Interview with Former Washington Justice Assistant Coach, AVALLA

The 2019 season was full of memorable moments for the Washington Justice. Some good, some bad. After all is said and done, we take a special look back at the 2019 season with someone who was there for it all. WatchPoint Lobby is pleased to have had the pleasure of interviewing the former Assistant Coach for the Justice, AVALLA!

From Law School to OWL

AVALLA is a former coach for the Washington Justice as well as Meta Bellum and OpTic Academy who placed 3rd and 4th respectively during her time there. In the time before becoming a coach she was a student in law school but ever since pursuing Contenders and the OWL, she has found her true passion in coaching.

Keeping it Positive!

The Justice in 2019 always seemed to have a smile on their faces. Even when they were losing or things just weren’t going their way. AVALLA always seemed to keep herself and her team looking up.

AVALLA explained why this was. “For anyone who knows me personally, they would say that I’m a person 100% full of positivity. That’s the kind of personality I have as a person. I think because of my personality, even when we’re going down or when scrims aren’t working out, I was one of the people who would persuade our team that it could go better, we could try harder, we should try different things.” Clearly her personality generated an energy that infected the players and staff. This was most likely a large factor in the Justice’s eventual success in Stage 4.

Changing it Up

Being free to try new things as a coach can help make any team better. Of course, you don’t always get to choose if or when this happens. According to AVALLA, “at the start, we didn’t have a lot of management to support us because we only had our GM on the side, and our GM left the team at the middle of Stage 2.” AVALLA also had to learn how to manage players better as a coach because of the lack of management and how to keep a positive mental attitude for the players.

The Justice coaches were also able to be more free with their style because of this. “Because there was no management, we were actually free to do a lot of things on our own. We got to explore a lot of different coaching styles or different kind of things that we wanted to do. I think that kind of creativity allowed us to make a lot changes towards the end of Stage 3 and start of Stage 4” AVALLA said, describing why she experimented with how best to respond to players.

Show and Tell

One of AVALLA’s skills she’s the best at is making things visible for the players. She used these skills to show players how they can play better, at a more precise level. “I think I’m a good analyst. I was able to explore different kind of things that our players were capable of doing and what other players on other teams were doing” she said, describing how she poured herself into recording statistics, developing thorough presentations, and teaching the players what issues she saw through VOD review and data analysis.

Showing a player data to present to them what they’re doing is one thing AVALLA did a lot. “One of the reasons I use data, and I use presentations, and I use a lot of clips, is because these kind of things help you persuade players. Say a player says ‘I’m not passive in making resurrections,’ and if you show the stats showing that, ‘Oh, hey look. There are a lot of other players and these other players are rezzing four times what you are’ often those kind of statistics become a wow factor for players. They’re like, ‘Wow, really? Four times less than other players?’ I must work on that category or something like that so stats often help” she explained. These type of interactions were what earned her the trust and respect of the players. Which, in turn, helps everything else she does as a coach.

Cherish This Forever

As a Justice fan, there were many moments during the season that I cherished. We asked AVALLA what moment she enjoyed the most, “Frankly, one moment that I will cherish the most would be in Stage 4, when we beat the Vancouver Titans 4-0. Because prior to that, only one team had beaten Vancouver.” And it wasn’t until the Grand Finals, when San Francisco Shock swept them, that it would happen again. A pretty great moment for AVALLA, the Justice, and their fans.

That was one of the most exciting things they did throughout the season to me as a Justice fan. Personally, I was screaming my head off. She goes on to say, “Because there were teams that were evaluated to be not as strong, even internally, we didn’t think that we were the best team. We were lacking a lot of confidence but winning that Vancouver match allowed us to gain a lot of confidence. It also helped show players why winning is so important, and it also built a lot of confidence to ourselves like we could brag that we were the best team, we were the only team that beat Vancouver 4-0.” This was a moment for the Justice that really made them believe in themselves and their ability. I imagine every player on the Justice will treasure this moment.

Balancing it All

We asked what surprised her about coaching in the OWL and she had this to say: “Prior to coaching in Overwatch League, I was a law school student and I actually liked to coach and do law school at the same time. But coming at the Overwatch League, I was actually surprised at how there is almost zero life and work balance.” AVALLA goes into mental health and how this affected her further saying, “There is this internal-external pressure that you should be working. There’s just so much to do that you actually need to work that much. I wasn’t able to get any kind of day off and it really hurt my mentality because having no break is, let’s face it, who would be able to sustain those two?” In a field where burnout is a growing concern for players and coaches, teams should pay attention to the mental health of everyone on the roster.

Winning could always improve a team’s outlook and take a bit of the pressure off, especially as a coach. She says, “Because in Stage 1 through Stage 3, we didn’t win as much. I felt super stressed then, stressed about not being able to rest so much. That is one mind-striking experience that I got as an Overwatch League coach.” As Stage 4 came around, the team would earn the wins they had so desperately sought.

Contenders VS OWL: A Coach’s Perspective

Of course contenders coaching and OWL coaching are going to be different. Although how different are they? AVALLA answered this saying, “there are a lot more resources that you can get as an Overwatch League coach. In Contenders, it’s like you have a team of a family. Pretty much all other members are like your family.” One thing that would be very different is the way your time goes around. Comparing OWL to Contenders, she said, “our schedule was more managed by the management and we had our personal space. That was the thing that was very different from coaching in Contenders. I felt like I was working in a firm versus in Contenders, I felt like I was doing family business.” This shows how different OWL is than Contenders and how it can affect someone who’s worked in both.

Caught off Guard

Recently, the Justice decided to remove their entire coaching staff. We asked if she was surprised by this at all and how it happened. She said “We were told in advance about the decision. Honestly, it caught me off guard so much because as I said towards the end of Stage 3 and in Stage 4, I’ve done a lot of micro coaching. We had so many good results during that time, and I actually created so many resources and materials that a lot of players complimented me personally.” Not exactly the response of someone who expected to be a free agent this offseason.

It seems like AVALLA expected to stay with the Justice for 2020 when she goes on to say, “I think in Stage 2 and 3, I did think that maybe they might replace our coaching staff. During that time, there was a lot of rumors that they were going to get rid of the whole coaching staff. I actually started making my resume, gathering what I did in the past. Those kind of materials now helped me in the off season because I was referred ahead, but it’s still hard.” Of course losing your job is no easy thing and for AVALLA , she’s glad she was prepared.

OWL 2020 Outlook

With the new 2020 home and way format for the league, teams will be traveling a lot. This will be a major change for teams in the OWL and we asked what impact this will have on players and staff. She said, “traveling itself will be very tiring. I know some people have said that raises awareness that a lot of players will be away from their loved ones, family, their friends. It will be very difficult for players mentally.” AVALLA seems to understand that such a drastic change will present new challenges.

We asked her what she thought about the new 2020 schedule itself as well and she said, “I think it’s one of the essential things that is needed for the league to succeed. With certain adjustments that can be made, either by the league or by the teams to accommodate these kind of players and staff better. I think, we should be able to see a lot more success in the 2020 model.” If the league is going to grow, players and staff will need to adjust. There are just too many positives that come from players performing in front of their own fans.

Future Head Coach?

We asked her if she’s thought about becoming a head coach someday and she said, “one day, I would like to become a head coach because as I said, I experienced so much conflict, so much stress over what comp I want to run, not being able to do the comps that I think will work.” AVALLA seems to like having freedom to try what she thinks will work the most. That is her biggest reason for wanting to become a head coach but she doesn’t think she’s ready, going on to say, “I’m pretty good at what I do as an assistant coach doing player development. I want to focus on this for at least a few years before I explore head coach options.” I think anyone can understand this, but given all the work she did in Washington, don’t be surprised if you see her as a head coach in the next few years.

What comes next?

After being released from the Justice, AVALLA doesn’t want to stop coaching. We asked what her plans are during the off season and she said, “Honestly, I’m not so sure right now. I think I’m gonna be trying to still stay in coaching. I do think that the results of the Justice is unfortunate even though we did have a great comeback in Stage 4. I would try to do things that might build up my resume more and that might prove I’m a capable coach.” Given her analytical approach to coaching and the results the Justice showed in Stage 4, it’s not hard to see her back in the league in no time.

AVALLA might even want to become more of an analyst saying, “I do feel like analysis and making stats and providing teams clips of what they need was one my strengths working as an assistant coach. Being an analyst might be another option for me.” What’s great about Overwatch is their are so many opportunities for strong minded, hard working individuals like AVALLA. At such a young age and with such a demonstrated body of work, the sky is likely the limit.

Avalla to the Fans

Fans of the OWL play a huge role in everything. We asked if there is anything she’d like to say to the fans and she said, “Yes. I actually first want to thank our fans because I do think we did have some of the best fans in the league. They were so supportive. I went to meet a lot of them during our D.C. trip. They were always so warm and kind and so helpful in a lot of ways. I first of all want to thank them.” It was great to hear AVALLA talk about the fans in such a way – it seems the Justice care alot about engaging with them.

She also wanted to say to any teams interested in working with her, “for other teams that might look into working with me, I do highly suggest that you reach out to me and look at the works that I’ve done in the past. I do think that if you would look into my work, you would be interested in me, so please do reach out.” Given all she accomplished, it’s fair to assume her DMs are going to light up.

Final Thoughts

AVALLA seems to be an amazing person as a whole and someone who truly cares about the people she works with and her job as a coach. We would like to thank AVALLA for taking the time to let us interview her. As a fan, I can’t wait to see what she does next and the Justice family will support her no matter where she ends up!

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