In-Depth Review: Is Cross Counter Training worth your fight money? EventHubs's professor takes a lesson with Gootecks to find out

Posted by Ryan 'Tryken' Tullis • March 12, 2015 at 4:09 p.m. PDT

It's one in the morning. Cast in the light of my monitor, I sit in my Simpson's pajamas, a Madcatz TE stick on my lap. I watch my player points fluctuate up and down. They're stubborn, these points. I ease them past 2,000. I drag them kicking and screaming over 2,500, but every time they approach that coveted 3,000, a Yun or Ryu catches my crouch teching with a frame trap. They plummet. This process will repeat beyond two, then three—my diet coke is warm and has lost its carbonation. With college courses to teach in seven hours, I have no choice but to give up and submit to sleep, defeated.

When learning any skill, you hit walls. These walls are created by ignorance or by bad habits you developed while self-teaching. The problem of having only ourselves or our friends is that it's difficult for us to spot our own weaknesses, and our friends are just as ready to teach us their bad habits when trying to solve ours. That's when a teacher becomes critical.

Enter Cross Counter Training, a service offered by professional players promising “. . . an effort to level up the community as a whole.” Those are some noble words, but do the lessons actually live up to the statement? Being a good player alone doesn't make you an equally good teacher, so I signed up for a lesson to find out if it was everything it promised to be.

To find out if Cross Counter Training is worth your fight money, continue reading below for my verdict and to watch the session.
First, I need to decide who I want to train with. Ranging anywhere from $10 group lessons to $50 an hour for some players, how does one make sure they get some bang for their buck? I've gone ahead and made a little list below that lists the teacher, their price, and where they were placed in EventHubs's Top 50 Ultra Street Fighter 4 players of 2014. This should give me—and anyone else thinking about lessons—a pretty good base to work from when it comes to value.

Players Listed in Order of Price

Gootecks – $50 an hour – Did Not Place
Snake Eyez – $50 an hour – 11th
EG|Justin Wong – $50 an hour – 18th
EG|K-Brad – $40 an hour – 35th
NYChrisG – $40 an hour – 29th
Alex Myers – $20 an hour – 47th
Brolylegs – $20 an hour – Did Not Place

Players Listed in Order of Ranking

Snake Eyez – $50 an hour – 11th
EG|Justin Wong – $50 an hour – 18th
NYChrisG – $40 an hour – 29th
EG|K-Brad – $40 an hour – 35th
Alex Myers – $20 an hour – 47th
Brolylegs – $20 an hour – Did Not Place
Gootecks – $50 an hour – Did Not Place

For the most part, the cost to tournament performance ratio appears fairly consistent. With that said, it's fair to address the elephant in the room: Gootecks. Despite not placing in our list (the same as Brolylegs), he charges the same as Snake Eyez and EG|Justin Wong, who placed 11th and 18th respectively.

I don't mean to discount Gootecks as a teacher. In chess, International Master Jeremy Jeremy Silman has written some of the most praised books for improving your game, yet there are plenty of Grand Masters (higher ranking than IM) with instructional books out that couldn't possibly teach as well. Nonetheless, recent rankings might be something that's important to you.

I wanted to choose my trainer based off the characters I play and who I feel would click best with me. Furthermore, maybe it's because I want to see if my teacher's actual teaching ability justifies his cost, despite his lack of higher tournament placement in recent years. For those reasons, I chose Gootecks, the one person on the list most people might scoff at for the price. His guide for Street Fighter 3: Third Strike players transitioning to Street Fighter 4 was invaluable to me. Also, during SoCal Regionals one year, he gave Catalyst some Rose advice that really helped him as a player.

Scheduling

Scheduling is simple enough. All you have to do is go to Cross Counter Training's website, select your trainer, put in a time, and you're good to go. In case you're not sure which player you want to train with, there's a place where you can fill in some information about yourself to let them help you decide.

The Training Session – Enter Gootecks

At exactly 5 minutes before our scheduled lesson, I received an invite on Skype from the man himself. That punctuality was a pleasant surprise. I went into this without too many expectations in terms of professionalism.

We got the conversation started with Gootecks asking me where I'm from, what my goals are, and giving a few jokes here and there along with his signature laugh.

Now came the diagnostic fight—the best of three games I knew were being calculated and broken down in his head for any sign of weakness. That's a big moment for an instructor and student. How fast can he recognize my issues?

After being narrowly defeated by his Evil Ryu (and after being more decisively defeated by his Rose), Gootecks pointed out my issues with meter management. He told me my footsies were fine, but I'd put myself at a disadvantage through wasteful EX soul spirals or EX soul sparks along with some other positioning issues. These were excellent observations.

He asked me in a casual manner who my worst match-ups are. Since I main Rose, it was easy replying “Cammy” without any hesitation. He sympathized with me, noting that Cammy used to give him quite a bit of trouble in the past. I was expecting him to give me some general tips here and there—you know, the kind we often give our online friends in passing after a match.

No. Gootecks didn't just give me some casual advice. He shared with me his Evernote file completely filled with enough match-up information about Cammy to make Infiltration blush. And even then, no time was wasted. Within moments, we were in an online training room with me facing down his Cammy. We practiced how to reply against her strongest normals.

Next, we addressed the real problem Rose has with Cammy: her drive kicks and close range pressure. This was not as simple as “press this button to win”. Instead, we went over a host of situational option selects, some as easy as crouch teching with medium punch to as advanced as option select teching with EX soul throw. We covered becoming more consistent with Rose's tighter, FADC-based punishes utilizing a variety of plinks. To make the experience even easier, Gootecks had a separate camera centered on his hands to let me follow along.

And those are just a few examples of what we went over in this match-up. It was far beyond the almost-remedial expectations I had.

Finally, he said he wanted to end it with another fight. In the first match, surely enough, he chose Cammy. Was I really expected to implement everything this fast? It wasn't long until Gootecks broke through my defenses and went onto the classic in-your-face fighting style that Cammy is known for. I carefully did the techs as he instructed me to wondering if it was actually going to work. Surely enough, he went for an instant dive kick, and I caught him with the option select. I beat Cammy.

The second match was a Rose versus Rose. I ended up blowing it trying to chase him down for chip in what could have been my win overall. I'm not too heartbroken by it; Gootecks has much more experience under pressure than I do. Nonetheless, compared to the first fight set, it clearly showed improvement.

Furthermore, Gootecks was nice enough to record our training session and send me a copy of the video. If you'd like to see me embarrass myself first hand, check out the video below and judge for yourself, or you can continue reading below for my final verdict.

Verdict

I won't vouch for all of the training staff, but Gootecks completely caught me by surprise. I'm not trying to insult him by stating that, but he actually used a Street Fighter version of student-centered learning. That's something only professional educators even pay attention to. For example, he begins the lesson using formative assessment (the training match), implements auditory and visual learning by talking through his motions as he gives examples on screen, gives purely visual learning by providing written documentation, provides kinesthetic learning by having the student practice what he's taught in training mode, then ends with summative assessment because of the final set. After all of this, you're given homework and invited into a closed network of students to continue practicing what you've learned. It's outstanding.

While it's a shame we didn't cover Yun in the lesson, the methods taught to deal with Cammy's dive kicks will most likely carry over to other characters of her type.

Whether you're an auditory, visual, or kinesthetic learner, Gootecks will help you get better. If his methods are put into practice by the rest of the Cross Counter Training staff, then anyone there should be able to improve your playing ability. By the way, to find out which type of learner you are, check out this website.

Now, onto some questions you might have.

Question: I'm an intermediate or advanced player. Do I benefit from this as much as the beginner?
Answer: I'd argue that you might benefit even more than the beginner. While beginning players will definitely improve from this training, you're getting into the realm of issues with your play that friends and random online warriors won't be able to easily answer. This is when a professional is extremely useful.

Question: Honestly, plenty of great players never got training. Couldn't I learn this all on my own?
Answer: Absolutely. People ask me if they can learn how to be a great writer without going into an MFA program. Sure, plenty of writers have done it, but try to think about it like Dragon Ball Z's Hyperbolic Time Chamber. A good teacher helps you learn in a day what it would have taken you months to learn on your own and keeps you from teaching yourself bad habits you'll have to unlearn later.

Question: Are we really talking about the same Gootecks from Cross Counter?
Answer: Despite his goofy persona on the show, Gootecks is a focused player and an extremely dedicated teacher. I'm not sure if you'll easily find someone better—even if you compare him to other players with better tournament placements in Street Fighter 4.

Question: Fine. I have X amount of dollars, and I didn't need that new Kirby game anyway. How do I get started?
Answer: Head on over to Cross Counter Training.


If you have any questions or would like to discuss your experience with Cross Counter Training, let them be known in the comments below.

* Banner drawn by Amanda Jean Tullis.
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