Vancouver Titans are dominating on the debut season this year in the Overwatch League. Even during their dominance, they managed to make their matches entertaining from facing the Shock in a nailbiting match to playing obscure DPS comps.
The players have significant roles during this season. Another person who's helped them tremendously is Harsha "Harsha" Bandi. After the Titans' victory against the Gladiators in Week 4, Harsha spoke with Inven Global about the team's success, any struggles, and being part of this year's World Cup.
First of all, congrats on the success so far with the Vancouver Titans. This is your first year as a coach. What have you learned so far in the coaching role?
I feel like coaching on every team is a bit different - you have different players with different attitudes or ways of working with other people. It taught me to be more adaptive.
Last year, I was in my comfort zone with the Shock. This year, I'm obviously surrounded by a lot more Korean players. It's very different so I had to learn how to adapt.
What things did you adapt to when you signed with Vancouver?
This is a team that knows winning and losing. They have a lot more experience on the stage and managing their emotions. I didn't have to put much effort into that because they were used to it. I could do things outside matches.
It's hard to describe what it feels like. It's being there for them when they need anything, which is not much. They've been pro players for a long time so they understand how to live.
We have a nice team house. Everything we need is there.
What have you continued to learn throughout the season?
For starters, more Korean. I'm not coming along that much but I can understand and participate in conversations so much better. I've been learning since last year so it's not learning for me this year, it's more putting stuff into practice.
Were there any challenges for you this season?
It was definitely hard for a while because I wasn't close with the team at first. I didn't know them at all other than watching them in Contenders.
As time went on, they picked up more English and I picked up more Korean. Communicating is much easier and they welcomed me into the family environment. Any difficulties were pretty fast to resolve, I'd say.
How did you fit in essentially? Like what activities did you all do to "break the ice"?
I'll be honest, I first met them when we first went to Vancouver for our announcement trip. Very quickly even though they didn't know me that well, they made an effort to talk to me since we're going to work together for the next year.
It was mostly bringing me into the conversation, speaking English when they could. They were really friendly about it. If anything, it was more on them that they reached out more than the other way around.
After a couple of days, it was a very comfortable environment. I understood everyone's personalities a lot better. You don't see that aspect on stage when you're watching, even necessarily in media.
When you live with them for a few days, you understand how that feels like.
Who would you say has the most expressive personality?
It's probably Bumper. You know how he is on stage and his interviews. He's always having fun. His laugh - we have a giant house - you can hear his laugh from anywhere in the house. I think he has the biggest personality.
You mentioned communication being a factor to fit in. How hard was it to communicate with them at first compared to now?
Now, they've picked up a lot more English since living in the US and I self-taught myself basic Korean. I could read and write it.
Let's say in a conversation I could pick up 30% of words then using context, I could piece together the whole thing. It hasn't been that hard I would say, but we ended up getting a translator.
Getting used to the environment and experiencing it more made it easy.
I'm curious since I'm trying to learn Korean and I'm sure a lot of fans out there are trying as well. What kind of apps, guides, or books did you use to learn Korean?
I first taught myself the alphabet. While I was in Vancouver, I studied it on my laptop. Then, I used some site that an old Korean professor made where he teaches Korean in the US. He had basic lessons so I learned words, vocabulary, and grammar a little bit everyday. It was helpful, but as the season started, we were crunched on time. It's taken a backseat.
The guys have a great English teacher, when she has free time, she gives me lessons. It's nice of her. Her name is Sophie (@SophieAhn1), who teaches a lot of the guys in the league.
How proficient are each player's English so far?
I'd say some of the players are really coming along quite well. Then, we have Stitch and Haksal who I think are the worst in the team. They're still getting up there but they're at the point where it's hard to understand what they're saying. Everybody else understands all the words and piece things together. If they don't understand a word, they can ask what it means instead of looking confused.
Since you guys have to communicate plans and all for each match, how do you convey your message to them?
We have a translator now but I try to talk to the guys without using a translator. They try to talk to me without using a translator as well because we want to get comfortable with each other's languages. Also, if I need anything, I can ask them for help.
Let's put this into perspective. So when the meta changes, how do you get the team to adapt to your plans?
Honestly, the meta hasn't changed much this year. Recently because of the loss to Valiant, it was a wakeup call. We had a lot of feedback with the players. In GOATS, comfort is key. We tried to give minor feedback and keep our level of GOATS super high.
Whereas now, we spent a lot more time as a team discussing strategy going through VODs and reviewing other teams. It's been a lot of feedback and talking about it.
Have you guys discussed using other strategies as well?
We played a lot of Sombra today, even saw some wacky Junkrat and Reaper. We have a lot of ideas now that we're not going to look like a one-trick team anymore.
How confident are you and the team as a whole going into stage playoffs?
We're super confident. I think we fixed a lot of our issues and we're going to keep reviewing and working really hard. We feel we can beat everyone again.
Would you like to face the Shock again in the stage finals?
Personally, I would. It looks like they are a strong team but I'm not sure how strong everyone else is compared to each other. New York and Shock both seem like the strongest teams other than us. It feels like these playoffs are wide open - everyone has a chance at upsetting the top teams.
If we play Shock, it would be cool to play my old team again. If we play any other team, I won't be disappointed because they picked up their game recently.
Are we going to see any surprise comps from Vancouver?
We have two weeks to prep so we're not sure yet. We'll see.
What do you think is going well for the team this season?
We've kept the same environment that they had in Korea and transitioned it into the US. They're still comfortable even though they're living away from home for the first time. They're with each other at all times and I think it's been the key to our success. We maintained our teamwork and brought the same environment into the States.
Have they experienced any stress being away from home?
At times, a lot of them like being in the US and having more freedom. It's a new place to explore and they can go to a lot of places. I'm sure a lot of them have some stress at times but that's why we take a break. In between Stage 2 and 3, they went back to Korea, they talk to their parents frequently.
I'm sure at the end of the season, they're going to miss home a lot and they'll get to go back. I think we try to manage it pretty well.
What things do you think they can improve on?
You saw one of the improvements that we wanted to make, which is adapting to things faster. That's pretty much the biggest one. I feel like we're doing really well - obviously, we're 2nd to NYXL. As long as we can adapt faster, we're set for the future.
Switching topics, I want to talk about the Overwatch World Cup. What was the process behind you joining Team USA?
Originally, both myself and Junkbuck were running for Team USA coach. Myself, David from Gladiators, and Aero from Dallas were the top 3 candidates. Aero reached out and said he wanted to make a full-stack this year instead of just himself and get more opinions about the game. It's a more efficient system being able to deliver feedback to players and having multiple people that can do that.
I guess it doesn't hurt that Junkbuck and I worked with the Shock players who people shouldn't assume they'll get in since we have tryouts right now. People are assuming Shock players are going to be in the team.
Aero wanted to get more minds in the game. Analynn (@bawlynn) and him both reached out and said we would like for you guys to work with us.
What do you think is going to change Team USA's results this year?
Having more eyes on the game and having a full coaching staff will be really helpful. Obviously, one of us is from Titans, one of us is from Fuel, and one of us is from Shock so it's different approaches to the game. We can see different things.
The other thing is that both myself and Junkbuck have worked with Crusty and know the way he thinks. He's also going to be Korea's coach so it's funny it works out that way.
Obviously, a lot of my players might make the team. Just having a lot of opinions - we can come together and make one clear unified goal.
Thanks for the interview! Are there any shoutouts you want to give?
Shoutouts to all the players and staff on this team. We worked really hard for the last week because we felt underprepared playing against Valiant. We're going to keep working this hard and keep it up for the rest of this season. Hopefully, we come out as champions.
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