Christine “Potter" Chi has been a trailblazer for women in esports for a long time. She has been playing Counter-Strike since 2005 when it was still just CS and not CS:GO and won the Women’s Electronic Sports World Cup five times between 2007 and 2012. She was one of the best women’s Counter-Strike players before pivoting to VALORANT in 2021 when she became part of the first mixed-gender roster in the game with Evil Geniuses.
Potter became the head coach of EG later that year, and earlier this year she became the first woman to win an international VALORANT match as a coach when Evil Geniuses beat Team Heretics at VCT LOCK//IN. In fact, she’s the only woman coaching any of the 30 teams that are partnered with Riot Games and will be competing in the three international leagues that will form the VALORANT Champions Tour this year.
When Evil Geniuses take the stage next month to compete in the VCT Americas league, she’s bound to make more history with the team.
“I don't realize it until somebody brings it up to me,” Potter told Nerd Street about how she feels about being the only woman coaching a VCT team. “For instance, after we won that series [at LOCK//IN], I saw the tweet where it said the first woman to win an international series or whatever. So, those aren’t things that I'm considering or thinking about. I guess I'm just reminded of it because of outside factors. So it's really cool, but it's definitely not my motivating factor.”
Despite losing to their next opponent at the tournament, Evil Geniuses’ win over Heretics was a statement win for the young team and their coach, with the more internationally experienced European team being slightly favored in that matchup. Evil Geniuses tend to be an afterthought compared to more popular and more clouted North American teams like Sentinels, NRG, 100 Thieves and Cloud9. She and the team are fine being underrated though.
“I think people underestimate us as they should, right?” she said. “If you look at the player names on the list, you compare it to the millions of dollars that the other orgs have spent to build up their superstar rosters, it definitely doesn't compare on paper, as far as the history goes, and the pedigree of the players.”
But the team improved from Stage 1 to Stage 2 of last year’s VCT season and added two veterans in the offseason who are now part of the team’s starting five. Despite their improvement and additions, the team has still often gotten overlooked in discussions of who’s the best among the teams in the Americas league.
“I think each player on my roster, all five of them, including myself has always had that sort of chip on our shoulder where we do have to prove ourselves,” Potter said. “So when we see stuff like that it just kind of feeds that fuel.”
Photo credit: Riot Games
That chip on her shoulder is probably a little bit bigger because she’s a woman. Being a woman in esports comes with extra scrutiny, but Potter said she doesn’t let that bother her. Having been in esports for so long, she has gotten used to blocking out any hate she might receive.
“I've been around since 2005, so I definitely have my blinders on and just kind of focusing ahead,” Potter said. “So I wouldn't be able to tell you compared to what I played versus being a coach, because it's all the same noise.”
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She’s certainly blazing a trail for women who might want to be a coach in the upper echelons of VALORANT, but coaching wasn’t necessarily something she intended to do at first.
“I didn't know that I was going to enjoy coaching as much as I have been,” she said. “I didn't realize how rewarding it would be or how close it would be to competition, and that's what I really love. So definitely, probably like three months into coaching. I was like, ‘OK, yeah, I'm gonna do this for a long time.”
She said it was a tough choice to ultimately commit, especially because she had other obligations as a caster in both CS:GO and VALORANT. Potter was a caster and analyst for the VALORANT Champions Tour in 2021 and the Game Changers circuit throughout 2022 in addition to coaching EG.
Ultimately, she feels coaching was the right decision.
Photo credit: Riot Games
As Evil Geniuses take the stage for the start of the Americas league next month, Potter will be the only woman on stage as coach or player. Perhaps one day a woman will be on one of these top-tier VALORANT teams.
In esports, it has been rare to see a woman compete alongside men on the best teams. Se-yeon "Geguri" Kim was the first woman to compete in the Overwatch League. This week, the Overwatch League's NYXL announced a mixed-gender roster.
Although she acknowledges it might be tough, Potter thinks a mixed-gender roster in esports has the best chance of being successful in VALORANT. The Evil Geniuses roster Potter was on ultimately wasn't successful competitively. However, she thinks it can work -- it just needs to happen organically -- rather than how EG’s mixed-gender roster was designed.
“I think VALORANT is different. I think the chance of it happening is much higher than any other game I've been a part of, as far as the community goes, just because there's just so much different momentum with the young [players],” she said.
For now, Potter will be the first woman coaching or competing in the VCT international leagues, but it might not be too long before we see other women following the path that Potter is blazing.
Lead photo credit: Riot Games