When Valve announced that they would not be allowing coaches to speak to their players outside of tactical timeouts for future majors and minors (other tournament organisers soon followed suit as well), there was a great deal of initial furore. Yet once the dust from Valve’s decision was allowed to settle, an unexpected side effect started to come into play.
The so-called “coaching ban” affected many teams who had previously relied on their coaches to basically fill in the role of in-game leader, whilst the five playing in the server would be focussed on other aspects. The most notable team to be affected was Natus Vincere, who have struggled since removing their former in-game leader Danylo “Zeus” Teslenko for star player Oleksandr “s1mple” Kostyliev.
Valve’s decision angered many in the community and a significant proportion of the professional playerbase as well, but now that the initial hysteria has died down, recent roster changes suggest a possible adaptive trend coming into effect. Amongst those in the new Dignitas roster is Faruk “pita” Pita, the former coach of Ninjas in Pyjamas and Counter-Logic Gaming. His reasons at the time for leaving CLG were to move back to Europe and spend more time with his family.
Recently, Na’Vi’s coach Sergey “starix” Ischuk departed the organisation. Starix had previously taken over as Na’Vi’s in-game leader prior to Valve’s ruling, and rumours are now surfacing that his departure from NaVi will be followed by his return to professional play – If Pita’s recruitment into Dignitas is anything to go by, this is a strong possibility. Ischuk’s departure could be just a result of the restrictions he now faces, but many in the community would be happy to see him return as a player once more.
In spite of the rumours, there is currently nothing concrete to suggest that Starix is planning to return as a professional player. Should he choose to follow in Pita’s footsteps, we could see a trend emerging with more former coaches re-entering the game professionally – especially as coaching seems to have become a less than favourable role to take on, given their reduced level of influence over proceedings.
Whilst there was a lot of initial hostility towards the coaching rule, with some in the community citing it as another reason that Valve “doesn’t care about the community”, the rule change ultimately makes sense. The community is without doubt a huge factor in Counter-Strike, but Valve have legitimate reason to want to preserve the ethos of a 5v5 game: having a coach make the calls effectively puts a team at a 6v5 advantage, unless the other team is also exploiting to the same extent.
The new ruling has evened the playing field for all. If the outcome of the coaching rule is to welcome former coaches back into the professional scene as players, then it will be fair to assume that their decision was ultimately good for the game. Perhaps not every change that Valve implements is terrible after all.