Interview with Pavle “pakko” Kostic
Carriço: My first question for you is how do you get into a sports
Pakko: My story goes way back. When I was a child the first game I started playing competitively was Call of Duty 4. I was a little bit older than 10 years old, and I just played in some Balkan teams.
After that, I went to high school, and my friends were playing CS 1.6 and they kinda forced me to play. Like “let's play CS”, and “why are you playing Call of Duty? “. I was like, yeah why not let’s try it. From then on I saw that I was mechanically better than them and I started to play CS 1.6.
After that CS.GO came out and CS.GO was the first game where I was a semi-professional. I played for an organization called Game Agents, and that is how I got into Esports.
Carriço: Why did you choose to become a Valorant coach?
Pakko: I played handball professionally and when I played handball I always tried to help the younger players, help them improve, and teach them things they don't know, and I always saw myself as a good handball coach. I was considering becoming a handball coach in the future.
When I stopped playing Valorant because o lack of time. I just got a message from my ex-teammate Incredible who is currently playing in Division 6IX. He just messages me saying, “ hi, were are making a project would you be interested in being our coach?”. I wasn't sure because I didn't have much time, I had found a job and had fully gone out of gaming.
I said I would be a consultant, I said: “ If you need anything you can call me If you need VOD’s review, or anything just call me and I will help you”. But then I started to be in the day-to-day with them, I was in the process of trialing the fifth player, and they trusted my opinions. Even though I was working my normal job I was with them every day, and that is how it started, it was because of Incredible who is my good friend and ex-teammate.
Carriço: For those who might not be very familiar with the coach position, what is your job inside the team?
Pakko: The job of a coach, I hope people understand, it’s not being a strategic coach, tactical coach, building team compositions, and creating a game plan, which your team will follow and play around it.
My job inside a team is a try to bring everything a coach in any professional sports organization should have. As I said I had experience in handball, working with a lot of different coaches, with different approaches, and I took the best from all of them.
My job is to bring the best environment for growth. I want the people to have a friendly environment, in which everyone believes in everyone, and you can rely on someone, not only inside the game but also outside of it. You can trust me if you have issues outside of the game, you can literally just call me on discord and say “ Pakko I have this situation can we talk?“.
So when I joined Diamant Esports, we struggled with our mental. When we played in the qualifiers for the VRL, we knew we had the potential to win it, can we could win it easily if we played to our level, but our mental was our worst enemy. We were so eager to prove something to ourselves that it actually got to us, and it lower our performance by almost 75%.
The first three months were only working on the mental aspect. Nothing strategical, just trying to be that mental coach, even though I'm not certified or anything, I just tried to from my experience in playing, form being older than them, life experience I try to implement certain things, and help them be better in those certain things, and I’m really proud of how much we achieved with that.
Of course like I said, it’s strategical and tactical, building team compositions, VOD reviews, analyzing the opponent, building the game plan around the opponents, and being adaptive. Yeah, I think the job of the coach should be just that, nowadays analysts and assistant coaches, so you spread the responsibilities of all the things the team should do.
If you are alone it’s definitely hard, but you need to focus on all the segments that the team needs. My team can be the best strategical, best individually, like the best ever, but if I as a coach don't help them achieve some mental fortitude, it won't work.
Carriço: How would you evaluate your campaign in this VRL Split?
Pakko: I mean it was pretty successful, I’m not going to lie. I wouldn't say it was a Cinderella story because it would be a Cinderella story if you took the perspective and opinions of other people, but we knew what was our problem after playing the qualifiers for the VRL and we solved it.
We went into the Split with no pressure, no goal, our goal was to play the best game we could at that moment. If we did that we knew the results would come. If we play the best we can not be in last place, we just knew that.
People were underestimating us so much that we just kinda sailed throughout the league. In every match, we didn't feel like the underdogs in terms of we are playing not to lose, we went into every single game with the goal to win, knowing what we were capable of, and it showed at the end.
It was a success. It’s bad that we didn't win, we were so close. But before the finals we had a big day, we played a best-of-three versus TENSTAR, then a best-of-three going all the maps and two overtimes versus NOM Esports. We played until midnight. It was a long day and having to reset and prepare for the next day was hard. It’s not an excuse TENSTAR won and they were the better team. But yeah it was a great season, we were so close to winning it, and we are happy we managed to finish in second place, it’s a great achievement.
Carriço: What are some of the things you think you guys as a team need to fix or improve?
Pakko: We need to fix our micro communication. It’s like a small bit of information that sometimes expands the awareness of your teammate, or just playing better along with your close friend.
If you are controlling the site like two site one died, those small micro communications should be better but we already started tackling these problems. There are a lot of small mistakes, that are fixable in one or two days.
Another thing I think we need to improve is being better at adapting. We already are really good at it, but I want to make sure the team is able to do that without me, without me giving the input either from analyzing or from timeouts on officials.
On scrims, we want to play, see what is happening, and at the moment find a solution. It’s not easy, some tier one teams are still not good in this department, but I’m hungry to be the best and I know the players are also, so we are fixing and improving everything that we can in order to be the best versions of ourselves.
Carriço: How would you describe your playstyle?
Pakko: It’s a mixture, it's structured plus loose play style. There is also that adaptive component. We have a structure that we follow, but again there is a space to be adaptive. As a coach, I prefer an adaptive playstyle, but when you join a team, or you are already in core, you need to be aware of what are the strengths of the players, and you can't just take over and say ok we play this way.
You ned to take the strength of the squad and balance it out so you can play your style but also play to the strengths of your roster. I think playing a loose style was really good for us. What we did was try to balance the structure and the loose style.
We have the structure we play but there is a space for every single player to play looser. If there is a space that our lurker saw he will take over the round, he takes that space, and based on that space we will call on what to do. So we drop the structure and play based on one player's reading and feeling.
We also try to bring that adaptive aspect of the game, so that we have all the three kinda main segments of the game implemented.
Carriço: How do you compare the East Surge VRL to the other VRL’s in terms of quality, do you think you have as many talented players and teams as the Spain VRL or French VRL?
Pakko: The East Surge league has a lot of quality players. The fact that in the last Split, half of Anonymo, Anorthosis Famagusta Esports, most of their players went to the Spanish league.
In my opinion, they didn't go because it’s a better league, they went because the salaries are better, you have more exposure, and they have better marketing. If our players are going to those “better” leagues, it’s obvious that our players are bad, and there is something in the East region that is not at the same level as the other leagues.
Maybe it’s not as big as the other leagues, but I’m sure that the players from our region and our region, are at the same level as the players from the rest of the leagues.
Carriço: What are some of the main problems of the Valorant scene in the eastern region?
Pakko: It’s definitely exposure. Poland took it as kinda a main region leader, and I agree they have the most players, they have the most teams. But everything is marketed and optimized for Poland.
So you see all the transfers they were all Polish players, Polish players going to Spain, Polish players going to various other leagues. The marketing and the exposure it’s just not at the same level as in the other regions. Because I’m from Servia for example, do people know where is Servia? Just kidding but you know, we have no exposure, why would someone take a Servian player with no marketing or brand?
I hope that Riot Games, the East Surge United, and the East Surge VRL work together in order to fix that issue. Exposing our league more, getting more sponsors, and giving us the chance, not to go on the Spanish league just because they are a “better” league, but being able to play in the East Surge VRL with the same conditions they have there.
Carriço: Is there a team you are really looking forward to facing off against next season?
Pakko: I would say Rapid Ninjas. They are our Hungarian brothers and I really like them. I follow them in a LAN tournament, how they recovered in a lower bracket run and they are a strong team.
Hopefully, people won't underestimate them as they did to us. But they are a really strong team and a team with whom we have a good bond. I'm definitely glad that they joined the league, and it will be a really good match to play versus them.
Carriço: What are your goals as a coach for the remaining of this year?
Pakko: I’m always eager to improve. I’m aware that I’m still kinda new, I've been a coach for a little over six months, which is not a lot, I’m still here to learn, and the players are still giving me feedback on what I'm doing good and what I need to improve.
My goal is to give my best to help my team.
Carriço: Is there anything else you want to say to the Diamant Esports fans or to your own fans?
Pakko: Big shout-out to Diamant Esports, because in interviews we already say it a lot of times, we got the slot in the VRL by buying it. So thank you to Diamant Esports for helping us with that.
To all the fans in the Balkans, and in the Esat region just grind, if you want to become a coach just go for it. If you want to become a player just grind the game, don't let anyone influence your opinion that you are not good enough.
Also a big shout-out to our performance coach Nuša who helped us a lot during the bootcamp. Thank my players, and management from Diamant Esports that helped us a lot in the last bootcamp.
Also thank you very much for having me. It was a pleasure talking with you.
Cariço: Pakko thank you a lot for agreeing to do this interview. It was a pleasure talking with you as well. I hope I can talk with you again in the future, and I wish you guys the best of luck in the next tournaments, and in the next VRL Split.