Esports is exploding onto the international scene, and with it comes a huge appetite for gaming insight… It’s a monumental challenge to climb the ranked ladder alone, so smart players turn to the assistance of a professional coach – and are rewarded for doing so! Working with a high-level partner has benefits in every way: we sat down with one of our most experienced League of Legends Sensei to hear how his story began!
Greetings Sensei! Please introduce yourself!
Hello! I’m James Starr, also known as Tutor. I’m 23 years old, and I was born in Las Vegas, Nevada but grew up in Orlando, Florida. I’ve been playing MOBAs for well over 10 years now and have been working on the educational side of esports for the past 4 years. I currently live in Salem, Oregon with my girlfriend Jina, two cats (Ollie and Bartholomew), my leopard gecko (Mango), and another LoL coach! Outside of gaming I enjoy reading & writing, as well as studying sports psychology and game theory.
What’s your professional esports experience?
I played semi-pro DotA back in the day, with the likes of Blitz, Fear, and Merlini in private leagues. I also competed with Blitz on a team called “Cat Face :3” during my DotA career. In LoL, I played on teams with names like Bloodwater, Shynon, Virus, LOD, XHazzard, and even AzumoQT, who’s now a pro Hearthstone caster!
What inspired you to become a professional coach?
I came from a low-income family in the suburbs of Orlando, so I was expected to pull my own weight at 18. Just scrimming 70 hours of week of LoL wasn’t going to bring in money, and I had to resign from a semi-pro team who had a real shot at qualifying for the first LCS season.
I poured my heart out to a friend who worked at Riot one night, and he suggested that, since I was great at teaching people how to play, and I should try coaching LoL players. I gave it a shot and loved it! I coached 20+ hours a week free for two months. Eventually quite a few of my students were already tipping me and I moved to purely paid work!
That must have been quite an experience! How did this project go?
My initial launch didn’t go well. The community downvoted my thread, and some semi-pro players even came into my thread and mocked me. Then a friend of mine who was well-known in the community made a post defending the value of esports coaching and vouching for my abilities. That actually turned everything around, and from that point the sky was the limit!
You seem to have made some great friends along your journey! Tell us more about the people that helped you.
My students offered to help me get everything started. One made me a website and others helped me put together business models. In just two months time, I was making more money coaching LoL than anyone in my immediate family was making at their 9-to-5s! I was so happy to use my gaming knowledge to help pay the bills.
How did you join Gamer Sensei?
I’ve worked with a few platforms over the years, but when I was contacted by Gamer Sensei and met William Collis I knew right away that this company was the real deal. I’m convinced Gamer Sensei can bring esports coaching to a whole new level!
You have been in the coaching industry for quite a while. How do you see its future?
Esports coaching is still developing. I believe strongly that everyone in the current scene are helping to shape it with every interaction. This is why I’m so passionate about coaching: every poor student experience is a step in the wrong direction! This is our future, and we need to build it to be respectable and sustainable.
Tell us about your coaching style! What do you do in a typical lesson?
I’m a very free-form coach. I adapt to my student’s personality and playstyle. I’m tough or supportive – depending on what I need to be. I teach my students how to become better players, not just to climb ladder. Rank comes naturally with improvement.
What do you suggest students to look when searching for a coach?
Always look at reviews (if available) and treat your first lesson as a “tryout.” Make sure the coach is a good fit personality-wise and doesn’t rub you the wrong way. Challenge your Sensei: ask them questions you already know the answer to. Ask philosophical questions and see how they relate to your thought process. It’s very important to be on the same wavelength with your coach so that the understanding and trust is there. Set expectations and hold them to it!
Describe the state of mind that a learning player should strive to achieve.
It’s important to mitigate the variables that influence your play and to do this you need a “no excuses” mindset. When you make a mistake, accept that it was your fault. Not hardware, not software, and not distractions – you. This makes it far easier to learn from your mistakes and improve more quickly.
What can you tell us about the newest League of Legends champion, Ornn?
I believe after his initial changes, Ornn is actually a very strong pick. In my opinion, we’re likely to see him on the international scene. I’ve tested him quite a bit and discovered that he has great top matchups and can survive the jungle extremely well. His jungle isn’t that great for solo queue but it should work well in competitive play.
What would you like to see in the future of the game?
I’m really looking forward to voice chat in ranked play. It’s going to elevate the game to a whole new competitive level. Riot has been bringing the game more and more towards teamplay, and it’ll all come together when we have voice chat. It will also add a whole new skill for players to master. Communication is key!
Thanks for joining us! Any closing thoughts for our readers?
My journey has been long, but it’s far from over. Along the road I’ve encountered countless people who have tried to put me down or told me to give up. At times this did affect me, but I always got back up and moving. Turn the negative energy of others into motivation – you will surprise yourself with how far you can go!