By Garrison Sloan
This summer, Austin “Careless” Crawford was announced as the new head coach of the Mizzou Esports Overwatch team. Crawford brings in a combination of experience and determination to the Mizzou Esports Overwatch team, and hopes to bring the team to the next level through his unique style of coaching.
Crawford, 31, is a veteran of the Overwatch scene, having played the game since its beta release in 2016. Crawford is a veteran in another way, having done a 5-year stint in the Army, from 2007 to 2012. He began coaching Overwatch around 3 years ago, and since then has coached for many notable NA Overwatch Contenders teams, including Odyssey. During these coaching gigs, Crawford was already starting to work with Mizzou.
“About midway through last year, I came on as kind of like an unofficial volunteer coach,” he said. “Then, last semester, I was actually working around all of the titles, including Rainbow Six Siege, Valorant, CSGO, Fortnite and all of that, just trying to suss out where I’d fit and what kind of structure we could create,” said Crawford.
Along with experience, Crawford is bringing in a unique coaching approach and a set of goals that he hopes can elevate the team’s performance.
“I want to have all of the players meet my definition of what a team is by the end of the semester,” he says. “And that is a sense of trust and comradery between each other, and them actively helping each other reach each other’s goals.”
Crawford developed this philosophy due to his experience in Overwatch Contenders, which he felt lacked the kind of team environment that he hopes to build at Mizzou.
“So a lot of what coaching in contenders and even tier three in Overwatch Path-to-Pro is focused on is gameplay,” he stated. “It’s a lot harder to get that team focus where everyone’s trying to become friends because there’s this certain driving thing: for all of them that they want to be in the Overwatch League, everyone in that organization wants to become a professional player.”
He went on to explain how, in a Collegiate setting where many players are less experienced and simply playing for scholarships, it’s easier to form a more cohesive team. Still, Crawford pointed out one major similarity between his coaching in Contenders compared to the Collegiate level. Common goals.
“I want to create a common goal between all of the players so that they can find that natural comradery,” he stated. The difference, he stated, is that in Contenders, the goal is always the same: making it into the Overwatch League, the pinnacle of professional Overwatch, which can distract from the task of forming a cohesive team.
When asked about what the easiest hardest parts of his job were, Crawford stated that actual game prep was the most straightforward thing for him.
“The strategy, the meta, the analysis side of things is honestly not too hard for me specifically,” he stated. “It’s the stress and the stretch for me, that’s what I need to get better at.”
He stated that though his main coaching philosophy revolves around building a tight-knit team environment, it’s still something that he personally struggles with, and hopes to improve during his time at Mizzou.
Despite a lot of pressure to perform this year, Austin “Careless” Crawford is confident in his ability to lead the Mizzou Overwatch team to success. With some impressive previous experience and a unique coaching philosophy, he’s hoping to turn the team back into the powerhouse it once was.