big boss behind the scenes for a bit about his origins as a coach and his feelings about the current state of his role.
Have you always been a coach? If not, what has your involvement with Smite been in the past?
“I actually started off as a player, only really ever playing the ADC role. I was on a pretty decent team at one point with Deathwalker, KaLaS, N0Numbers, JustJack withAlphaJackal coaching us, but we just never quite made it into the SPL. Shout out to four of those guys for making worlds though; it's awesome to see what my old friends have managed since we parted ways.”
What inspired you to transition from player to coach?
“Basically, life got in the way. I finished university, was going into a full time job, and just didn't think I could continue putting in the same amount of time to keep my playing at a level somewhere near the top. From there, I offered to sub for Deathwalker and KaLaS’ team, which eventually went on to become Rival. They asked me to coach after I gave them some insight after a rough set of scrims and it all just kind of snowballed from there. I think it's sorta funny that coaching actually led to me ending up spending far more time on Smite, but life is like that sometimes.”
So what do you do as a coach? Most people understand the picks and bans aspect, but are there other things you do as well?
“I feel like a lot of people think the main thing coaches do is organise picks and bans, which I don't think is true for any of the main teams. Basically, your job as coach is to help your team improve through whatever method you can find. I tend to focus a lot on feedback from scrims, which entails watching the games and providing the players with notes on how the games went as well as talking it over after each game. Pattern recognition is really important for me: taking note of any recurring themes in games which are lost or won and being able to explain why those things are affecting the game negatively or positively. Other than that, there is the research side of the game, which includes gathering statistics and watching other players or teams playing, trying to gain any little advantage you can which might turn a game in your team's favour.”
What is coaching Obey like? What kind of environment do the boys create?
“Huh, I've never really thought about that. So there's a lot of back and forth between a few of us. Mostly myself, Nate, and Twig do a lot of friendly arguing over a lot of tiny little bits of the game. I'm honestly not sure what it's like to coach other teams, having been with these guys for a year, so all I can say is that it's a lot of fun.
I feel my opinion is definitely valued by everyone and I enjoy the environment we have, with everyone being able to take criticism from me constructively. Honestly, it's nice being able to treat your teammates like friends while still being able to be professional when you have to.”
What sorts of skills do coaches need? Is there anything about you that makes you feel qualified to be a coach?
“I feel like it depends what kind of coach you want to be. I don't think it's all one job. For example, I think you can be a coach who's there just to resolve arguments and aid communication between the team, which would only really require good people skills, something I think is a must for any coach anyway. If you wanted to be able to do a bit more of the analytical stuff, you'll almost certainly need a lot more experience in competitive Smite.
I think the main advantage a coach gives you is an unbiased view of a team game, but anyone without a lot of experience playing Smite isn't going to be able to tell you that your mid laner's positioning was wrong in a teamfight and that's why you lost the game. Patience is kind of a big one as well. I think when I first started coaching I got really frustrated at not seeing immediate progress when I pointed out mistakes, but you should really be looking towards long term goals of improvement and that's where you find success!”
What do you think are the best ways to learn about coaching and competitive Smite as a whole?
“Just getting on a competitive team. Doesn't matter what you're doing for that team, but getting in a team environment, building relationships and relearning the game at a competitive level are going to help you towards being a good coach infinitely more than playing ranked or reading books on coaching. I'm a big fan of learning by doing, and I think coaching is definitely one of the areas where you learn far more on the job than you knew coming in.”
So Super Regionals just went down and you and the boys qualified for worlds! How do you think it went, besides the obvious qualification?
“Agh, still a sore subject for me, unfortunately. I feel like we came in slightly unprepared for the triple tank meta that both Elevate and Rival seemed to favour. We just didn't adjust quickly enough in the semifinal or at all in the final. Losing to your old team always sucks as well, but I do really like the Rival guys and I'm super happy to see them succeeding... just wish they could succeed against someone else!”
There's still a good bit of time before worlds and I expect the meta may change quite a bit before then, but are you guys now more motivated to get back to that number one spot you held during the split?
“We absolutely are. We've already had serious discussions about changes we need to make as we practice for Worlds. Now we’re just looking forward to getting back to practicing hard and making sure we're in the best possible spot going into the biggest tournament of the year.”
Are there any shoutouts you'd like to make?
“Shoutout to my team, Obey, and all my friends in the Smite community. Also, Nate would like to give a huge shout out to the fans, and to let you all know we wouldn't be where we are today without you, and he loves you for that. <3”
Written by Lermy