Sports Gazette

by sports journalism students at St Mary's University, London

Renault Sport Team Vitality’s Mike “Gregan” Ellis on the world championships and the future of Esports

Posted on 12 December 2019 by Becky Thompson

High-intensity and smaller margins, Esports are fuelled by adrenaline. 

Despite debates on whether or not to classify Esports as a sport, it is difficult to deny the excitement that comes with watching gamers hit perfect shots. 

Renault Sport Team Vitality competes in Rocket League, a game described on its website as a “high-powered hybrid of arcade-style soccer and vehicular mayhem.”

The aim being for each team to pass the ball between each other and score in the net.

World championships

Team Vitality has been preparing for the season eight world championships which will be held in Madrid, December 13th-15th.

Coach Mike “Gregan” Ellis spoke to the Sports Gazette about his team’s build up for the competition, the importance of physical fitness in Esports and the growth of the industry. 

“We’re the reigning world champions,” said Gregan. “I would say we’ve dropped out of the top four in terms of people’s expectations. But I think there’s no pressure, it’s the end of the year, we’ve had a really good year, we just want to finish well.”

Team Vitality are the reigning champions going into worlds. Photo courtesy of Mike Ellis
Team Vitality are the reigning champions going into worlds. Photo courtesy of Mike Ellis

Teamwork is important to have a successful Rocket League team.

Similar to mainstream sports, communication between players is key to winning.

It’s something that team Vitality have been able to grow through boot camps prior to big competitions. 

The team met in Paris leading up to the championships to train and work out any kinks. 

“I just see this as [a time to] really focus on doing the boot camp well and then anything can happen because we’ve got three incredibly good rocket league players.

“When they spend a lot of time at home they kind of disconnect slowly over time, because they’ve been away from each other for three months. Connecting them back together at boot camp I think could be the key to getting them back to the level they were.

“Every event we’ve boot camped at, has been our best results.” 

Physical fitness key to success

A common question that gets asked of Esports, is “is it a sport?”

To this, Gregan explained that while there are differences, there are also a lot of similarities.

Gregan describes sport as an umbrella term, explaining that there is so much diversity among sport.

However, he believes if the industry had been named something different, such as ‘competitive gaming’, this question would likely never come up. 

Gregan and his team. Photo courtesy of Mike Ellis

That being said, some of the similarities come in the amount the team practices—both individually and as a team—as well as the physical fitness it takes to be a top level Rocket League player. 

His players, Kaydop, Scrub Killa and Fairy Peak!, expend a huge amount of energy in any one session. 

A lot of this is due to adrenaline surges causing elevated heart rates as well as the intensity and speed of communication between teammates. 

“When you think about how long your body has to fight against the adrenaline rush, that’s incredibly exhausting. These players need to be fit enough to take that exhaustion.

“You’ve also got to look at it from a mental health point of view, if you’re a professional gamer you’re spending a lot of hours sitting down gaming, and if your only other hobby is also gaming then you’re pretty stuck in terms of a mental health loop of gaming, gaming, gaming – if gaming is not going well, your mental health is really going to dip so you have to find another hobby.

“What gamers need is a hobby that just wears them out because a lot of them struggle with sleep, a lot of them struggle with getting tired at the right time, so if they go off and work out for a bit, they then fall asleep at the right time and their mental health is better.”

Team Vitality’s Kaydop is considered one of the greatest players of all time in Rocket League due to his high earnings and winning record. 

Gregan believes it is no coincidence that he is also one of the most in shape Rocket League players.

Kaydop in competition. Photo courtesy of Mike Ellis
Kaydop in competition. Photo courtesy of Mike Ellis

Influence from traditional sport

As Esports continue to grow, more shifts into things such as physical fitness will start to occur. 

In addition, the infrastructure that is already in place from sports will help the industry continue to move forward as well. 

As a coach and manager for Team Vitality, Gregan uses traditional sports to influence his decisions. 

Video analysis, sports psychology and creating positive environments for his players are some of the day to day tasks that Gregan uses.

While traditional sports can help influence his coaching, they can also be a model for the growth of Esports. 

“I think in the future we’ll start to see more Esports events linked to big sporting events because the number of viewers are going up in Esports. The infrastructure that’s needed for people to watch Esports in person is going up, you’re seeing stadiums getting filled.”

Existing stadium venues are used for Esports tournaments. Photo courtesy of Mike Ellis
Existing stadium venues are used for Esports tournaments. Photo courtesy of Mike Ellis

When questioned about the addition of Esports to the Olympic Games, Gregan said he believes there is room to host events in conjunction with the Olympics—such as the Intel World Cup taking place before Tokyo 2020.

“Having video games at sporting events is great because you can use the stadium. It’s incredibly entertaining to watch esports so I think it works in that sense.”

“But I’m not sure, obviously as time goes on this mindset is probably going to change but I’m not sure whether having esports events as Olympics events will necessarily work.

“I think we can use the Paralympics as an example, there’s always going to be ways to use the Olympic facilities to facilitate a different competition.”

Gregan would like to see Esports be able to compete as an Esports Olympics, taking place before the Olympics in the same cities and stadiums. 

And for Rocket League and all Esports players, the opportunity to compete for their country would be incredibly special.