North Texas Daily

Rocket League head coach reflects on longtime involvement in UNT esports

Rocket League head coach reflects on longtime involvement in UNT esports

Rocket League head coach reflects on longtime involvement in UNT esports
July 08
15:00 2021

A man of many roles, 2019 alumnus Gunnar “Pakk” Dickson has been a trailblazer in the university’s Rocket League scene.

While this summer will be Dickson’s final stretch as head coach of the varsity Rocket League team, he has played a variety of roles in esports over the last six years. Dickson has been a varsity and club player, club president and head coach in his time at the university both as a student and beyond.

“The main reason I have been here as long as I have is because of the people I got to coach and the team and the players that were too special to me,” Dickson said. “It’s a tight group, and there’s definitely a lot of brotherly love between all the guys.”

Originally from Keller, Texas, Dickson now lives in McKinney as a full-time Design and Development manager at the Long Drive Agency. He graduated from the university in spring 2019 with a bachelor’s degree in advertising.

Dickson began playing Rocket League when Psyonix — a video game developer — added the game to PlayStation in 2015. Two years later, he began playing for the UNT esports club Rocket League team when Psyonix announced the addition of its Collegiate Rocket League competition.

When he arrived at North Texas, Dickson said the university only had esports club teams competing in League of Legends, Overwatch and Hearthstone at the time.

“There was really no Rocket League presence,” Dickson said. “There were the club teams, but there wasn’t anyone doing anything for Rocket League, so I kind of saw an opportunity.”

During the fall semester of his junior year, he competed with the club team in the 2017 Collegiate Rocket League Championship. The team placed No. 2 in the Southern Conference below the University of North Carolina-Charlotte and qualified for the National Finals where they lost 4-to-3 against the University of Guelph in the first round.

Before playing with the team, Dickson said he lived in the same apartment complex as former player Tristian “David Silvarado” King and the two played Rocket League together regularly.

“He would come over a lot, and we would just play split-screen on my set up and just hang out for hours,” Dickson said. “He is one of my good friends from this program.”

Dickson said he thinks playing at in-person LAN (Local Area Network, meaning all players compete in the same room) events before the CRL helped his comfort level.

“When you are playing at home, you are so comfortable with your setup and your monitor height, and you’re just so used to everything about it,” Dickson said. “But I was more prepared to stay focused on what it is I needed to do in-game and not let the distractions of the lights, with no blockers on the monitors with the screaming fans.”

The following fall, he played in the 2018 CRL with the new addition Dylan “Dbanq” Windebank, the current Esports Player of the Year. The team brought home No. 2 at the CRL Fall 2018 Finals against the University of Arizona.

In April 2018, North Texas was the first public university in Texas to launch a collegiate esports program. The following fall, a Rocket League varsity program was added. Recent alumnus and former player Kyle “2 Fast” Pressley moved into Dickson’s spot on the varsity team when he graduated in spring 2019. Dickson then returned to coach the varsity team in 2020.

As Dickson moved into the role of esports coach, Windebank said having his outside support has been essential.

“It’s always great having a trustworthy third party like Gunnar to improve our gameplay,” Windebank said.

Dickson said the most challenging part of coaching Rocket League is correcting mistakes on the fly.

“In a lot of games like League of Legends, there are stats and things you can directly correlate to a lost rank,” Dickson said. “You have five minutes in Rocket League as opposed to 45 minutes in a League game to determine what’s wrong and then one minute between games to fix that problem.”

Pressley said having a coach who had previously competed for the team provided him with excellent support.

“Gunnar originally played with the two players I was playing with,” Pressley said. “So having him as a previous player and knowing their tendencies and the way they played helped me almost fast-track me into getting the chemistry down and working with them,” Pressley said.

Dickson said his proudest moment as a coach was seeing his players qualify for the CRL again in 2019.

“After they did it, we all started yelling and screaming,” Dickson said. “It always feels so good to make it to the event. Regardless of how you do it, just to be there and to experience it is something that I thought I’d never get to do.”

Dickson said even though he is leaving, he believes the same spirit will always remain with the Rocket League team.

“I think as the group progresses and we get new guys, I want that same sense to carry on through their own groups,” Dickson said. “It’s time for me to move on, but that doesn’t mean that [spirit] can’t still be there.”

Courtesy UNT Esports 

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Lyndle Montgomery

Lyndle Montgomery

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