Play Hard, Make History

On February 4, 2019,  North announced the departure of, Alexander 'ave' Holdt, as head coach as he moved on to take care of his newborn baby and growing family. The hectic travel and time commitment away from his family was beginning to become too much. Following his decision to step aside for the foreseeable future, North introduced, Torbjørn 'mithR' Nyborg, as a temporary replacement.

On March 12, 2019, a little over one month later, Torbjørn 'mithR' Nyborg, was named as the official head coach for North.

Heading North

North has seen its fair share of Danish super-stars in CS:GO. The entire original lineup from when the team was founded has since departed. Names like cajunb, k0nfig, and Magisk have all come and gone. The current longest standing member of North is aizy who joined the team only a few months after its inception.

North also boasts a relatively young roster, with the eldest member having been born in 1994. Some may see this as a deficit as the team may lack top tier experience that other teams have in spades. However, it should be seen as an asset as North continues to push boundaries and make its way up the rankings. Young talent will quickly be forged into young experienced talent after only 1-2 years of playing together.

North Player Gear

Player Mouse Keyboard Headset Mousepad
gade Zowie EC1-A SteelSeries Apex M500 SteelSeries Pro GameDAC SteelSeries QcK Heavy
cadiaN SteelSeries Rival 300 SteelSeries Apex M500 SteelSeries Pro GameDAC SteelSeries QcK Heavy
Kjaerbye Zowie EC2-B SteelSeries Apex M500 SteelSeries Pro GameDAC SteelSeries QcK Heavy
valde Zowie EC2-B SteelSeries Apex M500 SteelSeries Pro GameDAC SteelSeries QcK Heavy
aizy Zowie EC2-A SteelSeries Apex M500 SteelSeries Pro GameDAC SteelSeries QcK Heavy

North Coaching Timeline

North is a relatively new professional team, founded only two years ago during a wave of professional sports franchises investing in esports. That said, the team realized the importance of having head coach in place to help coordinate and lead the team through highs and lows.

Unfortunately for North, the team already finds themselves on their third coach. Each coach having brought something new and different to the table - the most recent addition of mithR should prove to be the most useful to the team given their current status and faults.

Coaching Changes

From the teams very genesis North has been staffed with a head coach. Over the short two years, the team now finds itself with its third head coach. This instability is not an easy transition for the players or the organization to stomach as they struggle to find their footing as a top tier team.

North's biggest win - DreamHack Masters Stockholm 2018 - Under ave's leadership.

North began with Casper 'ruggah' Due as head coach, but he ended up departing for OpTic Gaming where he has been ever since. The team didn't have any standout performances under ruggah, but also did not perform poorly.

Alexander 'ave' Holdt was brought in next. A name with a lot of fanfare in the Danish and global CS:GO community. Ave brought a lot of professional play experience to the team. Unfortunately that did not translate to many tier 1 finishes. ave himself said:

"I am of course proud of our trophies, especially Dreamhack Masters, but I am also disappointed that we did not manage to take home more medals, create a consistent top team - and qualify for this upcoming Major. I was the coach, and I take the responsibility on my shoulders" - Alexander 'ave' Holdt

The best performance under ave was DreamHack masters Stockholm towards the end of 2018, as they bested the world's best ever CS:GO team, and fellow countrymen - Astralis.

Enter Torbjørn 'mithR' Nyborg and the team seems to have had new life breathed into it as they rocketed off to a 1st place 2:0 finish over powerhouse Na'Vi in the GG.Bet Ice Challenge.

Introducing Torbjørn 'mithR' Nyborg

ROAR Ep.12 - A New Beginning - Introducing mithR

x: Can you talk to us about your background in coaching and also in CS:GO?

mithR: I actually started to play 1.6 back in 2006, but only made it to become around top 20 in Danish Counter-Strike. In 2012 I moved to Copenhagen with two friends I went to a boarding school for actors with. After a night out, and a huge hangover, I found a topic on a website where someone sold his computer and monitor (the legendary Samsung 2233rz 144hz), and told him I would pay him $100 more than what he asked for if he would bring everything to my apartment. And so, with a huge hangover and a desire to play CS again after a two year break, I installed CS:GO and tried to play the game with some friends. I played for some years and probably played top 8-10 in Danish CS:GO in late 2012/beginning of 2013, and played with a lot of different players during my time.

In 2014 I didn’t have a team to play with, and lived in a collective with six people. I lived in the basement at that time, in a horrible room, and probably illegal as well. I remember how I would have to vacuum my computer often as dust from the ceiling would fall down all over my room every time someone walked through the living room which was directly over my room. Not having a team I decided to do some streaming, and a kind viewer decided to donate me a webcam and a friend made me a stream overview. And so my streaming career started where I found inspiration from Day[9] and the way he had been making streams/youtube videos about StarCraft II. I started analyzing tactics and pro games, helping the community to grow and slowly build a pretty big fan base. Then AcillioN came and asked me if I wanted to coach SK-Gaming (tenzki, cadiaN, Friis, k0nfig, AcillioN) to which I said yes. Back then coaching wasn’t really a thing, but I had some ideas that I still follow and I got to coach them during League of Sharks in the grand final vs Dignitas back then and in some ESL Pro League matches as well. After about 1½ months time I found out that SK-Gaming wouldn’t offer me a contract, so I decided not to continue coaching.

That was when Tricked Esport contacted me about coaching their team (Flex, Inzta, tabac0, AnJ, NETRICK) which I tried for a while. After a while, HUNDEN and Percy joined instead of Flex and NETRICK and Things just went on from there. I played a little during 2016 in Tricked Academy with players such as HECTOz, zanoj and zeq, and later that year with players such as Andkilde, Bubski, rezex, but didn’t really accomplish anything except winning against aAa and zyw0o in an online qualifier to qualify for a LAN called Crossboarder Esport Event, which might be my biggest accomplishment as a player.

After that event I spoke with HUNDEN who I had coached during my time in Tricked and gotten along with really well. We had started building a strong relationship as friends and he told me that he thought I was the best coach in the country, and if I wanted to join Alternate aTTaX with him. And so our German adventure began with tiziaN, syrsoN, stfN, ecfN where we won the ESL Meisterschaft in 2017, before tiziaN got sold to BIG and we couldn’t really rebuild the team the way we wanted to despite having both console and k1to joining the lineup. It was during that time that I had several meetings with North. Back then I was contacted about becoming head coach for the Academy project which I wanted to do a lot, but the negotiations between North and Alternate aTTaX didn’t end well and I stayed in the German organization. Later that year I decided to step down from the team as head coach as my work with developing Danish talent in the school system had taken a lot of my time and I had a mental breakdown caused of stress in june 2018, due to too much work. My best friends (who I met playing CS) and I were on a vacation in Spain where they told me to wake up and control my life as they could feel I was falling apart because of the work.

And so 2019 came around and whimp gave me the best news of my life as he asked me to join as head coach of the main team, and help develop the team into becoming the best in the world. So I quit my job, put my apartment for sale which I had bought only six months earlier and moved back to Copenhagen where my family and friends also live.

x: Can you talk to us about Campus Vejle Sportscollege and what your involvement was?

mithR: Campus Vejle Sportscollege is a high school which also has its own sports college program. There are footballers, cyclists, dancers, and esport-athletes who pay a monthly fee in order to be a part of the sports college program. It’s mostly for professional athletes, though many of the students are playing on an amateur level. My title at the school was ”Esport consultant”, though I was working full time as head of the esport department at the sports college. I have been using the last four years of my life teaching CS:GO, at a boarding school called ”Højer Designefterskole”, before Campus Vejle, where I helped the school grow from 55 students, to 130 students (60 of them being esport students) within two years.

As head of the esport department I have had the responsibility of the everyday development as well as planning, making sure the students did well in school as well as planning when the CS:GO training should be, what curriculum they should be going through as well as having meetings with local politicians, schools, event organizers and esport clubs about everything from contract guiding, tournament planning, renovating the 14$ million new esport center and more.

Life As A Coach

Life as a coach is not a solitary job. Though much of the responsibility and pressure lies on the coach's shoulders, mithR is not alone in his quest to turn North into the best team in the world. Teams are often accompanied by a multitude of support staff, such as a physical trainer, dietitian/nutritionist, sports/performance psychologist, and more.

It is however mithR's responsibility to combine all of the moving parts, as well as care for critical components of the teams success. Every moment the players are at the North training facility, mithR is with them ensuring they are focused on the task at hand. After the players leave, mithR's job is not over as preparations begin for the next day.

[M] Zowie EC2-A [K] SteelSeries Apex M500 [H] SteelSeries Arctis Pro GameDAC [Mp] SteelSeries QcK Heavy

x: What are your set responsibilities/duties as head coach?

mithR: My responsibilities are pretty much everything that has to do with the team. I make individual training programs for every player as well as organizing the team practice. I make sure to arrange the bootcamp and activities that we must work on during those days. That could be team building, going to the gym and having a motivational speaker visiting us, etc.

I also make sure to have the evaluation ready at every practice and finding opponents. I read our statistics from our practices to see how many T/CT rounds we get on each map to see which maps we need to focus more on, and which maps we are good on.

x: Ave said that the responsibility of not having won many significant titles or becoming a top team rested on his shoulders - do you feel that same pressure?

mithR: Pressure is a strange thing. I know there are ambitions and that the pressure during failure will be intense. I focus on what’s in front of me, and not on what the community write on public fora, or what the investors of the club think of my results as a coach. If I start focusing on the pressure that surely will come from all sides, I will lose focus, and I simply won't allow that to happen. With that said I would rather have all the pressure on my shoulders so that they can fully focus on the game.

x: Can you talk to us about your typical daily schedule as a coach?

mithR: I believe in a four phase system that goes like this: Development, Walkthrough, Practice, and Evaluation. Our typical day starts at 09:00 where we go to the gym and where our personal trainer takes us through a specific program. After that we meet at the office and go through yesterday's practice where we talk about our focus points, specific rounds from our games and from that we discuss and create new focus points that we have to work with. After the evaluation phase we move into the Development phase, which can be everything from finding a new boost, to creating a new pistol round or watching a demo from another team in order to find inspiration. We use around 30-45 minutes to walk through our development and then we play games. During our games I note down specific rounds that I want to discuss, but I’m very careful about the balance with positive/negative feedback. Negative feedback needs to be followed up with positive feedback as well, which creates motivation and wanting to work harder.

As the team goes home, I stick around for another hour to create clips from practice and prepare tomorrow's evaluation. I want to be the last one who leaves the office if possible in order to give the players the opportunity to catch me on a personal level and talk to me privately if they need to.

x: How closely do you work with the personal trainer, nutritionist, psychologist, and other support staff for the team to help develop the players?

mithR: We are pretty close with FC Copenhagen and have been visiting their nutritionist for a walk-through on how they do it in professional football. We are currently looking for a sports psychologist that can work closely with the team, and who can help us release some of the pressure I can feel has been affecting the players for some time. Our personal trainer in the gym is there three times a week and just finished making individual programs for us, so we can manage our training while traveling. The season just started for us, and we can feel that the busy traveling will start now.

Coaching & Development with mithR

North has been relatively consistent since their inception in 2017. Placing regularly in the top 10, North does have difficulty clinching top 3 finishes, with only one Premier win to date. It seems the team has had difficulty crossing that last hurdle to becoming a regular top contender for every tournament they enter.

It can be difficult to push a team past this last barrier. Whether it is fundamental in-game skills, strategy, tactics, mindset and mental fortitude, endurance, or a mixture of all of the above - figuring out the crux at such a high level is difficult. For some, impossible. Many teams have risen to a professional level quickly, combining amazing in-game skill and a few other ingredients. But when it comes to finally being on the main stage and playing for gold, they just can't cut it.

North's problem seems obvious, at least to mithR. It comes down to mindset and mental fortitude, and a little bit of strategy and tactics. He says the players are highly skilled and have the pieces, they just don't believe in themselves and bring all of their parts together as one cohesive unit. So that has been his focus.

North during a physical training session.

x: You took over from ave just over two months ago, how have you settled in with the players and the rest of the organization?

mithR: Back at the start of 2018, I had a meeting with whimp and ave about their Academy project. That was when ave was moving up to become head coach with the main team. I have made speeches in front of thousands of people and met with many great people during my time in esports, but that meeting was (and still is) the most nervous I have ever been, as they have been my idols since I started playing CS 1.6 back in 2006. Imagine sitting at a ”secret” meeting and not being able to tell anyone about it, or even take a picture with two legends like them.

When whimp called me to ask if I could join the team in London for the GG.Bet Ice Challenge I knew that I would have to meet all the players face-to-face before going. I have already worked with players such as cadiaN and Valde some years ago, but it’s still important to me that I get to know all the players, and they get to see who I am as a person. I told them about my values and my expectations to the job, and wanted to know their point-of-view about how things had been going with ave, and what they wanted to change.

It’s important to me to create a good work-environment where I am, so it has been important to me to greet everyone at the office, and giving everyone a high-five every morning when I arrive in, as well as wishing everyone a good weekend when I leave on Fridays.

x: What have you been doing in the initial months to start helping North perform better?

mithR: In order to help the team to perform I need to create a personal relationship with every player. Helping them to become motivated after a long period of bad results, despite hard work isn’t easy, but its Alpha-omega for me to create that inner fire within every player in order for them to get to new heights on an individual level as well as helping the team grow to become what we are all dreaming about. Helping them to start believing in themselves as well as in each other is what I am trying to most of all right now, as well as adding some more structure to the way we practice as well as a lot of in-game specific stuff. That could be having some more structure in the way we get map control as T, or how we react in certain scenarios as CT.

x: What were some of your expectations in terms of the work you thought you would need to do to help transform North into a world class team?

mithR: We have to be realistic about where we are right now. Our dream is to become the best team in the world, and the esport organization has high ambitions around this team. Despite having the right mindset and dreaming big, we have to realize that we are currently ranked #13 in the world, and before talking about becoming a top 5 team in the world, or knocking Astralis off the throne, we have to give it our everything to become rank #12 first. We are going to take one step at a time, and slowly, but surely show the fans that we are indeed a world class team.

x: How close were your expectations to reality when you joined? What are some of the unexpected challenges you faced/are facing while coaching North?

mithR: I had some expectations that the players would be at a really high skill level and when it came to the way the team would play as a team, and that I would be challenged in my tactical knowledge of the game. And taking over from a legend like ave I expected that it would be extremely hard to give the players tactical input that they could use. It has actually surprised me that I think my tactical approach of the game is what is needed to move the team to new heights and I am sure that together with cadiaN’s very loose style of calling we will find an amazing combination that can have a great impact on the game. I have been super impressed with his style of calling, and have been talking to him about how to take some of his best spontaneous ideas and work some of my structure into them. He has been super open about doing so.

My biggest challenge with the team so far has been that I came into a team that worked as five individuals. There was a lot of ”I” and very little ”we” mentality in the team. Setting up table tennis at the office, working together with the staff and doing social activities during our bootcamp has helped a lot, but we haven’t crossed the finish line yet. But we are getting there for sure.

x: It sounds like the team has operated more like a PUG than an actual team. Has it been difficult to try and bring the players closer together and play as a cohesive team?

mithR: I don’t think the team has operated more like a PUG than an actual team, but they have been missing some of the structure that I am coming in with for sure. I don’t think it has been too hard to bring the team closer together, and the structure is coming along nicely. I think most of the players have been missing the structure but haven’t been able to explain to their teammates what they wanted. My focus has been to find the natural good things they do ”on the fly”, write it down and create a structure around it. That way it’s not me who is dictating what to do. It gives the players a feeling that they are creating the structure themselves. Talk about inception.

x: How much of your time is split between coaching North as a team and working with players 1v1?

mithR: It’s hard for me to set a specific time. I use the time that is necessary. I try to meet personally with the players at least once a month. Lately I have been out eating at a restaurant with kjaerbye to catch up with how he is doing. I have been out eating brunch with Valde to hear about his life. I have been drinking coffee with cadiaN to make a tactical plan on how we are going to take over the world. I went to the gym with gade, talking about his progression and role within the team. I had lunch and went for a walk with aizy and talked about how he wants to get back to his old self where he was the most hyped player in the country. My 1v1 sessions are mostly about acknowledging my players and letting them know that I am here for them, but also to make sure that they have balance in their life, which is super important in order for them to perform. We try to create an individual list of things they can focus on, and then we discuss it at our next meeting to hear how the last month has been going.

The Future & Beyond with mithR

North is now under much needed new leadership. With a renewed focus and energy, the team already seems to be performing to expectation. It will undoubtedly take some time and a few major competitions under the teams belts in order for them to find their footing, but all signs point to good things ahead for the Danish organization.

All eyes are on mithR to take the young Danish talents and forge them into the world's greatest CS:GO team. With recent additions of gade and cadiaN adding a little maturity and experience to the team, it is an exciting time to be a North CS:GO fan.

The future looks bright with mithR at the helm.

x: Given the current competitive landscape, what are your thoughts on tournament/league scheduling for teams?

mithR: I haven’t really tried the busy life of having 100+ traveling days every year yet. Right now, everything is exciting, but I can see that having breaks between tournaments will be necessary, and I can understand why a team like Astralis is skipping so many tournaments. We are in a different situation than they are, so we need to attend as many big tournaments as possible in order to grind points for the world ranking. Only thing right now is that there are so many huge tournaments that it’s hard to have even a couple of days off before you need to start practicing again.

x: Are you doing anything in your personal time to help improve your capabilities as a coach?

mithR: I’m reading a lot on how to improve my rhetoric and my articulation, as well as reflecting a lot on my approach to each individual. I make a lot of mistakes, but I constantly think about what I should have done differently, and I talk to my dad a lot who used to be a football coach on how to approach different situations. I also do a lot of sparring with whimp in order to discuss everything I do, and how I should react to different things.

x: What do you see as the role of a coach in esports today?

mithR: The role of a coach has surely developed since I tried coaching the first time some years ago. As the years go by, you see how many players are retiring and move on to coaching instead. You see how players like THREAT helped NiP right when he started coaching. Imagine some day when players like NEO, HUNDEN, Gob b, FalleN, Ex6TenZ etc decide to step down. Imagine them coaching.

x: Do you feel this role will develop into something else in the future?

mithR: I think it’s hard to put word on how the role is going to develop over time. As the game works right now with timeouts, it’s hard to have a huge impact during official games, but my job is to win during practice, so the players can win during official games.

x: Are there any coaches you currently think are doing an exceptional job, or that you look to for inspiration or even talk to regularly about coaching?

mithR: I don’t really have that big of a network regarding coaching, but I have looked up to zonic since I started playing back in 2006. I would love to talk to coaches like zews, adreN, kakafu and peacemaker in order to hear how they do things, but I think that coaching is still at a pretty new state, where it has to be invented. I feel confident that I am doing something right, and I can feel from my players that they like the way I am handling things right now. With that said I would love to have a forum where I could discuss ways of coaching with other coaches in order to become even better. It’s super exciting.

x: What is the biggest thing holding back North from becoming the best CS:GO team in the world right now?

mithR: Faith and structure. The way the team has been doing during the last half of 2018 as well as at the minor has affected the team greatly. It’s really hard to believe that you are capable of performing if your expectations of yourself and your team gets shattered over and over again in the tournaments where you need to perform.

x: What are your expectations for 2019 for North?

mithR: I think there is a difference between what my expectations are, and what the community and organization expect. There’s the ultimate goal, the part-goals and the 2019 goals. I try to take one game at the time and win it. If I focus too much on what the community thinks we should have as goals, or where the organization and investors think we should be at the end of 2019, I start losing focus on where we are now and what we need to do in order to improve for tomorrow.

All photos and media provided courtesy of North.

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