Exclusive interview with LDN UTD coach Tommaso "joYnt" Gavioli
Carriço: Hi Tommaso how are you? And thank you for agreeing to do the interview. Can you introduce yourself?
Carriço: My first question for you is how did you get into esports?
Tommaso: This is one of the questions I get asked the most. I got into Esports in the early 2010s. At that time I played Call of Duty, Battlefield, and other fps but not as a professional. Then Overwatch came out and I just fell in love with the game. Overwatch was when I started to play as a professional, I had a salary and I played for a team in Italy.
Carriço: Why did you choose to become a coach?
Tommaso: I always was very analytical as a player. Even at school, I liked to “teach” the other students about things that even the teacher couldn’t explain to them.
Before moving to a coach position, I already coached some players in overwatch, helping them improve. I once did an event in a bar in Milan where 20 people attended, and we were there just analyzing vods, and discussing the game. I just feel this Is the perfect job for me.
Carriço: Can you talk a little bit about your path in VALORANT before joining LDN UTD?
Tommaso: Yeah, so in 2020 when we were in the pandemic, I was coaching two Overwatch teams, one from Europe and one from Australia, and it was really hard.
It’s hard to coach one team left alone two, but we were in the pandemic I was always at home and didn’t have anything to do apart from coaching. The valorant beta was also released that year and I would play some games, watch some matches and I liked the game.
After that, I had to make a decision to either stay in Overwatch which was dying, or go in a different direction. I took some time to think about it, and also talked with some other people, and decided that going to Valorant was the best move.
In Valorant it took me some time to get used to the game because Valorant is completely different from Overwatch. I joined an Italian team, which helped me a lot. I think it was really good for me joining an Italian team instead of a really good international team from the start.
I learned a lot about the game there. But after some time the results weren’t the best, and the players and I also became too friendly which was something I didn’t like. I asked to leave the team. At that point, ENTROPIQ needed a new coach, and I applied for it. I learned a lot while in Entropic.
Carriço: For those who might not be very familiar with the coach position, what is the job of a coach?
Tommaso: Every coach works in a different manner. For me, a coach is someone who is supposed to give guidance to the team. Bring structure to the players, and help them find how they should play.
Carriço: How is it to work with such a talented group of players? You guys have been together for 5 months and have been achieving a lot of success so how does it feel to work with those guys?
Tommaso: So I worked under two different rosters while in LDN UTD. The first one I didn’t feel it was good enough for us to compete against the best teams in Europe and that was what I wanted to do.
So when my contract was nearing its end, and so were the player's contracts, I talked with LDN UTD and said I wanted to create a roster that could compete internationally.
The only player that remained from the previous roster was feqew who was a player I liked a lot. He also had the hunger to win as I did.
When we were building the new roster, we trialed 20 players. We added three Lithuanian players , and it wasn’t because they were friends with feqew, he believed that with those players we could win. We were still missing one player but after trialing with MOLSI for two days it was clear he was the best option to complete the roster.
The first player I said LDN UTD to secure was Boo. Good In-game leaders are really hard to find but great IGL that also have insane firepower are rare. Without wanting to name other IGL in Europe, normally IGL's are so worried about calling plays, and in the strategic side of the game that they are not that focused on their aim. But Boo understands the game, he knows how I want the team to play, and his firepower is off the charts. I called LDN UTD and said just call his agent and secure him immediately.
Carriço: You’ve guys have been one of the most consistent teams in the tier 2 scene in Europe, always having close matches against tier 1 teams. Now after being able to qualify for the EMEA Stage 1 Challengers do you feel like you proved you are one of the best teams in Europe and that you reached the tier 1 status?
Tommaso: I think so, maybe at the start of January no. When it was announced the first qualifier was going to be on the 10th of January I didn’t like it, because it was really close to champions, and was just after the holidays so there wasn’t much time to prepare.
Then we weren’t invited for the closed qualifier because TENSTAR was one place above us in the ranking, which is fine they followed the rules and I’m glad, we ended up having to play the open qualifier.
However, I would say that not being invited for the closed qualifier was actually good for us. We were able to play a lot of officials before the closed qualifier, which helped us a lot while other teams in the closed qualifier didn’t get the chance to do so.
If you look at it all the teams that qualified apart from G2 Esports who looked really good, and stable after the roster change so they are a different case, but Guild Esports, BIG, and we had to play the open qualifier.
Our match against BIG for example, yes we lost, but BIG was playing super well. That loss helped us identify the mistakes we were making and solve them which helped us a lot in the closed qualifier. Against Team Vitality, and EXCEL we were really calm, disciplined, and we knew what we had to do.
Carriço: What are some of the main reasons you guys were able to improve so fast? Because you have been one of the most consistent team’s for the past 5 months and you seem to get better and better with the passing of time.
Tommaso: We actually didn’t get a lot of time to prepare for this qualifier. Obviously, we still have our fundamentals in every map but overall we didn’t have much time to prepare.
One of the things that really helped us was the Bootcamp we had. In October I asked LDN UTD to go to London to get to know the staff, president, the managers. While in London in that Bootcamp we had a lot of good times, and some difficulties that I won't get much into detail, but overall it helped us a lot to get to know each other and create synergy.
The main reason for our performance is how well we get along with each other. When we are in training everyone is having fun but still giving their best. One of the things we make sure of when playing officials is that we take them seriously but we are still having fun because money doesn’t really matter, having fun is the most important thing while still being focused on the goal that is to win.
Carriço: You mentioned you didn’t have much time to prepare for the open qualifier, but how is your preparation for the EMEA Challengers 1 going, are you having enough time to prepare?
Tommaso: It's never enough time, you can ask every coach, and it's never enough. Even if you have one month to practice and study your opponents it will still not be enough.
The challengers will be similar to the “Serie A “ the Italian football league if I’m not mistaken, where we play every time, and play a different team each week which is something I really like if indeed the format is like this because I’m not 100 sure.
This week we are having a week off because we just came from playing the qualifier. But in the future, we will have a Bootcamp because I feel it's really necessary at this level, and I’m sure it’s going to help us.
Carriço: Do you think playing against the best teams in Europe every week will help you guys improve and reach new levels?
Tommaso: Yeah for sure. We are going to play the best teams in Europe and in some cases the best in the world. We have Team Liquid and Gambit Esports in our group, both teams made the top four at Champions. You also have Fnatic and Acend. We are going to play against teams with a lot of experience every week and that will certainly help us improve. You only improve if you play against the best.
Carriço: You are in group A with Gambit Esports, Team Liquid, BIG, FPX, and NAVI, do you think you have a good chance of making the playoffs?
Tommaso: Yes. I think if we play in a disciplined way, know when to freeze the game, maintain our composer and calm we have a good shoot. We are going to play against teams that are more structured like Gambit Esports and BIG, and others that adapt on the fly like FPX, NAVI, and Team Liquid. So we will have to prepare in two different ways.
Carriço: What is harder for you as a coach to prepare for a team that is more structured or one that adapts on the fly.
Tommaso: Is harder to prepare against a team that adapts in the fly of the moment. You can't really scout them, I mean you can but to a certain degree. Structured teams are easier to scout, but those teams for example Gambit Esports have their default strategies for every site on every map. However, they also have a strategy for 5 different scenarios that can happen in that default strategy.
Carriço: Is there a team you are really looking forward to facing off against in group A?
Tommaso: For sure BIG because they defeated us in the first open qualifier and we want our revenge. Gambit Esports too because we defeated them in the Red Bull Home Ground 2 in Fracture, which we didn’t play at the time but now is one of our best maps.
We destroyed them in fracture but it wasn’t Champions so maybe they weren’t using everything in their playbook, so I am looking forward to playing against them.
I want to play against everyone especially the top teams to see if the gap is really that big. It's something I really want to see.
Carriço: Do you think the meta will change drastically with the addition of neon and the changes made in the last patch?
Tommaso: I dint have a lot of time to read in detail the patch notes. I didn’t look at Neon that much because we couldn’t use her in the qualifier. But I don’t think we are going to see much of her in Challengers.
Normally when a new agent comes out teams need to understand what is the best way to play with it, and how to play against it, and that takes some time. I’m really looking forward to the map’s changes, on Bind and Breeze, they are interesting and I’m looking forward to watching those maps.
Carriço: Recently we had the first tournament with picks and bans, do you think that considering where the game is at this point this is a good dynamic, or do we still need more time?
Tommaso: I don’t think it’s a good dynamic right now. Maybe in two years if we have enough agents sure sounds good. For sentinels, it might work right now because you have a lot of good agents to choose from like Cypher, Killjoy, also Chamber now.
But if you remove Astra what are you going to play? Omen and Brimstone?! It's also really hard for teams to prepare if you ban some must-pick agents like Sova, Viper, Astra how are you going to prepare? It's really hard. So for now I don’t think it's good but maybe in one or two years when we have more agents maybe.
Carriço: What are the main goals for LDN UTD this year?
Tommaso: For me, personally around last year I was really demotivated but after watching Masters Reykjavik, Berlin, and now Champions, I just wanted to be there, fist-bumping the other team's coach, and playing on LAN. So making it to Masters, probably the first one doesn’t have a crowd but maybe the second Masters of the year does. We are on challengers right now so we are closer to that goal but there is still a long road ahead of us.
Carriço: So is there anything you want to say to your fans or to the LDN UTD team.
Tommaso: To the organization thank you for trusting in me for this project since the beginning. For our fans thank you for always supporting us and for the support you guys showed us in the open qualifier.
Also a big thanks to the Italian fans that are always supporting LDN UTD and me, there was a lot of support from them during the qualifier so thank you guys a lot.
Carriço: And I want to thank you Tommaso for agreeing to do this interview. I wish you a lot of luck in the first stage of challengers, and I hope I can interview you again in the future