BBG Academy Coach Mike — A never-ending love for esports and journey in assembling the Academy roster

BBG Academy Coach Mike — A never-ending love for esports and journey in assembling the Academy roster

Naim "EnKay" Rosinski

10/21/2021, 6:51:16 PM

Built By Gamers have jumped on the Academy team bandwagon on October 8, 2021. The relatively new team features CSGO’s former prodigy, Jonathan “Jonji” Carey, alongside a former VALORANT roster named The Silk Road.

To the newly announced roster, BBG Academy have added coach Michael Bulostin, or Coach Mike. Mike, as he reveals in the interview, was not just appointed as the coach of the team. He was the one tasked with bringing in the players for BBG’s new Academy team.

We received in-depth answers to some of our questions regarding Mike himself, among others, what experience he brings to the table. Mike also very explicitly described the journey of making the BBG Academy team a reality, his excitement in developing the players professionally, and his thoughts on how viable Academy teams currently are in VALORANT.

Interview with BBG’s Academy Coach Mike

Runitback: Firstly, congratulations on your coaching position at BBG’s Academy VALORANT team. How long have you been working with the team before officially signing with BBG? Or is this a completely new project?

BBG Coach Mike: Thank you! I really appreciate the kind words. This is a relatively new project as far as my involvement as a coach for Silk Road before they, and I, officially signed with BBG.

My first conversation about this opportunity was with Heino (BBG’s director of VALORANT) a couple months ago, and the more we discussed it, the more we liked the idea of starting up an academy project. The early discussions went very well, and so I was introduced to more BBG board members who requested that I come up with a list of candidates to put a team together and present back to the org in my 2nd interview. I was immediately motivated to start reaching out to my network from Premier (semi pro) and Pro Leagues of the CSGO scene to see how everyone was doing, and if they had ever considered a transition into VALORANT. Many of which were honest and simply stated that their hearts were just still set on CSGO and not VALORANT, which I understood and respected highly. So I rapidly shifted my strategy to find already established VALORANT players and teams who had been grinding the game together since its beta.

As my second interview with BBG was fast approaching, I had come up with a couple of options of teams who looked appealing. Meanwhile, I reconnected with an old CSGO friend by the name of ShoukR who pitched me his team’s presentation deck and shared with me their teamplay philosophy, locker room mentality, professionalism, and overall desire to make it to the professional tier 1 scene some day. Of all the teams and individuals that I reached out to, Silk Road’s DNA aligned the best with the goals and vision that I had in mind for an academy team with BBG. They were a core of 3-4 players who had stuck together through thick and thin. After watching many of their scrim and match VODs, I realized this was the perfect team for the project especially once I got a chance to meet their brilliant IGL/smokes player Monsi, skillful duelist/flex FireBallOps, and their intelligent and talented initiator/sentinel flex Khanartist

They already had a coach by the name of Fray who had been focusing mostly on the players’ overall mental health and wellness, and it was evident how important he was to their happiness and success, so I made it a priority to bring him on board as well in my pitch back to the org in my final interview.

So after a few discussions and introductions between the players, Coach Fray, and the org, and the addition of Jonji to the project as he was finalizing his CSGO major RR duties with BNB, it quickly became a no-brainer decision to everyone in the room that this was the right play, and shortly after it was finally settled!

Q: We’re interested to know what your previous experience on the esports scene was before joining BBG. Does that somewhat help you bring something new to the table as the academy team’s coach? 

Coach Mike: I competed in Counter-Strike (CS) 1.6 between 2002-2007, attended many east coast LANs, CPL in Dallas, and even spectated the 2006 ESWC in Paris with my dad which is when I realized esports was my passion. I also grew up playing and coaching travel soccer. In college, I played for my university’s club soccer team, and unfortunately suffered a spell of minor injuries that allowed me to be involved from a coaching capacity more often than playing. While coaching youth and college soccer, I realized that the act of coaching aspiring professional athletes was my calling, and filled my cup so to speak.

In a 7 year period I not only realized the industry I was passionate about (without really knowing what that industry meant at the time of course), but I also realized that coaching was my calling. Who would have thought that about another 7 years later I would be fortunate enough to merge the two into a remarkable combo opportunity?!

After graduating college, I joined the corporate workforce and held many different entry level positions in the IT world and eventually transitioned to a marketing role at a frozen food manufacturer. Thankfully, throughout the years I continued coaching soccer as much as I could.

After several years of being away from the esports scene, I started competing in Counter-Strike Global Offensive in 2013, eventually climbing to ESEA Advanced, Rank G, FPL-C, and participated in many east coast LANs including Tampa Lan and DreamHack Atlanta. I began streaming on Twitch and building YouTube content in 2015 where I built a community of friends who played various competitive titles together, primarily CSGO.

In 2017, I ditched my corporate gig and took the leap of faith into esports when I accepted a position at Boomeo to translate CSGO training content from French to English (for G2 Esports), which led me into more responsibilities of leading the marketing, competitive operations, and community management. At Boomeo, our wonderful team produced CSGO training content with the tier 1 pros, built premium training mods like Duels and Prefire with prizing a competitive operations, and organized activations at international events like DreamHack Summer, ELEAGUE, PGL Major, and more.

Boomeo, CSGO
Boomeo was a comprehensive training platform for CSGO players. It was shutdown in 2017.

During this time, I continued competing in CSGO, and took on coaching and analysis roles for teams to help them improve different areas of their game. After Boomeo, in 2018 I assisted FACEIT’s marketing arm in re-launching the North American FACEIT Pro League through the FPL Circuit (with PreGame, Mythic, and Dust2.us). 

After this launch, in 2019 I interviewed for a position at ESL to manage ESEA’s Product Marketing, where I oversaw digital marketing initiatives for all product deployments, feature updates, sales promos, social media, event announcements, community management, MDL Global Challenges, the Rank S Combine in Las Vegas, etc.

As soon as the VALORANT closed beta was released, I started playing it religiously and competed in some preliminary tournaments, but took a back seat to coach some teams while my main focus was on my responsibilities at ESL. As we rapidly noticed that VALORANT was making a significantly negative impact on the NA CSGO scene, especially on our platform, I had to come to terms that it wasn’t a good look for one of the heads of ESEA to be spending time contributing to our competitor, essentially. 

However, I couldn’t help but feel attracted to the game for many reasons especially as I kept my eyes and ears close to the scene since its inception. Primarily, Riot’s commitment to keeping the landscape fresh by consistently introducing new agents and maps. Secondly, they pay close attention to detail on the desires of the competitive scene by adjusting the meta dials with the appropriate nerfs and buffs. Third, similar to CS, but even more so, I am attracted to the game’s economy (credits + ultimate points) as well as infinite possibilities of perpetually complex scenarios that build an epic storyline over time. Lastly, the impressive amount of teamplay that the game demands and separates decent teams from the best teams. For all of these reasons, and more, it genuinely brings me back to the glory days of my childhood while competing in Counter-Strike 1.6, and catching opponents off guard with meticulously unique theory-crafted meta-breaking strategies, and calculating counter strats.

So to answer your question about whether or not I bring something new to the table as an academy coach, hell yeah! I was born for this!!

Q: How are you feeling with the role of the Academy Coach at BBG? Any initial observations regarding the organization, players, or challenges ahead?

Coach Mike: I am absolutely beyond the moon thrilled and honored to be brought on for the role of VALORANT Academy Coach at Built By Gamers. My initial observations is that there is a tremendous sense of alignment when it comes to what everyone’s responsibilities are here, and how much passion and hard work everyone is putting into this project. From the organization, to the players, to the coaching staff, everyone is genuinely committed to their role, and understands what it takes to achieve greatness.

As for challenges, I think with any opportunity such as this will certainly come with unforeseen hurdles. However, I am convinced that with the support that I’ve experienced from the people involved in this project so far, smoothly overcoming challenges and learning from them is, and will always be a common theme. The way I would describe the productive culture of this team is “nimble yet agile.”

Q: SicK from Sentinels claimed that academy teams don’t make sense in VALORANT due to the lack of events. What’s your take on this claim?

Coach Mike: I am not sure how serious SicK was in his comments on this topic, as he’s even admitted sometimes to being a troll when it comes to opinions on these types of conversations so I will take his claim with a grain of salt. 

For me, it is pretty clear that there are plenty of events that an academy team can compete in that top tier teams do not: Nerd Street Gamers, Knights, Community Gaming, BOOMTV, and plenty more. This allows visibility to orgs and players the chance to grow in the competitive scene. On top of that, it allows orgs to invest in the future which (as we can see with League of Legends) is the future of VALORANT. Once Riot franchises VALORANT, academy teams will become the norm. Starting early allows orgs to build deep rosters for their main team and focus on developing the younger generation. Many TOs have been very flexible with allowing both main and academy teams to compete. We hope this continues to be the case and promotes growth within the community.

Q: Do you think implementing a separate league for T2 teams could be beneficial for the growth of Academy teams? 

Coach Mike: Again, we haven’t run into many instances other than VCT, that haven’t allowed academy teams to show their worth. ​​I think an academy league would be cool, but right now maybe it’s unwarranted. As stated before, there are plenty of tournaments that they can compete in for solid prize pools. Once Riot chooses to franchise, then yes I do believe there should absolutely be an academy league.

Q: BBG brought on a new academy team that is filled with potential. Having a talented academy team as such, what are the main expectations for the roster?

Coach Mike: The main expectation is twofold. First off, to become top tier players that will either play for BBG’s main roster or transition to other T1 teams as they develop while on top of this, competing at a high level with results. The second is to cultivate an identity of young aspiring pros in a healthy environment, and teach these players how to demonstrate professionalism inside and outside the game.

Additionally, content creation will be a marginal focus without impeding on their competitive growth. With my background in the esports industry, I am also tasked with helping the players concentrate on their individual branding and best practices for brand representation. Keep a lookout for behind the scene content of the team traveling, bootcamp and tournament footage, health & wellness podcasts, and more ideas to come! Our hope is to help them capture and archive their tier 2 academy storyline as it progresses to the tier1 pro level. 

Q: One of the players on the team is Jonji who proved to be a force on CSGO teams such as Chaos and Bad News Bears. Despite that, he’s transitioning to a new game. What are you, and perhaps the team, doing to accommodate his transition? 

Jonji has decided to transition to VALORANT after a rather fruitful career in CSGO. Photo Credit: ESL

Coach Mike: Open and honest feedback amongst the players, and the coaching staff has been the key thus far. Jonji brings crazy amounts of FPS knowledge and the fundamental knowledge that comes with years of playing at the top and can share that with the players. Jonji has already picked up the game so quickly, and the sky’s the limit for him. The players have been tremendous in bringing Jonji up to speed on the nuances of VALORANT, but it goes without saying that he brings a level of experience that the players look up to and can quickly learn from him as well. It’s a remarkable relationship that I am excited and honored to be a part of.

Q: Personally for you, what is the goal for the academy team in your mind?

Coach Mike: To cultivate a strong and healthy environment for young professionals to thrive with confidence, where we all hold each other accountable to achieve better versions of ourselves every single day in and out of the server. This team knows how to progress at insane rates and it will show with time.

*Note: Questions and answers may have been modified slightly for the sake of clarity and or brevity.

We thank Mike for his time and wish him, and the new BBG Academy team all the best of luck moving forward. Check out his Twitter, and make sure to stay up to date with BBG’s endeavors in VALORANT.

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Naim "EnKay" Rosinski

An avid competitive FPS lover that started off with covering the Counter-Strike scene and now is bewitched by VALORANT. Covered IEM Katowice 2019 Major and Masters Berlin 2021 in-person and is now conducting interviews on the regular at the VALORANT Champions Tour online press room. If I'm not covering VALORANT news then I'm trying to stay alive in Diamond/Immortal lobbies with Omen. Twitter: @NaimRosinski Email: naim.rosinski@gmail.com