Elmapuddy: "The problem I felt a little bit is that these non-RMR events kind of just blended into one"
The Australian spoke to HLTV.org about Gen.G's evolution throughout the year, and his own experience transitioning from being more of an analyst into a coach.
In December 2019, Gen.G entered CS:GO with the acquisition of a trio of Cloud9 players - Damian "daps" Steele, Kenneth "koosta" Suen, and Timothy "autimatic" Ta. Alongside them came Chris "Elmapuddy" Tebbit, who had been the assistant coach of Cloud9 and was served up a promotion as he moved into a head coach role on Gen.G's newly-created roster, which was rounded out by Sam "s0m" Oh and Hansel "BnTeT" Ferdinand.
The team enjoyed early success as s0m helped to power them to victory at DreamHack Open Anaheim to kick off 2020, but only managed one title during the online era, from the first Regional Major Ranking (RMR) event for North America, ESL One: Road to Rio.
Further lacklustre results were later compounded by the departures of daps and s0m, with Gen.G struggling to find replacements for the duo. After enlisting Richard "Xizt" Landström and Rasmus "kreaz" Johansson as stand-ins for Flashpoint 2, where they finished in 9-10th place, the South Korean organisation announced that it would allow its remaining members to seek offers elsewhere, going so far as to tell Rush B Media that they would be willing to waive buyouts if a player found a new home.
Elmapuddy spoke at length about his evolution from occupying more of an analytical role on Cloud9 into becoming a head coach during this period, explaining why the team dropped off during the online season as events that weren't RMR events all "blended into one." He confirmed the team's interest in Anthony "vanity" Malaspina and Erick "Xeppaa" Bach shortly before Gen.G put the breaks on the squad, stating his belief that "the roster would have had a lot of potential."
With Gen.G allowing the team to explore options, your 15-month tenure with this roster core will come to an end. What has the experience been like for you, coaching a team outside of Australia for the first time and being a part of Cloud9 and Gen.G?
It's been a great experience, I've learned a lot outside of Australia. Although I had coached teams back home, this was definitely a new level of experience.
Starting off in Cloud9, I was contacted by Soham, valens, I think that was purely from the YouTube content I put out. They liked some of the analysis I did, so they brought me on board there, and then pretty soon after I joined Cloud9, obviously all the roster moves happened, the core moved over to Gen.G, and they were looking for a coach. I think they ended up liking the work I'd done with them, and it just ended up falling together where I ended up going with them to Gen.G.
That was really exciting, and probably faster than I'd expected, moving from Australia and then a few months later going straight into a head coach role in one of the biggest organisations in the world. So it was a little bit of a crazy ride, but I learned a lot along the way, and I know now I'm a lot better of a coach than when I moved to the States. It's been great, I learned a lot from experienced players such as autimatic and daps, those two had a lot of great, well-thought-out ideas, and koosta, too. I think I gave a lot back to the team as well, really challenging some of the ideas they had, and bringing a lot of structure to the team.
I spent a lot of time looking at demos, as you’d expect, and learning a lot in my own time to become a better coach outside of the technicalities of CS. Because one thing I realized pretty quickly is that you can't just be an analyst if you want to be a head coach, you can't just watch the demos and say, 'This is what the other team does', or, 'This is a cool strat I found some other team doing'. You have to be a leader, which involves some more player management, trying to make sure that the team has good communication, that people are feeling comfortable in their environment, and that practice is run as efficiently as possible, so there's a lot more to it than I initially realized. I had more of the mindset of an analyst and that had to change pretty quickly. We had our sports psychologist over at Gen.G as well, who also helped me out, and I definitely think very differently about coaching now than I did back at the beginning.
You're touching a bit on some of the evolution you had personally while coaching the team. Can you expand on that a bit? What did you initially bring to the team versus what were you bringing towards the end of it?
Initially, I think I was just more of an analyst. Basically, I watched the demos, I'd do prep and say, 'This is what the other team does, these are some nice strats or protocols', and I'd obviously chip in as well during scrims and in review to talk about the decisions we made and the coordination of a round, which is all obviously useful. But getting into Gen.G and particularly starting in February of this year, it became a lot more about trying to create a team culture, where people could succeed in the matches all the time, or as much as possible.
A lot of that involves things like creating a structure where everyone feels comfortable to speak their minds all the time and where there's no hidden resentment between players, and even though it's not always comfortable, they're all willing to say what's on their mind. They’re all looking to grow together and make the team move forward as efficiently as possible and as smoothly as possible. That's one of the big things, creating that kind of environment. All of the roles I talked about before obviously carried through the entire time from Cloud9 but they developed from what they were at the beginning. I was now the one running practice, choosing which rounds we would review, directing the conversation about rounds, and deciding how much time we would spend reviewing things before jumping in the server, and covering whatever needed to be done. This would all be planned the night before, usually checking in to see what the IGL also wanted to cover the next day.
The last thing I’ll add, which I only just started doing towards the end of Gen.G, was creating an environment for matches that was as consistent as possible and allows the players to play as consistently as possible through a match, whether you start off slowly or a little sluggishly. This can have a big impact on how the team plays out even individual rounds.
When daps retired, he mentioned that he had wanted to make changes to Gen.G’s roster, including inside and outside the game. Was that a sentiment that you agreed with? Do you feel like those sort of changes were needed to get the team back on track?
We definitely needed changes to get the team back on track. daps was right, what we were doing at the time was definitely not going to lead to success long term. I didn't fully agree with everything that daps wanted to change, there was a bit of differing opinions there, as well as with some of the other players.
I think as daps said in his interview, he ended up just stepping down and going over to VALORANT, and I think, like he said, that it was best for both parties. The online thing was a bit of a struggle for a lot of people, particularly daps, who obviously had been to a lot of LANs in NRG. I won't speak too much for him, he outlined it pretty well in his interview. I agree that there definitely were changes that needed to be made, and we actually didn't end up fully accomplishing them all. As you saw, we didn't get to fully create the lineup we would've ideally liked.
Is there a specific reason the team chose to go their separate ways? Did you choose not to rebuild or was that purely an organisational decision?
CS is in a difficult place and Gen.G was in North America, where, as you've seen, things are not going too well. Gen.G were very good, we were looking at all their different options for players. Earlier on in the year, as soon as daps and s0m left, we were looking at all these different players we could potentially get, and everything ended up going the wrong way. It was not our fault or the organisation's, it's just that every player we thought we were about to get our hands on and bring in for that second season of Flashpoint just ended up falling through at the last minute, which is why we ended up in this situation where we had to get Xizt and kreaz just to fill in.
Gen.G isn’t necessarily leaving CS, they're just letting us explore our options and are taking a step back to look at the scene. They bought into NA right before the pandemic, and NA is not in a really great state, so I think there's just a lot of different factors involved that I don't fully understand. It's unlucky timing with rebuilding the roster early on and some of those things falling through.
vanity said in a video with theScore that Gen.G were talking to Xeppaa and vanity to fill your roster. Can you comment on that in general?
Yeah, I think it's fine for me to say we were talking to them. We were very interested in them, I'd talked to both of them a few times, and I think that would've been a really good roster. The three we had and Xeppaa and vanity, it would have had a lot of potential.
Going back a little bit, you mentioned that daps struggled with motivation when everything moved online. You had started this year quite strongly, with a win at DreamHack Open Anaheim, but once play transitioned online, the team faltered, only picking up a win in ESL One: Road to Rio. From your perspective, why do you think that was the case? Was it just that players lost motivation, or were there other factors at play?
There was definitely a bit of loss of motivation, but I think that was, as far as I can tell, across the board a little bit. It's very difficult to go from LAN to online. Personally I felt it less, because as I said earlier I was relatively new just being overseas and playing at a higher level than what I was doing back home in Australia.
Coming into Anaheim, we had a great bootcamp in Poland with really good practice, we achieved a lot. We'd just got BnTeT and everyone was really excited. Other teams have no idea what you're going to do, they can't really prepare for you. We started off well and we carried that through to Road to Rio. We had Flashpoint in the middle, which was difficult to do for a couple of reasons, like ping.
Yeah, daps was playing from Canada with something like 100 ping, right?
Yeah, daps went back to Canada as that was when COVID was starting to flare up, so that was an interesting time at Flashpoint. Back to Road to Rio, I think we performed pretty well, we took down a couple of big names. We were still feeling that high from Anaheim a little bit. If I remember correctly, we beat Evil Geniuses in the last match of the group stages, and then they ended up not making it and we ended up first. If they had won that match they would've ended up first and we would've been out or something. Then we played Cloud9 in the semi-finals and got FURIA in the grand final. Outside of the group stage, I think we just had FURIA, so we got a pretty good draw in the finals. We played pretty well and obviously beating FURIA has not been easy all year long.
After that, you're right, things did start to go south a little bit. We had the BLAST events, the DreamHack events, and then we end up at cs_summit, the second RMR event. I think the problem I felt a little bit is that all these events that weren't RMR events, they all kind of just blended into one. So you had these BLAST events, the DreamHack events, and then ESL or IEM somethings, whatever it was, it all kind of just felt like the same. There was no distinguishing factor between them, it was like you were playing the same event over and over again, which... it's difficult to stay motivated for, and that was one of the challenges I faced as a coach, just trying to keep the guys motivated, pick the right times to really push them, things like that.
We managed to do relatively well at the second RMR event at cs_summit, which I think was just that we managed to peak again at the right time for the events that we felt were the most important, since there were Major qualifier events and then just more of the same. It's a little bit tedious playing those events over and over again, which I think made that period really tough.
Especially when the actual Major is up in the air, it's hard to play for something when you don't even know whether it's going to happen or not.
Yeah, exactly. I think we did a better job with that than some, we always went with the mindset of, 'Look, we don't know when the Major is going to happen, but these points could matter. Even if we play like seven RMR events, we could make it by 100 points, in which maybe us winning one extra game in the first event matters.' I think we were pretty good at bringing ourselves into the right head space for those events because we could see that down the track, those points could really matter, no matter how far away the Major was.
Since there were so many events, you had a lot of time to practice and play. When I talked to daps in Anaheim, you were still having communication issues with BnTeT, so did that improve over the year with so many matches, and how did he slot into the team after some more time together?
He was definitely slotting in better towards the end, particularly the second Flashpoint season, even though we didn't have our full five. I noticed a difference in BnTeT, he seemed to have taken the criticism that he wasn't communicating enough on board. One thing that should be clear is that it's not his English, his English is very good, he's just a very momentum-based person. So if the whole team is feeling good and you get off to a good start, then he's going to chime in, take initiative in the server, and be the one shouting. But then maybe you get off to a little bit of a poorer start and it gets a little bit quiet within the team, that's when he goes in the other direction and doesn't take initiative with his communication. So I think it was just trying to find that consistency for him.
One thing to BnTeT's credit is that he's a very humble guy, he's great at taking criticism and acting on it. It improved a lot, I spent a lot of time with him, just living with him in LA for those eleven months, so we were able to work on some things. Towards the end, he was really improving. I was happy with his progress on being more consistent and not as heavily momentum-based, which I think touching back on what I said before about creating that team culture to try and create some... 'protocols' isn't the perfect word, but I'll use it as like protocols around how a team sets itself up, how you're going to be communicating in the game. Even if the team isn't always on a high, everyone still knows what's required of them as far as communication is concerned, and I think some of those factors being in place also really helped him out. I was happy with his improvement throughout the year and have no doubt he’ll continue improving well into 2021, which is going to be scary if you’re on the other side of that in the server.
koosta, in my eyes, is an underrated player by the general public in terms of what he brings to a team, and I saw daps put out a tweet after you were allowed to explore options that said the same. What can you say about what koosta has brought to the lineup overall, and how do you think he slotted in as an in-game leader towards the end of the roster?
koosta is one of the most versatile players I've seen. He'll play any role and he understands how to play it and what is required of him in that position. We started the year off with him being more of an edge player, and then towards the end, when he was in-game leading, he was more towards the pack and obviously also calling. He's very versatile and he thinks about the game a lot, you can tell by the way he talks about the game that he spends a lot of time thinking about what the correct move would be in different situations, how different rounds played out in the past , how he could've played them better.
I definitely do think he's underrated as he is one of those players who can slot in anywhere and will do a great job. I was excited about working with him to get his calling as far as possible, but obviously that might not happen now. He can fill any slot on a team and he'll do it really well, he'll communicate efficiently, he'll go in if the team needs him to go in, he'll fall back, he'll throw the grenades you need, he can basically do anything, including AWP. Whatever you need him to do he's there to do it, and he's one of those players who allow everyone else to be more comfortable, which is why I think he's a bit underrated. Say someone needs a position, like BnTeT needs a certain position, he'll go and play the other position because he can do it, and he allows his teammates to shine in that way.
autimatic has said a couple of times that he'd like to end his career as an AWPer. He was an excellent rifler and lurker in the past on Cloud9, what do you have to say about him as a player, and as an AWPer as well?
autimatic is the most motivated player I've worked with. He's the player who's grinding all the time, he'll watch all the demos, he'll perfect the movement to make a key jump, he'll play PUGs all night long, he'll aim train, he just spends all day playing CS and he really wants to be the best. That's a great thing for him to have.
I really do think that he's a good AWPer and has put so much effort into the AWP that he really should continue with it, and get even better at it than he already is. Again, in the second half of the year I think you saw him play better with the AWP than he maybe was earlier on in the team. He definitely has the potential there and you can see it. Obviously, I've worked with him as an AWP so maybe I'm a little bit biased, but I think he can be a top AWPer and as I said, he's one of those guys who puts his mind to something and gets it done. I don't really have much doubt that he can end his career AWPing.
You’ve already stated that you’d like to continue coaching, but also that you are open to “all opportunities within the CS:GO landscape.” By that, do you mean broadcast work, or are there other specific roles that you think you would do well in?
Coaching is my number one thing, I've put a lot of work into trying to be a better coach and not just an analyst. If it comes to it, and I need to go back and be an assistant coach in a team where I can learn as well, then I'm open to those kinds of offers. Broadcast work isn't something I would fully rule out, it would obviously require me to learn a different type of skill, but since I've been making YouTube videos and I talk over a lot of games anyway, I'd like to think I'm decent at articulating myself so I could explore that field. As I said, though, my main passion is coaching now, and it's something I've put a lot of work into and I want to continue that if possible. But CS is the game I want to be in, so whatever allows me to stay here, I'm open to anything.
If you were to continue coaching, is there a chance you stick with some of the players from Gen.G, or is that something that is basically ruled out at this point?
I would say it's unlikely that we all stay together, me and the three players. Whether I go with one of the players or maybe we work something out, I'm not sure, we'll still have to see. We're not sure what's going on, I don't think anyone is fully locked into anything right now.