The obvious virtue of secret forms of communication is that no one is aware of it, and even if they were, they wouldn’t know what you were saying. Freemasons have secret handshakes, the Navajo were used as Code talkers in WWII, and more relevant to CS:GO, baseball coaches and players use hand signals to communicate with each other. These signals can communicate any number of meanings. A catcher could be telling the pitcher to throw a certain pitch. A coach could tell a runner to run only under certain conditions, or he could be telling him to steal.There is nothing in baseball prohibiting communication with players, whether you are a coach or a player. If you wanted to, you could verbally shout commands. Nowadays, coaches might as well be shouting commands out to players in secret languages—be it Navajo, Klingon, or Enochian—as they look quite funny while they blatantly act out different messages. Although I am not familiar with the beginnings of signalling in baseball, I imagine it was a less developed communication system, and therefore, more discreet. A coach may only communicate a play with a head nod and a scratch of his nose. For sometime, I imagine, these secret languages were truly secret; not only were people unaware of what was being said, but they were also unaware that something was being said.In Counter-Strike, we could be caught in such a predicament, and unlike baseball, this would truly be a predicament as there are rules against communicating with players outside of timeouts.I am a hyper-analytical person. When I hear about players like GeT_RiGhT and n0thing washing their hands before every game, I think about how they manage to do that after high-fiving a bunch of fans as they walk out to the stage. I also think about high-fiving teammates after every round and how if a teammate is sweating bullets, that could get pretty gross. More important than the touching that goes on amongst players, as there are no restrictions placed on their communication, I think of the touching that coaches do. Often times, I see zonic being very touchy with his players. He can often be found between rounds rubbing his players’ shoulders, shouting, clapping, and giving high-fives. At IEM Sydney, he was even seen giving Xyp9x an odd head-scratch. Although zonic is the most “guilty” of interacting with his players outside of timeouts, other coaches have been known to do this as well.At ESL One Cologne, LEGIJA could be seen hugging nex, and there was even the notable incident in which he ran in front of the players in an attempt to hype the crowd but was in a position to look at the screens for the fans above the stage. I agree with the admin’s decision to only issue a reprimand and nothing more. I don’t think that LEGIJA was trying to cheat, but the possibility is there as it is when coaches are allowed to stand behind players.By writing this article, I do not seek to get anyone in trouble for cheating, but I do hope that tournament organizers will either change their rules prohibiting input from coaches—as I do not believe that the coaching rule was a good one in the first place—or implement a solution. If it is not clear to readers already, I will provide some hypothetical scenarios to illustrate the problems with the current system when it comes to enforcing the coaching rule. Again, although I will reference coaches and their behavior, that is not to be taken as a cheating accusation.Some coaches sit in chairs on stage. While looking through some VODs, LEGIJA was one such coach to opt in for the chair. This is seemingly innocuous, as are fist bumps and positive, though not constructive, shouts, but can be used to communicate information. For example, sitting in the chair could be a message to play defensively, and standing could be a message to play aggressively. When a coach gives a player a massage, that could mean that player should buy an AWP. It could also mean forcebuy. Or it could be an innocent expression of comradery and appreciation as it seems on the surface. The point is that we don’t know.Just because there is an absence of evidence to suggest that information is being communicated to players when it should not be does not mean that it is the evidence of an absence of communication. Let’s say that there was no anti-cheat software. If a player appeared to be locking onto players behind walls, was getting to places faster than one could normally, and only got headshots, then you are just going to have to trust them because you have no way of determining if they cheat or not. You can’t ban someone for just “looking fishy.” This was an issue for ScreaM, a legitimate, by all accounts, pro player when he got an Overwatch ban in matchmaking.Tournament organizers have an obligation to enforce their rules evenly and take all reasonable measures to prevent the integrity of the competition from being compromised. When it comes to cheating, TO’s must not only run anti-cheat software but the best anti-cheat software. When it comes to enforcing rules prohibiting coaches from communicating with players outside of timeouts, there are a few ideas I have. As I stated before, I would prefer if the rule got removed, which ESL is rumored to be in the process of doing. Since there are ways to keep coaches involved in the game but limit it to timeouts, that option will have to be ignored. However, if tournament organizers and teams feel that the options of preventing coaches from communicating with players when they aren’t supposed to are unacceptable, they will be forced to change the rule or be recognized as having substandard anti-cheat procedures.The solution that would offer the least change would be prohibiting coaches from having any contact with players when not in-timeout. However, since they are behind the players, there are ways that coaches can still provide information without touching their players. As stated earlier, a coach changing from a seated position to a standing one could mean something. Additionally, standing behind a certain player could mean something. For example, if LMBT stands behind oskar, that could mean “someone buy oskar an AWP.” If he stands behind chrisJ, that could mean “dual AWP set-up—buy oskar and chrisJ AWP’s.” As this would only limit prohibited communication between coaches and players and not entirely curtail it, this would not be an ideal solution when keeping competitive integrity in mind.A superior solution would be to create a coaching station as ELEAGUE had in their first season, if I recall correctly. Not all coaches opted for this but starix did. It gave him the perspectives of all of his players and the ability to communicate with them whenever he wanted—this was before the coaching rule—but to also have a closer view on things, like the minimap. In this scenario, admins would be able to cut off all communication between the coach and the players by muting him for everyone in TeamSpeak, and they wouldn’t have to worry about non-verbal forms of communication that could exist if he were physically present with the team. The issue with this solution is that, while the coach can still be put on camera as starix was at ELEAGUE, coaches who are literally more hands-on, such as zonic, will lose their presence as motivational figures.As you can see, just as it was with the coaching rule in the first place, teams who have built their rosters with the ruleset in mind will be impacted negatively when the ruleset changes. This was the case with Na’Vi. Na’Vi recruited s1mple and released Zeus. If they had known starix wouldn’t be as impactful of a member of their team as he was without Valve’s restriction on coaches, they might not have made the move. This is one of the reasons why I opposed the coaching rule in the first place. Little did I know, that when it came to properly enforcing the coaching rule, teams would be hurt once again, which just goes to show how destructive of a rule it is. Even now, three years after the fact, enforcement of the rule will hurt teams in ways they couldn’t have planned.When it comes to cheating in sports, leagues don’t just stop innovating when it comes to finding new ways of cheating; organizers learn about new chemical methods of cheating and find ways of testing for them. The reason for Valve’s coaching rule, which was mirrored by practically all tournament organizers in CS:GO, was to prevent input from the coach because they saw CS:GO as a 5v5 game, not 5 and a coach versus another 5 with a coach. Although it’s quite different from spoken language, non-verbal communication allows a coach to provide input to his team. If coaches are using non-verbal forms of communication, then most people are unaware of it, and it breaks the spirit of the rules of competition—no input whatsoever from coaches outside of timeouts. Tournament organizers in CS:GO need to more rigorously enforce their rules as it pertains to coaching as do organizers in conventional sports as it pertains to drug testing. Without more rigorous enforcement of the coaching rule, CS:GO loses the legitimacy that so many people in esports strive for, or at least claim to strive for.
Image credit: ESLFollow the author for more on Twitter at @Bleda412.