If you’re the type of person who craves competition—who’s motivated and driven by proving yourself in a virtual arena, who wants to be the very best in your game—then there’s a good chance you’re already interested in a career in esports.
Maybe you’ve even competed casually at a local or amateur level, but you’re ready to start getting serious.
For many, that means learning how to start an esports team from scratch. So let’s talk about how you can make an esports team yourself and start building your career today.
Steps to start an esports team:
- Decide which game you’re going to play competitively.
- Recruit your teammates and designate a captain for your esports team
- Make and agree to a schedule.
- Join a league.
- Create and manage your brand.
That’s it in a nutshell, but let’s deep-dive into each of these items. Bear in mind that this guide is written with a focus on team-based games, but many of the same concepts will apply to other types of pro gaming organizations.
Picking your esports team’s game and recruiting players
I’ve prioritized picking your game ahead of actually recruiting your team because it’ll ultimately be easier for you to recruit new players if you know what you’re going to be playing. That said, if you already have a good number of folks who are interested in playing competitively, you’ll probably want to decide as a group what you’ll be playing.
For now, let’s assume you’re creating your esports team more-or-less from scratch.
Choosing the right game for your team
If you’re like most gamers, you probably enjoy a variety of games in your downtime. But when you make the leap from casual to professional gaming, you have to change your paradigm a little bit. If your esports team is bouncing from game to game, they’re never going to perform as well as a team that’s focused on just one.
So what are you going to play? Rainbow Six: Siege? Fortnite? League? Overwatch? Pick one, and commit to it! Your choice doesn’t necessarily have to be fixed in stone, but it’s relatively rare for pros to branch out into new game genres, so keep that in mind.
The game you choose to focus on has to be something you’re naturally talented with and something you enjoy playing enough to dedicate literally thousands of hours to. And rest assured that playing that game is going to start feeling less like a fun hobby and more like a job; that’s kind of the point.
Your natural aptitude and interest in a game or genre should take priority here, but it’s worth also considering its esports scene. Games like Overwatch, CSGO, and League of Legends have relatively well-defined esports career paths, for example.
Recruiting your pro gaming teammates
Creating an esports team is fundamentally different from getting together with your friends to play regularly. For your team to be successful, your crew needs to be dedicated, good at communication, open to feedback, and at least a bit talented.
You should also keep your organization’s future branding in mind. Make sure your teammates are comfortable streaming and behaving in accordance with the rules of whatever league you join or pursue.
If you’re part of one, you might start by asking your gaming clan if anyone’s interested in getting really serious. In fact, if your clan is already ultra competitive, you may be closer to creating a full-blown esports team than you realize.
Otherwise, you’ll have to be a little more proactive in your approach. The beauty of esports is that you don’t have to be geographically near someone to form a team with them, although there might be some benefits to forming a local team down the line.
You can reach out to your game’s community—similarly to how we recommended you join a Destiny 2 clan—on social media, Reddit, official forums, etc. and try to connect with other competitive players there.
If you’re a student, you might also check to see if your school has an esports club or team. If they don’t consider starting a gaming club where you can potentially create an esports team with your fellow students.
Or, seek out local tournaments where you can either compete solo or spectate. Depending on where you live, you may not have many options to attend, but Microsoft often hosts gaming tournaments at their stores.
The goal while you’re at these events is to network with other competitive players, tell them you’re forming an esports team, and see if they’re interested.
As you’re forming your team, keep something in mind: as much as you’ll want to just team up with your closest friends, that may not be the best approach in the long run for reasons we’ll get to in the next section.
Agree to a training and competitive schedule and team leadership
Name a captain
Once you’ve assembled the team, you’re going to make your lives a lot easier if you delegate esports team management responsibilities to individual team members.
Professional organizations have coaches and assistant coaches, assistants, and even chefs. Your esports organization won’t be that large yet, but you also can’t possibly handle all your team’s needs on your own.
If nothing else, your group should come together and name a team captain. As the team organizer, you may be the de facto leader, but consider whether or not that’s really the role you want to play. You may be the type of player who performs best when you don’t have to worry about leading the team.
The captain doesn’t have to be the best player in the group, but they should be a good communicator who’s invested in the team’s collective performance. Likewise, they should be someone the rest of the group respects.
A captain’s responsibilities may vary based on your individual esports team’s dynamic, but, if nothing else, they should be the one empowered to hold the rest of the players accountable to the team’s training and competitive schedule.
Make a schedule
We’re jumping the gun just a bit here because you may not know what your schedule will look like before you’ve joined a league or done some research. But the bottom line is that your esports team will need to meet regularly to train and compete.
It’s crucial that you plan for both. Competing with other teams and players is the driving force behind any good esports team and will inform what skills, team compositions, and tactics you need to focus on when you’re training. It’s also the best way to see how you’re improving over time.
The pros train for as many as 12-16 hours per day, but because you’re not likely doing this full time (at least not right away), you and your team will need to discuss the days and times every week that work best for you. This can be trickier than it sounds since you’ll have to accommodate work and school and other schedules, so you may opt for a hybrid approach to training.
Maybe you’ll agree to play individually or remotely Mondays and Wednesdays but meet up on Tuesdays and Thursdays to play together. Or your schedules may not allow for more than 1-2 days of official training every week.
Training once every week regularly is better than nothing, but your esports team’s success is going to hinge a great deal on both the quantity and quality of your training.
Stick to the schedule
It’s essential that your group meets as frequently as possible, and this might pose one of the single greatest challenges to any fledgling esports team: the team captain might have to make some cuts.
If one or more members of the team just can’t commit to regular training, or if they’re frequently failing to show up when they say they will, they’re going to drag down both the morale and the performance of the entire group.
Remember when I suggested you look outside of your immediate group of friends for your teammates? This is why. It’s a lot harder to keep these sorts of dynamics professional when you’re playing with your buddies.
Join an Esports League
By this point, you’ve built a functioning esports team and hopefully you’ve found some momentum. This step may overlap a bit with the previous one, but you didn’t necessarily need to be part of a league to run scrimmages with other esports teams.
Your team’s game of choice is going to have a tremendous impact on the availability of official and unofficial leagues available to you, but because esports is more popular than ever, you should be able to find something that works for you.
Search for amateur leagues for your game on Google (or your favorite search engine), and see if they’re a good fit for you. Games like Overwatch and Call of Duty now offer official “path-to-pro” leagues where your team can cut its teeth. Check out the Overwatch Contenders league as well as Call of Duty’s challenger league.
If they’re available, check out the league’s requirements and ensure you’re meeting them. You may have to reach a certain level in the game’s built-in competitive ladder, for example.
For other games, you may have to join independently esports organizations. While writing this article, I ran some searches for games like League of Legends and DOTA 2, and I found a number of sites that seemed to fit the bill, but your mileage may vary.
If all else fails, turn to your game’s community and find out what other players are doing. You may end up having to start a grassroots movement yourself, but that’s a topic for another guide.
Build and manage your esports team’s brand
The difference between a group of friends playing games on the regular and an esports team largely comes down to professionalism. Your team’s going to need a name and a logo, and you’ll want to start branching out into social media as soon as you’re able.
Create an official email account for the team (you can even just use Gmail for this), and use that account to set up profiles for the team at all the relevant social media and other sites: Twitter, Instagram, Twitch and/or Mixer, etc.
If you can, designate the person(s) on the team who will be responsible for managing these accounts so that you can establish a consistent voice for your brand immediately.
What you’re doing here isn’t dissimilar to trying to become a sponsored gamer. You should be interacting with and growing a community following for your team. Of course, there’s not really a better way to do that than to start playing your game where people can see it.
When your esports team practices, stream it, and announce your plans to stream across all your various channels. When you compete in league or tournament games, talk publicly about how you did and how you intend to improve.
And praise your fellow esports gamers and opponents.
Share your team’s journey on Clutch
Succeeding as an esports team comes down to dedication and hard work, and hard work is exactly what it’ll feel like after a while.
But the experience should also be fulfilling, and if at any point you feel like it’s not, remember that you can always just walk away. You may even choose to support the team from a non-player role and find that’s more your speed.
And if you haven’t already, create a Clutch account for your competitive team and share your game clips and journey with our community. We’re all going to be rooting for you.