Who are you and what you are currently doing?
My name is Ilias Pajoheshfar. I’m 20 years old and currently studying coaching at university in London. I’m an esports coach focused on performance. I also started a coaching organisation called Clash Zone.
How did you get involved in esports?
I got involved in esports through being a player. I was high ranking in both Overwatch and League of Legends and really enjoyed competing. After being a player, I became a coach and got more and more involved.
Why did you want to become a coach?
I wanted to become a coach because I wanted to help people. In the early days, everywhere I looked I would see coaches concerned with making some easy money and never really met anyone who cared deeply about the individual and their development, if I’m being honest.
I struggled with my mental health and esports was really something that kept me going; because of that I figured out that I can’t be the only one in that position.
Progress made me happy and I realised that playing video games and being involved in esports gave you extremely valuable life skills. I managed to transfer them into my personal life, career and more. If I could help others and be a kind of supportive guide on the individual’s developmental journey I could use my experiences to help people overcome barriers in their lives which may have been stopping them from achieving greatness.
It allowed me to lead and inspire people to be better, not to give up but most importantly dream as big as possible.
It may be scary to go for an unrealistic dream, but it is both necessary and very possible. It was my hope that having a coach to support you and help you will essentially help people feel like they have permission to chase their biggest dream, and go for the best-case scenario in life.
As a 16-year-old, I wanted to be the best coach in the world and allow everybody to have access to my coaching; I wanted to make an impact, and as a 20-year-old that is still my life goal.
What characteristics do you think makes a good coach in esports?
Passionate, confident, knowledgeable, motivated to improve (not by money), resilient, self-assured, compassionate, caring, kind and adaptable.
From your experience, what are the most common issues/problems esports athletes encounter when trying to improve their game?
Happiness and enjoyment are important. If you are choosing a career and working, you should be doing it out of love and passion rather than only necessity.
Esports is an unstable environment, just like traditional sports, where if you have a bad run of games or look like you’ve peaked you could easily be replaced.
Whilst unstable, there is a clear correlation between hard work and results, and players usually understand that. The issue comes when working hard isn’t the healthiest thing for the player anymore. Players must work hard to keep their place in their squad and not let down their team.
The games change every other week and new strategies and meta picks emerge. It is a constant learning and mastering cycle for the top athletes in the world; it can be stressful and exhausting.
When players don’t have healthy ways of dealing with these problems and feel pressured to keep playing they can find themselves unable to meet the demands. This extends to most levels of play. There was a common belief that the more you play, the more you improve.
While this is true to a certain point, there is a time where it becomes unhealthy. A player in Platinum 1 in League of Legends may play three games in the hope of climbing to Diamond 4 but instead drop down to Plat 2.
In many cases, the player will feel like they need to get back up to Plat 1 before they stop playing. Not dissimilar to how a gambling addict may look to win the money they lost back before quitting. Tilt occurs, and players make decision based on emotions and impulse rather than rationally though thought and logic.
In some sense, it can exacerbate existing problems such as depression and anxiety if steps are not taken to prevent stress and tilt. At the same time, esports is often the cure for some of these problems if the right measures are put in place.
Athletes and players must be able to motivate themselves and find the games enjoyable otherwise it becomes unsustainable.
The best way to play is by making sure everything that is important to you is in order. The happier you are outside of the game, the better you will do inside of it!
I honestly think many players don’t make it because they quit too early, but you can’t blame them when they might not necessarily know how to sustain a healthy lifestyle whilst grinding for what they believe will make their dreams come true.
What’s your favourite esport and why?
That is a difficult question… I love many esports and enjoy watching them too. For me, my favourite would have to be League of Legends, closely followed up by CSGO and possibly Hearthstone or FIFA.
I love League of Legends because of the unpredictability. The players are all very skilled and there are so many aspects to the game. We know the major objectives and watching an esports game is like watching a movie where you know some thrills are guaranteed but most of them occur unexpectedly and involve incredible mechanical skill, flawless combos and inspiring team play.
Who is your favourite esports player and why?
Without a doubt my favourite player must be SKT Faker. Faker has been on the scene for a considerable amount of time and while his team may have been inconsistent, he has always been seen as one of the best players in the world.
He is respectful towards his opponents but has a clear confidence which I love. I enjoy watching him play and he was one of the reasons why I kept working hard to grow.
What’s your greatest achievement in esports?
My greatest achievement in esports is probably coaching Pakistan at the Asian Games. It was a team riddled with problems and in the short time I spent with them we made immense progress in their play and their attitudes towards the game, life and each other. I loved my team and with the right support from their organisation and if I had more time with them before the tournament, I’m confident we could have finished higher.
What’s a fun fact about you that no one else knows about?
I am one of Kick It Out’s Next 25 leaders in the Sports Industry / I listen to cinematic music 80% of the time.
If you were a mad scientist and could create the perfect esports athlete, what characteristics would they have?
If you’re disciplined, emotion doesn’t impact how you act or play, and your decisions are educated and rational. Someone who consistently works hard and improves, is dedicated to their craft but also understanding that they need to do it in the healthiest way.
Someone who dreams big and thinks about how they’ll get there after. They don’t make their dream more “realistic” or make it easier to attain based on expectation, they understand their vision and take steps towards it.
They can visualise their goals and make them happen, regardless of how big or crazy others may think it is.
I also think that someone who beat adversity is in a better position to help others. Whether they faced discrimination because of their gender, orientation or race, or they are struggling with mental health problems or anything else, I believe they will be strong enough mentally not just to keep going but to also empower others to continue in pursuit of their dreams.
What are your top tips for players wanting to improve their performance?
My top tips for players wanting to improve would be have fun, enjoy the process, and don’t rush.
If you focus on where you are now and being the best that you can be in the current moment, you will end up where you want to be.
Don’t worry or stress about things that you have no control over; if there’s nothing you do can change it, then why worry? It won’t help. Only queue if you’re okay with losing. Games should not be life or death situations and the outcome isn’t just the result of the game but rather what you take from it. If you learn from one mistake every single game you’ll make less mistakes. Allow yourself to fail.
Motivational quote to live by:
“Everybody comes to a point in their life when they want to quit. But it’s what you do in that moment that determines who you are.”David Goggins