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Legendary Dota 2 player, Chai "Mushi" Yee Fung, has hung up his pro player boots for the life of a coach.
First joining TNC as a coach in June 2021, he soon left for Boom Esports in October last year. His results with Boom have proven his mettle as coach, with the team securing a spot at the upcoming Arlington Major by coming in first in the competitive Southeast Asia region.
He also showed he still had the chops as a player despite retiring to stand-in for Roland "skem" Ong for two victorious Division I games against T1 during week 5 of the recent Dota Pro Circuit Tour 3.
In a sit down interview with Yahoo Esports SEA, Mushi shares with us what drew him to make the move to coaching, and how he's going to be around for the next five years.
Let’s start from the beginning – prior to this coaching role, you were a player with Team SMG. There were rumours of internal turmoil in that team which caused you to leave the team in the end. What exactly happened?
I made the decision that the year I was in Team SMG would be my final year as a player. I said that regardless of the result in that year, I would be switching to the coach role after.
We asked MidOne to join us in SMG but we were not able to gel together in a short amount of time. At the end of the day, the management/team decided that it was more important to have MidOne and as a result, I left.
It was already near TI (The International) and it would take too much time to find and gel with another team. So I decided to begin my plan early and make the switch to the coach role.
How long have you thought about being a coach and why so?
After losing my chance to qualify for TI9, Mineski, who had qualified, then asked me to be their coach for that event.
The result was not ideal but I personally liked the job and my time as a coach. Personally, I would like to try out many different things. I have been a professional player for more than a decade and I would like to spend some time exploring and learning new things.
How did you feel emotionally after making the decision to switch to a coaching role?
There was no real special emotion.
Humans should always be flexible and be able to face any type of situation and challenges. There were no real emotions like sadness and it was all very natural since being a coach is still very much within the plan, just that it had started ahead slightly.
Do you enjoy being a coach?
I do enjoy being a coach. Learning new things is always quite a challenge and I genuinely think that it is much harder being a coach than a player.
There are a lot more things to do and to learn. I love challenges and I am a very competitive person, so the harder the challenge, the more fun it is. I will attempt to do this for at least the next five years.
You mentioned that you will still be in esports the next five years, but is this on the assumption that you are still having a good time? If something goes wrong and you do not enjoy being a coach as much, would you still find an esports job first as a priority or would you explore other fields?
I do not think there is a possibility of me doing badly or doing it unhappily.
If that would happen, I think that it is a very personal issue and since it is personal, I won’t be considering whether I am happy or performing badly but rather, how can I do better.
So this problem will not happen.
The reason why I say I will be here for five more years is because you only live once and I do not want to be tied down to just esports.
I would like to explore a lot of different things, achieve a decent result in whatever I do and then move to another field that interests me.
I am unsure about my future but I can confidently say that I will be focused on esports for the next five years, and try to be the best coach possible.
You were previously a player and I am sure you have gone through your fair share of coaches. Every coach has a different style. Can you let us know the type of coach you have gone through before when you were a player?
I have gone through a few coaches but the one I remember the most is 71.
71 coached me in DK and Mineski. You can say that he has been my coach for two years.
He is very much an in-game coach and puts heavy emphasis on strategy and playstyle. He doesn’t really care too much about players’ feelings and whether they ended up fighting with one another.
How about you? What is your style of coaching?
I think both sides (in-game and out-of-game) are very important. I cannot just emphasise one and fully ignore the other.
I think that everything is related to one another and having issues in one aspect may cause unexpected problems with the other as well.
Bad mentality, misplaced motivation, or arguments ending in fights will slow down the team’s progress. As a result, the line between improving and stagnating will get very blurry.
Over the years, a lot of people know you as a very strict person. Are you the same as a coach?
I think it is best that my players evaluate me on that. I think it is unfair that I evaluate myself.
Despite that, I think it is important to condition the player’s mind to be coachable.
You mentioned that you are still learning to be a coach. Which part do you think you excel in and which aspect do you think you need to improve on?
I think that there are a lot of things I can improve on, especially the way I speak.
Because words are a very powerful thing and I was not properly educated and did not learn this skill. The way I speak can a little bit crude, and on top of that, English is also not my strongest language.
On the other hand, I do think that I have a great understanding of the players I have in my team, and being a former pro player, I am also knowledgeable about the game. I have a lot of ideas and opinions about the game.
SEA as a region over the past couple of years has never been overly competitive. Back then when you were in Fnatic, it wasn’t tough to dominate Southeast Asia. However, the situation has now changed and it is no longer like that. What do you think about the competitiveness in SEA at the moment?
I think it is okay. I think that every team have improved a lot and are much stronger now.
I think it is good that the region as a whole is becoming more competitive. At the end of the day, we are all part of the Southeast Asia contingency and it is vital that we are able to compete with teams from other regions.
The coach role is indeed very important. What about the team-management in SEA?
There are some clubs here who cannot provide a tier-one team experience to these players.
But so far, I do think coach and culture, or perhaps the culture the coach could bring to the team, that has the biggest effect, to lead them in the right direction.
Are you a process-based person or a result-based person?
I believe in the journey more than the destination.
This is how I continue motivating myself everyday because if I set a certain result-based goal, I will be pressured to think about the time and the team not being able to hit certain results.
For example, if my aim is Top 4 in TI, and when I am currently playing at Top 6, I will be under a lot of pressure in that match.
I think that this is unnecessary.
Therefore, I have always focused on improving the process day-by-day and I believe the result will eventually come. It is more of the journey.
In Part 2, Mushi will share some inside scoops about Boom as well as other teams he's been in. Be sure to check back soon!
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