Marvin “Promise” Schröder is a German 21-year-old who quickly rose from player to European Contenders head coach to Overwatch League assistant coach for the Florida Mayhem in just a few years. Best known for his work coaching Young and Beautiful and Mayhem Academy in Contenders, Promise has grown a reputation as a diligent, no-nonsense coach. Not much else is known about his history, so we covered everything from his past working full-time in IT to his expectations for the Mayhem’s roster in Overwatch League Season 2.
Life Before OWL
[Tepojama] You mentioned to Tridd that Germany doesn’t hold a very charitable view towards esports, yet you started coaching Overwatch in 2016 with Bikini Beach. When did you first start thinking esports was a viable career path?
[Promise] “I never started thinking that, like my first esports experience is overwatch. I always played games casually and never tried to push for high ranks. I’ve never been a low-ranked player, I’ve been in the top 1% of players — but never the best of the best. And it’s the same with Overwatch, I played the game competitively in the beginning when it came out, like Open Beta and Season 1. I played against some good EU teams like Misfits and REUNITED, got smashed as a player, and got replaced by Kyb — who then went to REUNITED one week after replacing me. So my team wanted me back, but at that point I had already decided playing was not for me. So I kind of went into coaching with Bikini Beach in the very early stages of overwatch when nobody had any idea how to play the game.”
What did you play before Overwatch?
“I played Starcraft 2, a little bit of DOTA, and Warcraft 3.”
There was a period where you worked in IT 9-5 before coming home, coaching Young and Beautiful, and developing guys like BenBest into Overwatch League talent. That’s pretty crazy, how were you able to manage that schedule?
“It was definitely rough, the hours that I had to spend definitely left no free time at all. My friends and social life 100% suffered from that, but the competitive drive to make it and be at the top just kept me going. I’m not someone that settles for second place, I just want to be at the top.”
[Tepojama] You’re very principled and true to your German roots, do you think you bring any specifically German traits to your coaching style?
[Promise] “Oh, for sure. When I joined Mayhem Academy, the first day I sat all six players down in an apartment and said ‘I’m not gonna be your friend, I’m 100% going to be an asshole at some point to you, that’s just how I coach. I’m going to be straightforward and I’m going to tell you you’re feeding, but in the same breath I’m going to tell you why you’re feeding and how we can fix the problem. So, if at any point you feel like I’m being too straightforward because I’ve never coached NA players before and it’s a different culture, you have to let me know.'”
So you’re not being an asshole, just straightforward?
“I try not to be an asshole, but part of being a head coach is being the asshole. It’s just someone that has to step on your toes and say “Hey, you gotta fix that,” otherwise there’s no pressure. Paintbrush described it once, he said that my coaching has annoyed him, but at the same time it made him work way harder, which made him improve way faster than he ever has.”
One of those Mayhem Academy players you ended up coaching is our guy Apply, a former Overguard MVP who is now on a two-way contract with the Mayhem. What do you think of his development and what do you expect from him in S2?
“Looking at Apply, he plays pretty much anything, which is obviously a big plus for a DPS player, but at the same time you can clearly tell that he is lacking in experience. He’s a young guy. At the beginning when I started coaching him, I remember he tried to talk back to me, and his face when I told him “you gotta sit down and shut the fuck up when you talk to me,” was just priceless. He’s a young kid and he learned pretty fast so I had no issues at all and love working with Apply. I think I was sick one day and couldn’t come to scrims and he DM’ed me saying “Promise, you gotta help me. You gotta come back and coach me,” so we get along just fine.”
You’ve got to be a little proud now that he’ll have a chance to play some OWL minutes, right?
“Oh for sure. And he will see play time in the Overwatch League.”
Was there any overlap between Mayhem and Mayhem Academy?
“Well, when the Contenders season was running the whole Mayhem team was still in Korea bootcamping. So now that they’ve come back, the Academy team scrims the OWL team on a regular basis, pretty much every other day.”
Florida Mayhem: Season 2
[Tepojama] Six of the nine Mayhem players in Season 2 are new and seven are Korean (excluding Apply and TviQ), which has led to some questions about team communication and you reassuring reddit that the team “can communicate just fine with me.” Can you elaborate on you expect the players and coaches to manage the language barrier?
[Promise] “First of all, certain things go past language barriers — Sombra is called Sombra in Korean Overwatch, Reinhardt is called Reinhardt in Korean Overwatch. If I tell Xepher ‘Hey, you gotta bubble someone,’ he’s going to understand that regardless of how much English he speaks. Secondly, most of these players do know a lot of English, at least enough to understand what I’m talking about. And if they don’t fully understand what I’m talking about, someone like Sayaplayer, who lived in NA for a while, is usually able to comprehend whatever I say fully and bridge the gap for me in Korean. And we do have a translator there, although reddit likes to say we don’t have one. And the Koreans are getting regular English lessons every week. So that’s being taken care of.”
Last year TviQ mentioned how impressed he was with Saya’s English and that he expected the team to continue communicating in English. With regards to the team’s language barriers and TviQ’s traditional role as a leader in particular, how do you see the team’s dynamic developing?
“Right now, the overall dynamic of the team is very interesting. For me as well considering I’ve never worked with Korean players. But, I think with TviQ — that’s never going to change — any player who has a certain style in communication is going to keep that, so he’s still taking charge in game and he’s still the same guy regardless of them being Korean. Again, if they communicate in English in game, if TviQ says ‘Hey, push high ground,’ they get that, they understand that just fine. Game plans in Overwatch are not some elaborate essay that you’re writing down for them to read, that’s kind of what reddit seems to expect all the time, that you have to be able to elaborate every single word in the most perfect way. There’s just certain things that go beyond language barriers, and that’s usually skills in overwatch as well as hero names and call-outs.”
Going from a roster that changed weekly in Contenders, how excited are you to be working with a stable base of nine players now?
“I think that the most interesting aspect of the Overwatch League is that even if you do badly in Stage 1, there’s still going to be Stage 2, so you have the opportunity to work for long-term progress as opposed to Contenders seasons, which are five weeks, five matches where you either make it or you break it. So having the option to take your time and make sure you establish a system and way of playing with the team and push that forward and build that foundation for stages and seasons to come is definitely something I’m looking forward to.”
As far as the team’s foundation goes, have you guys already settled on a starting six?
“I mean, the starting six will obviously depend on the maps we play and the heroes picked. So it’s going to change. That’s the opportunity you have with a wider roster.”
Are there any mainstays? We saw Meko start every game for NYXL while Mano and Janus switched off depending on map, are there any players like that on the Mayhem?
“It’s going to mostly be map- and hero-dependent, but then again we only have one off-tank player: Xepher, so naturally Xepher is probably going to start every time. Or Kris, who’s our only main support.”
Xepher struggled with the Dynasty in Season 1, do you think you will be able to capitalize on his talents differently so that he is able to succeed with the Mayhem in Season 2?
“I hate looking at players’ pasts or coaches’ pasts because the team dynamic is different for every team. You might not work out with one team, but you work out with a different team. So far in judging from the scrims I’ve seen him play, I have no doubt that Xepher is one of the top off-tank players in the league. He deserves to be in the Overwatch League, and anyone who tries to tell me different clearly doesn’t know what they’re talking about.”
As it’s your first time coaching Koreans, have you noticed any differences between coaching them and coaching players from other regions?
“I think in general with Korean players, just culturally, they invest. If they get into the Overwatch League, Overwatch League is what they do with their life. That’s all they care about, and every single bit of energy and time that they have, they will invest in their Overwatch League career and Overwatch, which for me, is crazy. I think it’s very beneficial for you to have a decent work/life balance, and you shouldn’t just put all your effort and every single bit of energy into Overwatch because you’re going to burn out. But at the same time, it’s a different culture so I have to adapt to that as well. It’s just nice to see a player sit down and really look you in the eyes and just focus on nothing but what you’re saying.”
Any final words for your Florida Mayhem fans?
“I know that the Mayhem as an organization messed up a bit in Season 1, but for example, I had the choice to leave the Mayhem for a different team, but I decided on my own that I want to stay with the organization — which from my point of view says a lot about the organization if I’m willing to decline other offers to stay with them. So, sure fans can doubt the team and the management. A lot of stuff obviously happened due to unfortunate circumstances, but we’re trying hard to restructure ourselves as an organization and be better. Just like John tweeted out, we’re working on establishing a structure that’s going to last a while and be the best version we’ve ever been.”
* Words are by Théo Salaun aka Tepojama who can be reached on Twitter or found scouring your favorite team’s Discord channel for memes. Featured image credit goes to the Florida Mayhem and Mayhem Academy. *