ave: I regretted that I stopped playing
Dust2.dk sat down with former 1.6 player Alexander "ave" Holdt, who recently made a comeback to the scene as a coach for North Academy.
Alexander "ave" Holdt is by many regarded as one of the best in-game leaders of 1.6 after helping NoA/mTw to secure countless international titles, especially in 2008, when the Danish team won KODE5, ESWC Masters of Paris, WEM and WCG.
After a failed attempt at making a comeback with his former mTw teammates, ave recently made headlines by joining North as the coach for their academy team, who have had some good results in recent weeks.
In the interview below, which was conducted by Dust2.dk, ave talks about retiring as a player, his transition to a coaching role, and more.
Why did you return to Counter-Strike?
CS has always been a big part of my life. I have followed the scene for the last 2-3 years, since CS:GO started to rise, and I had an itch to become part of the scene again. It's great to see how good the conditions for the players have become - it's night and day compared to when I played professionally.
What caused the timing?
After the turn of the year, I looked into possibilities to rejoin the scene, either as an analyst or a coach. Luckily, North wanted to start an academy team, and they needed a coach.
Did you ever regret stopping when CS:GO came out and 1.6 died in the competitive scene?
In hindsight, I may have regretted it a bit. Back when I stopped, we were in our sixth month without a paycheck, and we had lots of money prizes to claim. But as I got older, I had to set different priorities, so I chose to pursue an education and get a job instead. It was really hard because I still loved the game and especially the community around it, but I couldn't justify all the time I was spending on it anymore.
Did you try to come back as a player before you started as a coach for North Academy?
We tried back in December 2015 to gather the old mTw again (zonic, sunde, trace, minet and me), but the attempt failed pretty quickly when Astralis picked zonic up as a coach. We had around one month of practice, and it was obvious it would take months or even a year before we could have any noticeable results.
How did you end up as a coach for North Academy?
I wanted to try coaching a team, and an academy team is a good place to start. The deal with North is also that I analyze upcoming opponents for their main team, so I am actually working as a coach and an analyst, even though most of my time is spent on my coaching role. Besides that, North's headquarters are at Telia Parken, in Copenhagen, and that is five minutes away from my home, so it is practical as well.
You have been the coach for around two months now. Are you fully into the CS:GO mechanics yet?
There are, of course, map-specific scenarios that I am constantly learning and a few map callouts that I am a bit behind on, but besides that I feel pretty much up to date on the game.
How big is your impact on North Academy's game? Do you come up with their tactics and coach them while they are playing, or is it more about communication and mental preparation?
At the beginning, it was primarily me learning their tactics. I joined them at a time when they had already been playing for a month, so they had most of the groundwork laid out. Right now, my main focus is on improving the players individually and the team as a unit. For the players, it means cutting out bad habits and helping them with new ways to play positions as CT. For the team, it means adjusting the tactics they had and coming up with new ones.
Do you ever see yourself coming back as a player some day?
No, I think that chance is gone. I have a family life now, with a wife and two kids, who I want to spend time with, and I don't think it's possible to close the gap in terms of playing time.
What are your ambitions with this? Is it going to be a hobby or do you see yourself coaching a top 10 team some day?
Right now my focus is on improving the academy team, then we will have to see what happens down the road. This is my full-time job, and I try every day to be better at my role. I never played on a team with a coach, since those did not exist when I played professionally, so it is a process.
What did you do between retiring as a player and taking up a coaching job?
I took a software engineering course, with a focus on game development. I worked full-time in that field for around nine months, until I was offered a coaching position at North.
In Astralis we have zonic, another 1.6 legend. What it is that veterans like you can contribute with?
We, of course, have a lot of experience from our 1.6 time, and the task of getting a team to do their absolute best and follow all the steps that it takes has a lot of similarities from our time as pro players. On mTw, we focused a lot on the tactical aspect and we talked a lot about what we would do in different situations. I try to take that with me in my role as coach.
Why do you think we do not see more former 1.6 players be successful in Denmark?
I am not really sure how many of them are still playing ambitiously. A lot of the former 1.6 players are like me, older and with other priorities, so I think that might be part of the answer.
Who is the most talented player you have ever played with?
That's a hard question. I think that, looking at aim and reactions, that would be trace, but if you are looking for a complete player, that would probably be zonic or Sunde.