I talked to three prominent League of Legends people for a story last week about the evolution of psychology and performance coaches in professional League of Legends. They were Jonathan Carter and Robert Yip, current coaches in that role for North American teams Ember and Immortals, respectively, and also Stephen “Snoopeh” Ellis, a retired and well-respected pro.
There were a lot of great quotes that didn’t make the story that were still worth sharing, so here they are:
Stephen “Snoopeh” Ellis
On the differences between now and when he played:
Most certainly. When there was no structure, and traveling is one of the biggest things that can screw up your diet. We very much didn’t adhere to any sort of strict diet. In early 2012, we didn’t really have a house per se or any environment to live in. When we actually lived in LA with the old CLG team, then there was a more conscious effort (to eat better). But even then, by and large, the focus was just play the game and play as much as you can. There was no real structure around thinking about the game. There was some analysis and review. If you just practice one thing and play more and more you’ll get better at it. To some extent, that’s true. But there are some problems with it.
In 2013, we grew a little more as a team, and there were a lot of things – including nutrition – we became more mindful of. So when we got the house in Germany, we tried to cook meals as opposed to ordering in all the time, and just having more nutritious, hearty meals.
On structure and attitude:
It sounded like a very silly thing, but when you’re in that environment, having a break together and everyone having a break can be a big thing. When you think about it now and look back, it’s idiotic that you have those issues. But remember you’re dealing with 17- to 20-year-old kids who don’t have that much life experience and have no one really managing them.
On why there aren’t more performance coaches:
It’s not necessarily about the team understanding the values of having a life coach or a sports psychologist or nutritionist. It’s more to do with prioritization, what do we need the most, and basically having the money. It’s a distinct lack of monetization, which is an entirely different issue. You can argue that maybe if you’ve get them a sports or life coach and they start winning, then sponsorships will come, then you don’t need to hire somebody for sponsorships, but you’ve got to make the decision about where to put your money.
On owners and a lack of revenue:
There’s just a lack of revenue. It’s a team’s fault. It’s the (owner’s) fault. It’s the ecosystem being really young’s fault. But as that starts to develop, I think you’ll see more and more people involved.
A lot of team owners aren’t, I’m not gonna say incompetent, but they don’t have a lot of experience. Sure, Steve (Arhancet, Team Liquid), Andy (Dinh, Team SoloMid) and Jack (Etienne, Cloud9) have been doing this for a while now, but even they are still learning every day about how to tackle ownership. For some of them, this is their first ever business. No one knows what the optimal way to run a team is. No one knows the optimal way to run a structure around players. They’re trying to figure it all out.
Maybe (the owner) doesn’t know but he’s trying new things. And he’s gonna break things in and screw up along the way, but the more and more people that do that are gonna find the optimal way to approach the team environment.
On practicing smart:
If you had to ask most people, practicing hours upon hours is how you get better. Whereas working smarter or more practically is more important. You try to figure out what works. What doesn’t. You start to give them some education in how their mindset can affect things. Staying in the present moment. That helps you maintain attention on the things you need to do. It really boils down to how to get people to increase their effort and be able to stay focused on what they’re doing. It’s all about energy, effort and focus.
On the positives of a gaming house:
The ones that I’ve seen that have a good infrastructure, the mindset is you’re trying to remove as many barriers or extra decisions the players have to make. If it’s done right, they have a clear boundary between personal space/personal time versus, “this is our office.” If you look at the typical age group of an esport athlete, you really want to try to remove a lot of the decision making. A lot of them have never been on their own before. Primarily, that’s why (gaming houses) are attractive.
The biggest difference, just tradition-wise, and it’s getting better in esports, is up until the last year or two, there was not a lot of attention put into nutrition. Whereas a traditional athlete uses their body much more, an esports athlete uses their body but they don’t think about it.
Mind and body are absolutely connected. So that’s one of the biggest lacks of education across esports. They need to do some kind of fitness. The benefit of dong something like yoga is huge. Nutrition at a core level. The downsides of sugar. How to properly use caffeine. Those are the most lacking aspects of most esports organizations.
On players making snap in-game decisions
That’s another thing that tends to come up. Just the value of trusting certain decisions and going for it fully and not hesitating. If you hesitate, and (the other team) goes for it fully, then you’re in trouble.