Dota 2

Some tips for coaching

TL;DR: If you're getting in to the new coaching feature, your pupil will learn better and faster if you are patient, limit the amount of information you give them to a few specific ideas, use open-ended questions, and frame corrections as a 'do' rather than a 'don't.'

Hi, I'm 120Macky. I'm not great at Dota (Legend bracket), but I've been a coach and teacher in real life stuff for 15 years. Helping someone learn to love something you love yourself is wonderfully satisfying. Lately, I find myself spending more time coaching new players than actually playing for myself. The new coaching feature is fantastic. I think it has the power to really rejuvenate the game as long as new players are willing to ask for help and as long as the people who give it do so tactfully. A new player is going to be an uncomfortable, overwhelmed, and confused little baby, but a good coach can to a ton to help them over the insane learning curve of this beautiful game. A few guiding principles for coaching and teaching, in Dota and elsewhere –

1. Limit the amount of information you give.

How long did it take you to learn Dota to any degree of competency? It took me a few months, I'd say. When you're coaching, you want to tell them EVERYTHING, but a human mind can only learn so much at a time. If you spend the whole game rattling off every mistake they make or thing they should know, they'll end the session knowing maybe a little more, but usually just feeling overwhelmed and remembering little about what exactly they did wrong. Instead of burying them in a heap of information, focus on the three or four ideas most important to their progress. Give those ideas to them in writing after the game, even if you primarily voice chat. If you're coaching them regularly, revisit those ideas later to be sure the lesson stuck with them. It's much better to have a small amount of information taken to heart than ALL the information heard of briefly and forgotten.

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2. Be patient.

New players are going to be aggravatingly bad. They sit in fountain until after the horn, they'll buy battlefury on CM, they'll accidently die to towers for no reason, they'll buy a second battlefury on CM (even though you JUST TOLD THEM NOT TO YOU MORON), and make any number of other terrible choices. It might seem like they're ignoring you, but it's more often the case that they're just overwhelmed. They're not rude, arrogant, or dumb. They're just new. They might not follow instructions right the first time, but they'll come along eventually. It's natural to be frustrated with them. Staying upbeat and positive will help them enjoy the game enough to keep going.

3. Use open-ended questions.

An open question is a question without a specific correct answer. They encourage critical thought, give you insight to what they do and don't know, and are much friendlier on an ego.

Which of these is easier to hear –

You need to buy MKB to deal with PA.


How are you going to deal with PA's evasion?

It's the same idea – you can counter enemies with items – phrased two ways. Putting it in the form of a question makes them consult their knowledge base. They practice problem solving in a Dota context, rather than having a solution given to them. And besides – there is more than one way to solve most problems.

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Closed questions – where there is a definitive answer – usually come across more as a quiz.

4. Frame corrections as specific, positive actions.

Research shows people are more likely to follow instructions toward a positive, rather than a negative. For example, another two corrective statements:

Don't take Roshan without vision. It's not safe.


Place vision, then take Roshan. There's a good ward spot .

The coach is giving the same advice in both statements, but the second encourages the player to do something specific – that is, place vision. On the other hand, there are a thousand ways to follow the first instruction. They can go back to farming, stack camps, do anything except take Roshan, and still follow that advice. It's not enough to tell them what not to do. It's more helpful to say what more to do or what to do instead.

Happy coaching!


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