Mark Neace earns $700K from ‘League of Legends’ gamer coaching

This retired soldier is making mints teaching pretend soldiers how to fight on their computers.

Mark Neace, a former Army Intelligence sergeant, trains people on how to play the video game “League of Legends” — the most popular game played at a competitive level worldwide.

While E-sports is gaining traction – even seen as an Olympic event – ​​the number of coaches is still low, and the 33-year-old Virginia has taken the opportunity. He estimates he earned $700,000 last year.

“I was one of the first video game coaches, so I didn’t really have to fight to keep clients, it sounds ridiculous,” said Neace, who toured Afghanistan during a four-year military career. “If a fitness coach heard that, they’d be like, ‘Amazing,’ because it’s a very competitive industry and everyone on Instagram is a fitness influencer these days.”

Paying $250 to $300 for 90-minute online sessions, Neace coaches more than 1,000 clients a year — including the defensive tackle of 49ers Kalia Davis; Glassdoor founder Robert Hohman; and popular YouTuber and world-class gamer Richard Blevins, also known as Ninja.

Neace became obsessed with gaming in the days of dial-up internet access, when his father allowed him to play Command and Conquer, a military strategy game. He ended up being so good, no one bothered to try to beat him.

During high school, Neace sneaked into the Halo 2 contest at the University of Maine, acting as the ringer for the team. They stepped on the competition and took first place, but Neace was unable to collect the $100 prize when the judges discovered that he wasn’t actually a student there.

“It was an a-ha moment for me – even having a chance to win something from playing the game,” he said. “I started thinking, ‘There must be something else I can do with this.’”

Neace charges $250 to $300 for a 90-minute online session.
Mark Neace
Neace said he was “one of the first video game coaches.”
Andre Mags Photography

In 2010, at the age of 21, he enlisted in the US Army. Serving in the 3rd Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, his job mirrors the game he plays — combing through massive amounts of data and preparing combat soldiers on how to best carry out their missions — only with much more at stake. Although he had never seen battle, his work directly affected the lives of his fellow soldiers.

“When I am deployed, there is a lack of sleep, a lot of stress and there is always a feeling of responsibility – am I doing enough for these people to make the right decisions on the battlefield?” he says.

Neace’s journey to becoming a successful game coach was a 10-year hard work filled with tough financial times, long hours of creating YouTube content and humility, especially when he and his wife had to live with his parents.

Mark Neace
The game coach’s success didn’t happen overnight — he dedicated 10 years to Youtube videos.
AFP via Getty Images

He feels like the guy in a budding garage band who should have abandoned the dream of making it big years ago.

“Even my own parents were like, ‘When are you going to get a real job?’” she said.

His wife encouraged him to start his own website where he initially charged $100 for training sessions, and it quickly grew. Overtime and with a constant stream of clients, he was able to double his price.

Mark Neace gamer
Neace says that the gamer training pool is very small — allowing him to grow.
AFP via Getty Images/ Christophe Archambault

Neace said he wouldn’t fully recommend people follow in his footsteps.

“I put all my chips in the middle on this thing, and it worked, but it’s so easy not to,” he said.

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