Experts' corner

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Zach Lesage

A Day in the Life of a Pokemon Coach

Zach strolls through the often secretive world of coaching and highlights how it can make you a more successful player!

06/12/2018 by Zach Lesage

Your Journey Starts Here, Trainer

What’s up 60 Cards readers? As some of you may or may not know, I consider myself to be the most premier coach in Pokémon. While this article is not meant to be a bragging piece or a sales boost, it is meant to showcase a side of the game that is often overlooked. As a Pokémon coach and as the owner of the Poke Academy, I look at the game from a completely different aspect than most other members of the community. Throughout this article, I will explain why coaching is worthwhile, what the aspects that I specialize in, and what other various aspects of the business might be interesting to you. Whether you are for coaching or against it, the benefits do exist and they will be shared throughout this article. Let’s move into why coaching works:

Why Coaching Works!

If you have been playing the game for the past few years, you have have heard the discussion sprout up about coaching from time to time. While I can’t confirm that my brother, Jay Lesage, and I are the reason for that -- the time line definitely works in our favour. Collectively, coaching has brought out the best in many players and it has helped them achieve some of their goals that we have set up with them. It has also gone on to turn fantastic players into Championship Point farming machines, specifically in the Juniors and Seniors age categories. For example, Bodhi R., a Junior Division player ended the 2016-2017 season at 17th place in North America. If you are any average player, you would see that he received an invite to the World Championships so what more could he ask for? That is the difference between the views of some readers, Bodhi’s parents, and the mentality of the coaches.

After Bodhi’s parents contacted me, we worked on a seasonal plan, and thus the 2017-2018 season has begun! Between many hours of play testing, deck building, player tweaking, and heart-to-heart talks, this is what Bodhi has accomplished so far this season: 

Regional Championships 

  • Liverpool, UK Regional Championships - Top 4
  • Fort Wayne, IN Regional Championships - Top 4
  • Daytona Beach, FL Regional Championships - Top 8
  • Vancouver, BC Regional Championships - Top 8
  • Memphis, TN Regional Championships - Top 8
  • Dallas, TX Regional Championships - Top 16
  • Collinsville, IL Regional Championships - Top 16
  • Costa Mesa, CA Regional Championships - Top 8
  • Portland, OR Regional Championships - Top 8
  • Charlotte, NC Regional Championships - Top 8
  • Salt Lake City, UT Regional Championships - Top 8
  • Toronto, ON Regional Championships - Top 2
  • Roanoke, VA Regional Championships - Top 2
  • Madison, WI Regional Championships - Top 16

 

Special Events 

  • Mexico City, MX Special Event - Champion

 

International Championships

  • Sydney, AU Oceania International Championships - Top 2
  • São Paulo, BR LATAM International Championships - Top 2

 

Bodhi is now the highest ranked player, globally, in any division! To think less than a year ago that he did not make Day 2 of Worlds, to being the highest ranked player in Juniors, shows the success of coaching (and his dedication). While you may be thinking that Bodhi’s story may be the needle in the hay stack, there are countless other players who have similar success stories. Whether the people who reach out are looking for help learning the game, obtaining a World Championship Invite, or are looking to become the best -- we are eager to help.

While I am unable to pinpoint what each individual coach in the game offers, let’s take a moment to see what the PokeAcademy offers its clients:

What Does Coaching Offer?

Here are SOME examples of what coaching can offer:

  • advanced peer-to-peer gameplay via PTCGO or 'real' decks either online or in person
  • confidential help via online/messaging services such as Facebook, Messenger, Twitter, SnapChat, SMS Text, Skype and/or Discord
  • step-by-step proper play through procedures to maximize winning percentages
  • proper meta game analysis and proper deck information
  • enhanced deck-list help and/or deck coaching capabilities
  • in-person advice and guidance at tournaments or using a digital medium to support clients during and throughout events
  • advice on travel plans, breaking even with financial plans, selling cards, buying cards, etc.
  • flexible availability to fit into your lifestyle for lessons
  • detailed information about sessions can be provided upon request

 

The shorter version and most basic way to describe our service(s) is that we help enhance a player's skills thoroughly to bring out their maximum potential playing the Pokémon TCG.

Let’s actually break down some of these offerings into fleshed out sections so that you can understand what we offer in full detail.

Play Testing

Have you ever wanted to test your Ultra Necrozma-GX / Malamar deck against a Buzzwole / Buzzwole-GX / Lycanroc-GX deck because all your friends no longer want to play that match-up with you? Maybe you want a second opinion? Maybe you want to know a specific match-up or you want to try out a new match-up? Maybe your testing group says you don’t meet up to their standards or maybe they don’t meet up to YOUR standards! Don’t worry, coaching should help alleviate any and all of these issues. How do we do it?

Our foundation of coaches starts with a premise of having well-grounded players who put in the effort on their time so that you don’t need to worry about getting all that information. We have testing networks that consist of the best players in the game, create standardized deck lists, and build some of the most consistent decks to test against. For example, if I had a session right now and you wanted to play against the newest Goomy deck or Attacking Hoopa deck -- I have that information readily available. Maybe you want to test against some non-linear decks, well, I have Greninja-GX / Hoopa, Decidueye-GX / Naganadel-GX, and Tapu Koko spread all set to be played. Sometimes you want to have a two hour sesh just playing against the latest Regional Championship winning Buzzwole / Buzzwole-GX / Lycanroc-GX deck -- WE TOTALLY GOT YOU!

Our hand-picked coaches will figure out where you need to grow, choose match-ups that will help you against your local field, and get to testing with you as soon as possible. Sometimes a match will be a simple play test with some minor gestures of help and other times it will take one hour for a single game, but you feel like you acquired tremendous knowledge throughout. Our coaches diligently work with you to make sure that you are well tested, learn the match-ups, get the hang of the decks, and become the best you. Sometimes testing isn’t enough, though; sometimes you have questions while you are at a tournament -- we also help with that too.

Guidance

Ok, so you got a coach and you have been getting prepared for your League Cup for a month now -- you are at the League Cup and you feel hopeless. You message all of your friends, but they are at a Regional Championships on the other side of the country -- WHAT DO YOU DO?!?! You can always hit up your coach for that last minute boost of confidence, that last piece of advice, or someone to be there as a friend for you. Maybe you are at the upcoming North American International Championships in Columbus, Ohio and you need to know when is an appropriate time to ask for an Intentional Draw. Most of our coaches play the full circuit and will actually be at the tournament that you are attending. At most Regional Championships, I am busy in between rounds mentoring clients, helping with confidence slumps, giving last minute advice, and handing out high-fives for successes. It is completely within the nature of the game being played and it all comes with the title; guidance is the core of our business.

Jumping back into something that appeals to concepts within the game, let’s go over how sequencing of cards can be offered as an aid.

Sequencing of Cards

You open your hand and you see that you have a Brooklet Hill, a Max Elixir, an Float Stone, an N, a Fighting Energy, a Buzzwole-GX, and a Remoraid. Obviously in this scenario, you are playing some kind of Buzzwole Variant. Oh wait, your opponent had a mulligan -- TWICE! You draw an extra two cards, a Choice Band and an Ultra Ball. What do you do? Are you sure you know how to play this hand out? Let me show you how I would assess this hand going into the game:

So my game plan going into this hand is to maximize the value that I get out of this hand entirely. There are two choices total on who to start with, Buzzwole-GX or Remoraid. Considering that the deck would likely rather play the Float Stone on the Remoraid due to Octillery having a higher Retreat Cost than most other Pokémon in the deck, that is a focal point. The Max Elixir in the hand is also slightly more telling because it is ideal to nab that extra Energy attachment on the Buzzwole-GX. That being said, it is wise to look at all options in your opening hand and to treat each play like a piece of a puzzle. In this situation, I would opt to start with the Remoraid, play the Buzzwole-GX on my Bench, and keep the game state open. But wait, there are still other cards in your hand...

In most circumstances, it is wise to play Brooklet Hill before other cards because it allows you to search through your deck. Why is searching through your deck important? It allows you to see which vital cards are in your Prize Cards, it helps you do a quick inventory to double check if your upcoming plan in the game will work, and it GIVES you information. In this situation, it is wise to search out an important card in the deck, such as Diancie PRISM STAR, to ‘thin’ Cards out of the deck. This strategy allows you to have a higher probability of drawing into important cards which will boost your chances of winning that game. Speaking about probabilities, now that we have taken a card out of our deck, we have a higher probability of drawing into an Energy with Max Elixir. WAIT! This was the trap, you can still do MORE with your hand. You can use that Ultra Ball in your hand to search out ANOTHER card and quickly increase your chances for that Energy from Max Elixir again.

This is a basic situation that occurs often in games and it can leave many players stumped on what to properly do with their hand. While this situation might sound specific, it is the backbone of playing the game and repetition will help players identify the proper way to sequence their cards. During sessions, notes are taken, plays are spoken about, and the general skill level is risen. Let’s check out something else that we offer, meta game knowledge.

Meta Game Knowledge

Sometimes players know how to play the game, but they sometimes pick the wrong decks for the wrong meta game for their deck. A perfect example of my meta game expertise is when I played Hoopa, a deck that was forgotten about since Portland, at the recent Madison Regional Championships. The deck was considered ‘dead’, but my testing team found a way to make the deck work in the current meta game and it ended up netting me some solid Championship Points. While this example is specific to me, with some limited information about your upcoming tournament, I can help tailor a play that SHOULD help get you closer to the top. There are many circumstances of the best deck in the format getting outright countered or experimental decks that take the entire cake. We learn the meta game through our extensive testing, provide the trends that we see for any age division, and we help pick a deck that pairs well to your given meta game.

Sometimes clients need more assistance though and we always offer the best ways for players to see success. The next category of our offerings helps out with planning tournaments, financial viability, and the best way to acquire cards.

Seasonal Assistance

With some clients left stumped, I figured it’s best to share information with others based on myself being self sufficient in this game for over a decade. Throughout the season, I try to create a plan with clients that maximizes their chances to achieve goals within the season that range from winning League Cups, obtaining a World Championship Invite, and even becoming a recipient of Travel Awards by being one of the best in their region. Sometimes there are concerns of flying to an exotic location, deciding between East / West coast Regionals, and the proper number of tournaments to attend per season. Based on the data that I collect, I can help make an educated decision that will aid clients on the roller coaster of a season that Pokémon throws at us each year.

On top of all of this, I can also help discuss hotel options, ways to fly cheaply, and the best way to acquire cards. All of this is somewhat related to Pokémon, but it is definitely related to Pokémon when it comes down to making the tough decisions. I have helped players with large card purchases, decide the viability of expensive cards such as Tropical Beach, and to show the options to get to exciting Regional Championship locations.

In the next session, I will go over how coaching can fit into your lifestyle and how we make it work.

Flexibility

So let’s say you are looking to get coaching for one of your kids and you live out in Singapore, but there are no coaches available in your local area? Well, this is where the PokeAcademy shines because we will do the best we can to complement your time zone with one of our coaches who can actively meet your availability. I have personally coached players from Latin America, North America, Europe, and the Oceania region all within the same day. With coaching allowing some select players to actively turn it into a career, you would be surprised to know that a player from Toronto could actively coach a player in Berlin to help them get ready for their next tournament. If a certain coach cannot properly meet the needs of a client, there are other coaches who can help fill in the void to make sure that coaching is as seamless of a process as it needs to be. Furthermore, it is possible for coaches to coach in person at major events that they are attending which can further heighten some certain strengths within the game.

Overall, coaching is not meant to be fussy, it is meant to bring out the best in your abilities. While I cannot speak on behalf of every coach in the game, I can assure you that PokeAcademy does the best it can to accommodate to players WORLDWIDE. Getting into the next step of our coverage, I do want to talk about the notes that we take when we play the game. While sometimes there are no notes taken based on the lesson, notes can be requested and here is an example of real session notes that were actually taken recently with the name omitted:

Session Notes

The goal of this session was to get him to to become comfortable with his ZoroPod deck. During the session, he asked some great questions, provided his thought process, and seemed engaged. He used all available resources to gain leverage in the game. His use of determining numbers by using math was also visibly strong during our session. Overall, he played fairly well, I just want to work on his confidence level to make more decisions without guidance.

ZoroPod vs. BuzzRoc

The match-up was selected by the client because he wanted to play-test against a deck that he had majority Weakness to. We had an open discussion based game with myself screen sharing to show where my plays were coming from. He had a quick start with Mewtwo EVO which 2HKOd my Buzzwole-GX early within the game. He made a strong play the turn he Knocked Out Buzzwole-GX by using a Field Blower to remove a Float Stone from my Remoraid.

His foresight in that play left me option-less for a turn and gave him an immediate advantage within the game. He properly analyzed that Mew-EX could Knock Out my freshly Beast Ring’d Buzzwole-GX by copying either Riotous Beating or First Impression. During this turn, he had a minor stumble where he was tunnel visioned into discarding multiple cards with Trade. I explained that he could use a single Trade at a time and he quickly realized that he was thinking too far in advance.

Unfortunately, he missed the Double Colorless Energy and the Grass Energy to be able to Knock Out my Buzzwole-GX with Mew-EX. My turn consisted of combatting a Zorua with Jet Punch to put myself at four Prize Cards. I went over with The client the importance of Trade again, more with cards such as Professor Sycamore vs. Wimpod (Basic Pokemon for Riotous Beating). He seemed to understand my point of view and pressed on by copying Golisopod-GX’s First Impression to Knock Out my Buzzwole-GX.

I followed up by using a Buzzwole-GX with a Strong Energy, Strong Energy, Choice Band, and a Diancie Prism Star in play to Knock Out his Mew-EX. With both of us at two Prize Cards, he was primed up to take the win by grabbing a few Puzzle of Time by using Trade. Unfortunately, during this process, he Benched a Tapu Koko which meant that he couldn’t Bench his Mew-EX.

We discussed this for a bit, he realized his mistake, and we tried to rectify it the best we possibly could. We changed the win condition to use an Acerola on a damaged Pokémon on the Bench, and use Puzzles of Time. Unfortunately, he missed everything during his last turn that was gone through with guided sequencing, and proceeded to lose the next turn.

Hopefully those session notes provided the detail that goes into each session and that you enjoyed a glimpse into what an actual session might entail. You now may be wondering, is coaching right for you? Let’s find out!

Is Coaching Right For You?

While it may be difficult to achieve your dreams on your own, it can be just as difficult to settle down to finally decide if coaching is right for you. The biggest thing that I like to STRESS to potential clients is that it is quite often a shared experience where both the client and the coach put in tremendous amount of effort to show serious results. At the end of the day, it is usually better to try something new, such as coaching, than to waste an entire season learning the wrong things and picking up bad habits along the way. While coaching does come at a cost in most circumstances, there are some players who actually profit off of the coaching received by winning stipends, cash prizes, and travel awards. While most players will have difficulty to become profitable off of a simple game like Pokémon, it is entirely possible to do so. Coaching can also provide an outlet for a form of entertainment for some clients, a way to grow, and an easy way to network your way into some new friends. Overall, I believe that everyone in this game can get coached on something, including myself, and that there are ALWAYS opportunities to grow as a player and person.

All of these things sound great, but how does one go about selecting a coach? Let’s check out some of my recommendations.

Picking a Coach

Ok, so this article may have seemed to favour the PokeAcademy more than other coaching services, but we might not be the absolute best option for everyone. There are plenty of opportunities for coaches to create a niche market, perhaps a lower price point, a premium experience, they may be local, or there could be other factors. I know that I am one of the most expensive coaches with my personal rate, but I can justify my price point with my success as the most accomplished coach in the game. I would be wary of picking the cheapest option, but like everything, there is always an opportunity to shop around to find the best fit for you. The key thing to do whenever you are getting involved in something new, is make sure that the coach's values line up with yours, find a personality that you like, and realize the offerings that are available. In my opinion, there is a coach out there that will work for anyone -- you never know who they might be, just keep your eyes open.

See Ya Later, Trainer

Well, that’s it for today 60 Cards readers! I hope that this article has helped you shape a positive opinion on coaching and that you learned a bit more about this secretive side of Pokémon at the very least. I can say that being a Pokémon coach has provided me with many joyful moments and I appreciate every single one of my clients who have supported me over the past few years. While I continue to grow in prestige as one of the games elite coaches, I still hold my vision highly to provide a quality service, to treat everyone fairly, and to become an ambassador of the game. While everything sounds jolly all of the time, I do deal with my fair share of meltdowns, poor judge rulings, and pre-tournament jitters for many players -- it comes with the title. Regardless, I don’t foresee myself changing my path anytime soon and I welcome others to become the best them. As for my life outside of coaching, I am still on my ‘world’ tour as a professional Pokémon player so feel free to reach out if I am in your area! This is where I am going to be for the last few weekends of the season:

June 9 - June 10
League Cups in the Gatineau, Quebec Area

June 16 - June 17
Mexico City, Mexico Special Event

June 23 - June 24
Mexico City, Mexico Regional Championships

June 30 - July 1
League Cups in the Greater Toronto, Ontario Area

July 5 - July 8
Columbus, Ohio North American International Championships

As you can see, I am out there doing my best to find compelling content to write about all while chasing my goal of being one of the Top 16 best players in North America. In all this travelling, I have made many new friends so feel free to chat with me at any time. I always enjoy talking to new players, people from around the world, and aspiring Pokemon trainers! For updates on my travel plans, tournament schedule, premium deck lists, strategies, and my most recent articles, feel free to check out and follow my professional Pokemon Twitter @ zlesage_pokemon. Also, remember to give this article a ‘like’ to let me know what you thought of this article - it gives me the motivation needed to write! Thanks for supporting 60 Cards, reading my articles, and watching me grow as a player!

Until next time,
Zach

#TeamCartaMagica #60Cards #PokeAcademy #PlayPokemon #Pokemon

[+22] okko


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