At last, after a string of releases that left the Defiant roster (and our hearts) rather empty, Toronto fans were finally granted a bit of good news. On October 16, the team announced that they had brought in Head Coach Félix “Féfé” Münch to lead the team for the 2020 season. Well-versed in the world of competitive Overwatch, Féfé was the Head Coach of Paris Eternal in the 2019 season. Before that, he coached the Contenders team Eagle Gaming.
Overall, Defiant fans responded positively to his appointment, and recent signings (both official and rumoured) have everyone excited for what he and the rest of the Defiant staff have in store for us moving forward. I was lucky enough to speak with Féfé about his coaching philosophies, team values, and the future of the Defiant.
After telling the Paris Eternal that he wanted to leave, Féfé was in the market for a new coaching position for 2020. He was pleased to find a kindred spirit in Jaesun Won, the General Manager for the Toronto Defiant. “Jae and I were on the same page…on how to structure a team and what we wanted to build,” said Féfé.
He went on to praise the professionalism of the Defiant organization. “I had to talk with a lot of people before they signed me,” he said. “It was really nice to have different conversations with people with different perspectives and see that they…shared all the same philosophies about the team and their global organization, and that they wanted me to be a part of this project.”
“I’m really happy that it’s finally official.”Féfé on being announced as Toronto’s Head Coach
This was a decision that had to be in the works for a while, and Féfé was feeling good to see it announced. “I’m really happy that it’s finally official and that we were able to start the work for next season.”
Who Coaches the Coach?
As Head Coach, Féfé is responsible not only for the development of his players, but also himself. Coming from a background in coaching professional basketball in France, he takes a lot of inspiration from traditional sports. “Esports is kind of new. There is no head coach with 10 years’ experience…and they can say that they actually made something.”
To learn from another coach working with young people, he is currently reading a book by an NCAA basketball coach, Mike “Coach K” Krzyzewski. “I like his approach and his way to synthesize a way to communicate with players depending on how they think – depending on their personality.”
Féfé believes that coaching is fundamentally about people, but that it also relies heavily on an understanding of his discipline. He watches a lot of Overwatch VODs and works closely with fellow Overwatch League coaches to develop his skills. “We like to share,” he said. “Even if we’re competing against each other, it’s always good to have the feeling that we can…all learn and all improve.”
A Philosophy of Discipline and Cooperation
All of this information has coalesced into Féfé’s personal coaching philosophy, which balances the need for structure with player personalities. “I do think having a minimum amount of discipline is really important,” he said. However, he still wants to take players’ input into account. “I don’t want them to just follow what I say.” Féfé is adamant about this. “I want them to develop their own game sense and be part of every decision we’re going to make.”
“We’re going to build the philosophy together.”Féfé on the structure of the Defiant
He feels the same way about the rest of the Defiant coaching staff. “I’m looking for people that are open-minded.” He wants them to still have their own perspective that they share with the team, but also to, “listen to each other – listen to all the perspectives and try to find compromise all together.”
It’s a work in progress with a solid foundation. And it sounds like it’s a process that’s already in motion, with Féfé staying open-minded, himself, every step along the way. “My philosophy is that we’re going to build the philosophy together.”
Communication is Key
So how does Féfé plan to build and maintain this well-balanced group of team players? Communication, communication, communication.
“We can prevent [conflict] by creating a good atmosphere where everyone feels comfortable about communicating.” Relating to gameplay, yes, but also feelings outside of Overwatch. This can be impromptu or during one of the weekly team meetings, where they will discuss the events of the past week and make plans moving forward. He facilitates team activities – “but not forced team activities” – that help create the kind of environment conducive to sharing.
“Most conflicts are, basically, due to a lack of communication that will create frustration,” he said. When players clash, his solution is very straightforward. “Take them in a room,” he suggested. “We start talking about what was the problem, what’s led to this problem, what was the reason for it, and we just kind of solve it.” He explained that, in his time as a coach, he has never had a communication issue that couldn’t be solved this way. “Communication fixes everything, in my opinion.”
On Localization and Burnout
Originally hailing from traditional sports, Féfé is no stranger to the concept of localization. As a performance coach for professional basketball, he did a lot of traveling with the team. “I know how travel can be exhausting for players and how it can lead to burnout,” Féfé said. “It’s important to have a strong core of players that are really enjoying playing together.”
If players are, “friends with a good work atmosphere,” he explained, it will help everyone, “to enjoy playing the game, enjoy traveling together, and then avoid burnout.” He emphasized the importance of mental preparation in developing the best travel conditions for the team.
Lessons from Paris
Féfé also learned a lot while coaching the Paris Eternal in the 2019 OWL season. “Eagle gaming was full of French players,” he explained. Coaching Paris gave him experience working with different cultures within the same roster. “Even if it was just Europeans, you see that they have different personalities, different cultures, that lead to some problems sometimes,” he admitted. Regardless of nationality, “some players handle frustration in a different way than others.”
Again, he hails good communication as the key to success. “You have to make them understand each other. When a guy is showing something, it doesn’t mean the same things as when another guy is showing the same thing.” His experiences coaching Paris taught him how to manage a group of people with different personalities, and he plans to take this knowledge with him to Toronto.
A Message to Fans
Féfé has already visited Toronto and met some of the hopeful fans that will be watching him closely in the leadup to the 2020 season. “They were really nice to me,” he said. “It’s going to be great to share with them, and I can’t wait to meet them at the home stadium. From what some people told me, [Roy Thomson Hall] is really intimate and will help everybody to have a really close experience.”
When asked if he had a message for Defiant fans, Féfé sought to reassure us. “I hope we have a good season together,” he said. “I will do my best to help the team to improve from what happened last season and help them to reach results that Toronto deserves.”
“I will do my best to help the team…to reach results that Toronto deserves.”Coach Féfé’s message to Defiant fans
Although expressing positivity regarding the direction of the Defiant next season, Féfé was unable to comment on final roster size or potential player signings, beyond the general statement, “A few announcements will arrive in the following weeks.”
Almost predictably – I honestly think I’m cursed at this point – a major announcement was made fewer than 24 hours after this interview took place. Toronto has now confirmed the signing of Kariv, formerly of the LA Valiant.
The initial player releases were spread out over the course of several days in a lovely gesture that allowed each player their own brief spotlight, to acknowledge their contributions to the team. If the string of forthcoming signings follows the same pattern, I would guess several additional announcements will happen later this week and early into the next.
Again, Féfé could not comment on unannounced roster moves. However, previous leaks have indicated that we might expect Agilities (LA Valiant; does anyone really believe they’d split up the Gamer Snacks duo?), Nevix (San Francisco Shock), and Surefour (LA Gladiators) to join Kariv on Toronto in the near future.
From speaking with their Head Coach, I believe that they and the rest of the Toronto team are in good hands. Best of luck to Féfé and the Defiant – we can’t wait until the 2020 season starts and we will finally be able to welcome you all home as we #RiseTogether.
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Featured image courtesy of Robert Paul.